Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency” (FIA) has arrested five of the country’s citizens for entering Israel. Another two suspects are being sought, the agency said.
“The accused were working as helpers and car washers in Tel Aviv,” the FIA tweeted. “The accused gained entry through an Israeli agent [human smuggler?] and paid him 3-4 lakhs [300,000-400,000 Pakistani rupees, or about $1,100-$1,470] per person. Two suspects are on the run and police are conducting a raid on their whereabouts. They were sending suspicious remittances to Pakistan for five years.”
According to the FIA investigation, the suspects illegally migrated to Israel by traveling through countries such as Turkey, Kenya and Sri Lanka, and found employment. They sent money back to their families in Pakistan through Western Union. The arrested suspects, identified as Noman Siddiqui, Kamil Noor, Kamran Siddiqui, Mohammad Zeeshan and Mohammad Anwer, worked as helpers and car washers in Tel Aviv for four to seven years. One of the suspects is a woman named Satara Parveen.
While the arrested suspects belong to religious organizations, these organizations are not banned in Pakistan. They came into contact with an Israeli agent named Ishaq (Isaac) Mutat, who helped them throughout all their travel, and four of the suspects had Schengen visas, which are valid for entry to 27 European countries.
According to the FIR (First Information Report) lodged against them, they managed to send more than 10 million Pakistani rupees ($36,700) from Israel to their families.
The investigation and suspect testimony revealed that they took several routes through Turkey, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Switzerland, but all of the suspects entered Israel via Jordan with assistance from the Israeli agent Ishaq (Isacc).
In Jordan, the suspects received fake documents that made it appear they were from countries that have recognized Israel, which they used to cross the border. According to the FIA, during the investigation, the suspect revealed that the Israeli agent had ties with human smugglers in Jordan.
Finally, the suspects left Israel by crossing into Jordan, and from Jordan they went to Dubai and then Pakistan. Before they reached Pakistan, they destroyed fake documents that they made in Jordan, but some data has been recovered from their mobile phones and computers, which are still under investigation by the FIA Cyber Unit.
After the return to Pakistan, the accused opened mobile phone and grocery stores in their hometown, Mirpur Khas in Sindh Province.
Story 1: Israeli security failure
The FIA announcement raises several questions, first and foremost: Is it true? If so, where were the Israeli security agencies for four to seven years when Pakistanis were illegally living and working inside the country?
A group of Pakistanis affiliated with religious organizations that are not banned in Pakistan (could be Hezbollah or Hamas) obtained Schengen visas, visited many European and Arab countries before entering Jordan, obtained fake documents and crossed the border through IDF checkpoints along with an Israeli agent (human smuggler), lived in Tel Aviv, worked for four or more years and left Israel without getting caught.
They could have committed heinous terrorist crimes against Israeli citizens. And while nothing happened, they have opened the door for terrorists to enter Israel from Jordan using forged documents.
Also worrying is the extensive intelligence they may have obtained over the five to seven years in areas such as security, geography, public facilities and infrastructure.
Other questions raised include: Why did they not stay and work in Europe, where they had valid visas; who were their contacts/friends in Israel; and where did they travel within Israel.
Story 2: Pakistani conspiracy
If the FIA’s tweet is not true, then why did the FIA make up this story? What does it want to achieve from creating this conspiracy disinformation?
It could have presented the group along with confessions that the Israeli agent recruited them, trained them and planned to use them against Pakistan. However, so far, Pakistani authorities have not presented any accusations against Israel but rather announced that they caught the suspects via a money trail of transactions from Israel to Pakistan.
Was it a tip provided by Israeli intelligence to Pakistani intel agencies? They have collaborated and shared intel in the past. And if this is the case, why didn’t Israel arrest them?
The Israeli security services should make an official position clear: Is the story true or conspiracy? If the former, there is a strong possibility that the suspects belonged to a religious group that considers Israel to be a No. 1 enemy, and their objective could have been to collect as much intel as possible for use in a future massive terrorist operation inside Israel.
As “economic immigrants,” they seemed to have had enough money to travel around Europe, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Dubai before deciding to go to Jordan for the purposes of entering Israel. They might have pretended to be poor immigrants and uneducated workers but in fact had a plan to travel around different European and Arab countries until finally successfully entering into Israel.
Israeli security services should carry out an exhaustive investigation to consider the extent to which this infiltration was an intel failure and to identify any weaknesses in the security services.
Noor Dahri is the executive director of the London-based Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT) think tank.