KARACHI: The army’s announcement that it had taken the custody of suspected Lyari gangster Uzair Jan Baloch came exactly a year after his confessional statement before a judicial magistrate that he had been passing an Iranian agency “secret information” about the Pakistan Army, its intelligence wings and key installations of the country, officials and documents said on Wednesday.

The army on Tuesday night announced that it had taken Baloch into its custody on charges of ‘espionage’ and ‘leak of sensitive security information to foreign intelligence agencies’.

Baloch’s 13-page, self-written confessional statement emerged hours after late-night tweets by Inter-Services Public Relation chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor about Uzair Baloch’s custody which was confirmed by the Rangers’ senior special public prosecutor Sajid Mahboob Sheikh.

“It was recorded before the judicial magistrate south in April 2016 under Section 64 of the CrPC [Criminal Procedure Code],” said Mr Sheikh, confirming the authenticity of Baloch’s statement as well as the JIT’s report, copies of which are available with Dawn.

Lyari ‘gangster’ says he met Iranian spies in Chabahar

In April last year, the joint investigation team (JIT) set up by the Sindh government completed its task and sent its report to the home department, recommending the trial of the banned Peoples Amn Committee’s chief by a military court.

The JIT report levelled the same allegation against Baloch as had been confessed by him before the court.

“Uzair Baloch was involved in espionage activities by providing secret information regarding army installations and officials to foreign agents [Iranian intelligence officers] which is a violation of the Official Secret Act 1923,” said the JIT in its report signed by the representatives of the Sindh Police, Rangers and intelligence agencies. On April 29, 2016, the report was sent to the Sindh home department for “perusal and necessary action”.

The report quoted the Lyari gangster as telling the JIT that he fled to Iran after the Rangers launched an operation in Karachi in September 2013.

“He was living with his friend, Malik Baloch, in Chabahar, where he met Haji Nasir who held dual nationality,” it said, adding that Haji Nasir offered Baloch to shift him to Tehran permanently where he would be provided a residence with no cost as he [Nasir] had “good relations with Iranian intelligence officers and he can arrange his meeting with them”.

As Uzair Baloch gave his consent to the offer, the JIT report said, his meeting was arranged with an Iranian intelligence official who tasked him to “provide certain information about [Pakistani] armed forces officials besides general security environment of the city [Karachi]”.

Uzair Baloch told the JIT that of his 14 lieutenants six at that time were still living in Chabahar.

The JIT members had “strongly recommended” to the government to try Uzair Baloch under the Pakistan Army Act for his suspected involvement in “espionage”.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2017