Mastermind of Johar Town blast is an Indian citizen associated with RAW: NSA Moeed Yusuf

Published July 4, 2021
NSA Dr Moeed Yusuf addresses a press conference alongside the Punjab police chief and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. — DawnNewsTV
NSA Dr Moeed Yusuf addresses a press conference alongside the Punjab police chief and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. — DawnNewsTV

Evidence gathered during the investigation of the blast in Lahore's Johar Town last month clearly points to "Indian-sponsored terrorism", National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf said on Sunday.

Addressing a press conference alongside the Punjab police chief and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, he said the mastermind of the attack which killed three people and left 24 others injured "is an Indian citizen and he is associated with [Indian intelligence agency] RAW".

"The IG said we have intelligence of foreign intelligence agency, so today without a doubt I want to say, [the circumstances] of this entire attack lead to Indian-sponsored terrorism," the NSA said.

Yusuf said the government had the fakes names, real identities and location of the suspects because of efficient coordination between different agencies.

On June 23, a powerful blast near the residence of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in Johar Town had killed three people and injured 24 others, including a police constable.

Six-year-old Abdul Haq, his father Abdul Malik, 50, and a young passerby died in the explosion that left a four-foot-deep and eight-foot-wide crater on the road and damaged several houses and shops nearby.

Quoting intelligence and surveillance staff, a report submitted to the chief minister had confirmed that the blast was carried out through remote control.

NSA Yusuf said Pakistan had been repeatedly saying that India was involved in terrorism against Pakistan.

Editorial: The blast in Lahore's Johar Town is a grim reminder that improved vigilance is critical

Speaking about whether there was involvement of the Indian state in the attack, he said the day the blast took place, there were thousands of coordinated cyber attacks on the country's information infrastructure.

"The cyber attacks were carried out so that our investigation could not be successful and it would face obstacles and time could be gained for the network to disperse," he said, adding that the country's institutions were "successful" because they had been strengthened to work on cybersecurity.

"We have no doubt that the Johar Town and cyber attacks are linked. And the number in which [the cyber attacks] were done, there is no doubt that there was state involvement of our neighbour," he added, referring to India.

He recalled that Pakistan had presented a dossier last year regarding Indian state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. "This event is another aspect of that process where our enemy continues to do this," he said.

According to Yusuf, the "direct origin" of the money through which the attack was financed was from India. "Money was sent through third countries; now time has come to pay attention to real criminals," he said.

He revealed that one of the primary suspects who executed the attack, Eid Gul, was originally from Afghanistan and had lived in Pakistan.

"This is that thing which we repeatedly say that Afghan refugees are our brothers and sisters but the time has come for their dignified return," he said, adding that while a big Afghan refugee population was peaceful, the actions of a few hiding among them brought disrepute to all refugees.

"Pakistan will bring this international network in public view and India's real face will be exposed, as we have done before."

Referring to India, the NSA said the country could not tell the world that it wanted to "move forward", while in reality it made plans "to martyr Pakistan's citizens".

"I want to make sure our message is heard clearly that [in] this particular incident, we have concrete evidence and intelligence that point to direct Indian sponsorship of these terrorists," he emphasised.

"We have identified the main mastermind and the handlers of this terrorist attack and we have no doubt in informing you that the main mastermind belongs to RAW, lives in India and is an Indian citizen."

Besides the cyber attacks, Yusuf said, "there has been a whole drama about some mysterious drones flying in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The logic of that is very clear, and we can again say with confidence that it was a deflection tactic."

'Rogue behaviour'

In a tweet after the press conference, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had directed his team to brief the nation on the findings of the Johar Town blast investigation.

"I appreciate the diligence and speed of Punjab Police’s Counter Terrorism Department in unearthing the evidence and commend the excellent coordination of all our civil and military intelligence agencies," the premier wrote.

He said this coordination had led to identifying the terrorists and their international linkages.

"Again, planning and financing of this heinous terror attack has links to Indian sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan," he added, saying the global community must mobilise international institutions against this "rogue behaviour".

Timeline of events

Sharing snippets of the information that has surfaced in the police investigtation so far, Punjab Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani said the funding for carrying out the attack "came from abroad".

"We have [identified] the person who was delegated the task to carry out the reconnaissance and execute the attack," IGP Ghani told the presser, identifying the suspect as Eid Gul.

"He took the car from Peter and did a dry run in Lahore," he added, referring to another suspect. A day after the blast, law-enforcement agencies had arrested Peter Paul David after off-loading him from a Karachi-bound flight.

He was said to be the owner of the car used in the blast.

According to details shared by Ghani, a suspect named Ziaullah provided financing for the car to Peter, who handed over the car to Gul. Gul was tasked to execute the attack by an unidentified person.

A chart shared by IGP Ghani about the attack's organisation.
A chart shared by IGP Ghani about the attack's organisation.

IGP Ghani said they had connected all the dots between the perpetrators and facilitators behind the the attack.

He then went on to share a timeline of the events leading up to the blast. "On June 21, this car had no explosive material, but he (Eid Gul) did a dry run and inspected the area and checked all entry points," he said.

"On June 22, Gul does reconnaissance in a rickshaw and familiarises himself with the area. Gul is originally from Afghanistan but has lived in Punjab all his life so no one suspected him," said the IGP.

"The day of the blast, June 23, Gul took the car from Islamabad," he explained. "We also know where and how he prepared [the car for the attack]."

The IGP said that Gul had chosen to take the motorway to Lahore because the local police had no presence along the route. "He spent the next 12 hours on the motorway, even rested at a rest area," he said, adding that they had verified the details of his journey by checking his entry and exit time stamps on the motorway.

Speaking about the nature of the blast, Ghani said around 20 kilogrammes of explosive material had been packed into the car. "It was fitted in such a way ... that the car was blown to smithereens. This shows the expertise of the person who fit the bomb into the car," he said.

According to the provincial police chief, the CTD has apprehended the main perpetrators behind the attack, as well as their facilitators.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said there were repeated incidents which proved that the Indian establishment and present government were "fully supporting" the terrorist network in Pakistan.

He said the group active in Pakistan had been brought under control and "we have burst it", crediting the close coordination between the security, intelligence and law-enforcement agencies for the success.

Qureshi wants FATF to take action

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a statement said Pakistan had already shared solid evidence of Indian state-sponsored terrorism inside Pakistan with the international community, which he said was vindicated after revelations about India's involvement in the Johar Town blast.

He said Islamabad expected that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) would take action against India after evaluating these vital pieces of evidence, considering the prevention of terror financing was the watchdog's primary responsibility.

"Is it not the responsibility of FATF to hold India accountable for its terror financing? If no action is taken, then it will show dual standards," the minister said.

He added that it was Pakistan's duty to raise voice against such double standards.

Qureshi said if the FATF members did not take notice of India's terror financing, then it will be clear that "FATF is more of a political forum than a technical forum."

He lauded the efforts of the investigation agencies and Punjab police for unearthing the elements involved in the Lahore attack.

The minister said if the earlier evidence presented by Pakistan of India's state-sponsored terrorism was "taken seriously", terror incidents like the one in Johar Town and in Balochistan would not have taken place.

He emphasised that Pakistan had taken steps against money laundering and terror financing through effective legislation.

Additional input by APP



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