PESHAWAR, May 6: Sarabjit Singh, a convicted Indian spy fatally assaulted in a Pakistani jail, cremated with full state honours and elevated to a national hero in India, was used by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to avenge Pakistan’s alleged support to the Sikh’s Khalistan movement in Indian Punjab, according to a former head of the Military Intelligence in Lahore.

“That was the time when Kashmiri insurgency in the India-held Kashmir was still a year or two away and the Khalistan movement in the Indian part of Punjab was at its peak, when RAW recruited Sarabjit to get even with us,” the former intelligence officer, whose interrogation led to Sarabjit’s conviction, told Dawn.

“For Sarabjit, the motivation was money. For RAW, it was a tit-for-tat for what they thought we were doing to them in (Indian) Punjab.”

At the time, India said that an inebriated 27-year-old Sarabjit had strayed across the border while ploughing his field in August 1990.

Born in Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran district of India on the border with Pakistan, Sarabjit was recruited by RAW, which trained him and sent him on dry runs to Pakistan before he was tasked to detonate bombs in Lahore and Faisalabad, the official said.

“The RAW’s signature was very visible. The explosives were packed in ghee tins and smuggled to Pakistan,” he said.

“At the time, India had not fenced the border along Kasur district and the area was used by smugglers on both sides of the border.”

Well conversant with basic tenants of Islam, Sarabjit could have passed for any Punjabi from Lahore or Rawalpindi, he said.

“He was paid for each mission, which was adequate by Indian standards but not handsome and varied with the number of people killed in each explosion,” the ex-official said. “He was not driven by any sense of patriotism.”

Monitoring Desk

NEW DELHI, May 6: Sarabjit Singh had gone to Pakistan for an operation planned by a senior Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official, who later became the external intelligence agency’s chief, sources told the Hindustan Times (HT) newspaper.

“Sarabjit was an Indian spy in Pakistan. He managed to accomplish the task given to him but was caught while trying to flee,” said an intelligence source who refused to elaborate more on the operation carried out by the spy.

A former intelligence official, who handled Sarabjit’s case, was quoted by the HT as saying the operation executed by Sarabjit didn’t serve any tactical purpose but still the agency had executed many such missions in Pakistan in the early and mid-90s.

“Some of the operations executed by the RAW during the period were totally mindless. Spies like Sarabjit and their families have paid huge cost for it. Sometimes, the agency officials executed operations out of personal bravado that they can get ‘something’ done in Pakistan,” said the official.

Sources also pointed out that RAW was yet to evolve a policy for paying spies like Sarabjit or their families when they got caught in the enemy land.

“Payments vary case to case depending on the nature of operation. There is no uniformity in discreet payments to families when such agents are caught or eliminated by the enemy,” says a source.

“Sarabjit had been awarded a state funeral because his case was mainly highlighted due to the efforts of his politically astute sister Dalbir Kaur. His family is also being compensated, But there are many cases in which the spies came back from Pakistan [and] knocked the doors of the courts to get their dues,” the source said.