Afghan Opium and Terrorism in South Asia
by Ramtanu Maitra on 03 Jan 2009 0 Comment

Following the Mumbai massacre (Nov. 26-29), a lot of “important” personnel moved through the Indian subcontinent, ostensibly with the intent of unearthing the ghastly plot that killed at least 200 people and made a mockery of India's security. During the visits of these “important” personnel, and subsequently, nobody, except one, mentioned the thousands of tons (8,200 tons in 2007, and allegedly 421 tons of heroin produced year after year in Afghanistan) as the cause behind growing terrorism in the region. In reality, the huge amount of opium is allowed to be produced not only to finance terrorists and illegal gun manufacturers, but also to infuse cash into the bankrupt world financial system through the offshore banks.

That voice of reality was heard from Moscow when, in an interview with the Russian government daily Rossiskaya Gazeta, Russia's federal anti-narcotics service director Viktor Ivanov said: “The gathered inputs testify that regional drug baron Dawood Ibrahim had provided his logistics network for preparing and carrying out the Mumbai terror attacks.” Ivanov said the Mumbai attacks were a “burning example” of how the illegal drug trafficking network was used for carrying out terror activities.

The super profits of the narco-mafia through Afghan heroin trafficking have become a powerful source of financing organized crime and terrorist networks, destabilizing the political systems, including in Central Asia and Caucasus,” Ivanov said at the fifth India-Russia meeting of the joint working group on combatting international terrorism in mid-December. While the Indian delegation was led by Vivek Katju, Special Secretary in the MEA, the Russian delegation was led by Anatoly Safonov, Special Representative of the President.

The Drug-Led Corruption

While Dawood Ibrahim's involvement has been tossed about in the media in general, what Ivanov said never got through to the investigators. Or, is it that the drug angle was deliberately ignored, in order to end investigation by resorting to blame games with the purpose of ending up nowhere? 

The Dawood angle was also pointed out in the Asia Times by Raja Murthy on Dec. 9, when he said it is likely that despite all the noises that are made in New Delhi, India really does not want Dawood back. His argument goes: “The catch is that India's most infamous mafia boss has stories that powerbrokers on both sides of the border might not want the world to hear. Therein lays a reason why Ibrahim apparently continues to live lavishly - alternating between Karachi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, according to various reports including from the Pakistan media.”

Be that as it may, it is nonetheless true that there is hardly anyone with “power and authority” in Mumbai, and that includes the Shiv Sena supremo Raj Thackeray and the mainstream politician and former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, among many other political luminaries, law and order bigwigs in Mumbai, and almost the entire tax-evading Mumbai movie Moghuls, who are not on the take from this drug-pushing, murderous creature, now under the wings and threats of the Pakistani ISI, British MI6 and the CIA. But then again, like the celebrated terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen et al, creatures like Dawood would remain active as long as drugs are grown aplenty to serve the interest of the powers-that-be and to fill the coffers of bankrupt banks. That is how Dope, Inc. not only survives, but flourishes. The deaths of common citizens are “collateral damage” that the powers-that-be ignore by diverting the attention of common man to another direction, such as blaming others, and creating war-like situations.

In fact, this is exactly what has been promoted through a pantomime orchestrated by New Delhi and Islamabad. Instead of addressing the devastating role of thousands of tons of opium, that foster terrorists in Pakistan and bring misery to thousands in India, produced annually in Afghanistan and distributed all over, New Delhi and Islamabad chose to flex muscles to provide the terrorists, and jihadists alike, a rare opportunity to portray themselves as “patriots.” Would bringing troops to the borders eliminate terrorism?

Did it ever achieve this objective? Would anybody with an iota of sense believe that? Then, why do it? Why create a situation in which some mischief-makers can create an incident, which may lead to armed confrontations and the deaths of many, while solving nothing? Why? Why?

Covering Up the Drug Angle

The answer to that question is basically the unwillingness of political leaders to protect their citizens and instead, kowtowing to the powers-that-be. When a large chunk of it is converted into heroin, the 8,200 tons of opium create a lot of cash. It could be as high as a couple of hundred billion dollars when cut, re-cut and sold to the addicts in England, Russia and elsewhere in Europe.

It brings in about $100 million for the Taliban, and other brands of terrorists, or jihadis, or Hindu Tamil Tigers, or Shiv Sena, you name it. That amount, generated annually, is enough to arm and train hosts of terrorists stretching from Chechnya, to Urumqi, to Mumbai. When one group of terrorists gets exposed, they get converted into another brand. It is also a boon for the powers-that-be that opium money is acceptable to all deeply religious terrorists, be they Islamists, or Hindu fanatics, or Sikh Khalistanis. That money has no colour.

It is also known that the global financial system, which is the quintessential Anglo-Dutch liberal system designed in the 18th century to loot the colonies and imposed on the war-ravaged world in 1944 after President Roosevelt's death, is presently at its death throes. The City of London is bankrupt, Wall Street is bankrupt, and the only cash that “could” keep the collapsed financial system going is the drug money.

This drug money, at least a good part of it, is generated in this area with the help of Dawood Ibrahim, who works overtime on behalf of the British and runs his operation through the British-controlled Dubai. Drug comes into Dubai through Dawood's “mules” protected by the ISI-MI6; and by containers which carry equipment sent to Dubai for “repair” from Kandahar, and elsewhere in southern Afghanistan. British troops control the southern Helmand province in Afghanistan where 53% of Afghanistan's gargantuan 8,200 tons of opium was produced in 2007.

The drug gets converted to cash in Dubai, where Dawood “maintains” a palatial mansion, similar to the one he maintains in Karachi. Dubai is a tax-free island-city, and a major offshore banking center. The most common reason for opening an offshore bank account nowadays is the flexibility that comes as standard with such an account and expatriates can particularly benefit from an offshore bank account as it will likely allow them to manage their international financial commitments with ease.

With the development of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is the latest free trade zone in Dubai, flexible and unrestricted offshore banking in Dubai has become big business. Many of the world’s largest banks already have significant presence in Dubai, big names such as Abbey National Offshore, HSBC Offshore, ABN Amro, ANZ Grindlays, Banque Paribas, Banque de Caire, Barclays, Dresdner and Merrill Lynch, all have offices in the Emirate already. And as the drug production continues in Afghanistan and bankruptcies galore in the coming days, more banks will surely “find” Dubai.

Drugs and Offshore Banks

One should note that besides Dubai, most of the offshore banks are located in former British colonies. Exceptions are Cyprus, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Dominica, Cap Verde, Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, among a few others. But the vast majorities are situated in former British colonies and all of them are involved in money laundering. In other words, legitimizing cash generated from drug-sales and other smuggled illegitimate stuff for the “respectable banks” is the watchword of these offshore banks. In other words, the drugs that Dawood's mules carry are doing a yeoman's service to the Anglo-Dutch global financial system, as well as for the terrorists who are killing innocents all over the world. Why create waves about that, New Delhi ponders.

Moreover, Indians know better than most others that where there is opium, there are British. In the Helmand province, the British troops rule the roost; or rather take good care of the City of London's valuable cash. In India, as Prof. Amitav Ghosh (author of Sea of Poppies, among his other books) pointed out during his research work, the British Empire in the late 18th century became so dependent on the opium trade that almost 60% of its revenue was generated from opium sales. Professor Ghosh says that if there had been no opium, the British Empire would have died momentarily.

That tradition continues even today. Wherever there is opium, like bees seeking out honey, Anglo-Dutch financiers, and their American despot friends, set up their house. But, India is no less affected by it. While Pakistan's powers-that-be are fully immersed in the enjoyment of the drug money at the expense of being about to lose the western part of Pakistan, things work in a different way in India.

In India, at the time the British finally finished partitioning this country, there were about 550-odd princely states. These princely states, because of the nature of their set-up, were completely under the grip of Whitehall and Buckingham Palace. These miserable feudal lords used to spend whatever fortune the British allowed them to have in British hotels and brothels, were at the same time vying for “rewards” from the British monarchy. This despicable class of feudalism in India was downright anti-national, and represented the worst of the British lackeys, to say the least.

In India the first legislation to curb the cultivation and production of opium was through the Bengal Regulation Act 4 1797 which made cultivation, production, and trade in opium a monopoly of the East India Company in the territories controlled by the Company. Further the East India Company tried to control the trade in opium in the princely states by creating huge transit barriers by way of transit tax and customs duties for the opium exported through its territory and ports. Incidentally all the seaports were held by the East India Company. The next Regulations to control opium cultivation, production, and trade were through the Opium Act of 1858 and 1878.

Subsequently, the British created mechanisms for controlling production, processing, vending and exporting opium and made huge profits. They began with the Patna opium (in Bihar and United Provinces); and extended their control over “Telengana opium” in the princely state of Hyderabad, under the Nizam. But it was much later that they managed to control the Malwa opium produced in current-day Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Capital formation in western India was directly linked to the smuggling of opium to China with the help of the Parsee, Marwari and Gujarat entrepreneurs.

The British also made large profits through taxes on local consumption because they were the monopoly suppliers. While for the British, the Dutch and other colonial powers, opium was a major article of trade, the US did not get involved in the opium trade though a number of New England families, some of them later known as the “Boston Brahmins,” were involved in the transporting of opium to China. In the post-colonial period, the US got heavily involved in Central American cocaine, and during the 1980s with Afghan opium.

The Princely State Connection

Unfortunately, the former princely states' connection to the drug inflow has not ended, particularly among the states bordering Pakistan, from where almost all of Afghan opium comes into India. But, it is the opium and heroin entering from Pakistan that came through many of these former princely states, where the old drug-network still survives.

To begin with, it should be noted that the March 2008 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board noted increased trafficking and abuse of cannabis and heroin in South Asia. The West African traffickers have targeted countries in South Asia, particularly India, for cocaine trafficking. The report further said, “South American cocaine is trafficked to India in small quantities where it is exchanged for South-West Asian heroin bound for Europe and North America. India is increasingly being used as a major transit country and also as a destination country for drug trafficking. Cross-border smuggling is relatively easy because of the porous borders between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. Illicit cultivation and abuse of cannabis continue to be a problem in most of the countries in South Asia.” It has also been noted that opium and heroin enters India through Punjab, where at least four former princely states exist, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Mumbai, among other areas.

The Case of Three Terrorists

This brings us to the events in 1999, and the release of three top terrorists to the Taliban in Kandahar in order to gain release of 188 hostages. Those three terrorists, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar, who were in Indian jails, were personally carried by the Indian External Affairs Minister and scion of the former princely state of Jodhpur, Jaswant Singh. Jodhpur is also very much in the Afghan opium drug route into India.

This raises many questions. To begin with, all three were top drawer terrorists. Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar has renewed the activity of Al-Umar Mujahideen in Muzaffarabad, close to the LOC (Line of Control), in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, and is recruiting and training young ones to carry out terrorism in the Indian part of Kashmir.

Maulana Masood Azhar has hit the headlines again following the Mumbai massacre when New Delhi demanded Islamabad must hand him over as a “test of sincerity.” Masood Azhar, a hard-core terrorist, founded the terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and was identified by Indian investigators as the one who masterminded, along with the Pakistani ISI, the audacious attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. That attack left 14 people dead, including all five terrorists, who India says were also Pakistanis. The incident almost led to a war between India and Pakistan.

Ahmed Omar Sheikh Saeed, a British citizen, is perhaps the biggest fish in the kettle. He is an MI6 agent who was recruited to serve in Kosovo. Later, he was sent to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where he kidnapped foreigners and was arrested. Following the generosity emblazoned by his release, Sheikh was named as an accomplice to one of the 9/11 terrorists and later, he slit the throat of Daniel Pearl, an American journalist investigating the terrorist links. Although London vehemently denies that Sheikh is an MI6 agent, Sheikh's role in the subcontinent makes it necessary for MI6 to deny his post-Kosovo affiliation to British intelligence.

This raises another question: Was Sheikh's release obtained through pressure from London using a former princely state scion? Since too many people have since been killed by these released terrorists, it is worth getting the answer to that question.

The author is South Asian Analyst at Executive Intelligence Review News Services Inc.


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