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RAW to rebel in space of a flight

New Delhi/Srinagar, Nov. 11: A Kashmiri crafts seller who became a top model in Dhaka has undergone a bigger change-over: from an alleged Indian spy in a Bangladeshi prison last month to a suspected terrorist in Tihar jail.

The story of 23-year-old Tariq Ahmed Dar, who is said to have won a “Mr Dhaka” contest three years ago, has more twists than a spy thriller.

Dar had arrived from Dhaka on October 16 to be arrested by police as a Lashkar-e-Toiba agent right at Delhi airport. Accused of funnelling money to Kashmir from sources in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Delhi-born youth is being questioned in jail.

Central security agencies say Dar, who looked after his Srinagar-based family’s handicrafts business in Dhaka while pursuing modelling as a hobby, was “deported” at India’s request.

Asked why Dhaka should hand over an alleged spy, officials said Bangladesh knew all along that he was a Lashkar conduit and had framed him as a RAW agent.

The police said nothing about deportation, claiming they had been “tipped off” by intelligence sources that a militant would be arriving on a plane from Dhaka.

But Dar’s father Gazi Ghulam Nabi said it was Union water resources minister Saifuddin Soz who helped get his innocent son freed.

“When I heard of the arrest in September, I rushed to Bangladesh and sought the help of Soz saab who was in Dhaka. He spoke to their home minister and the Indian high commission and my son was sent to India. But he was arrested at Delhi airport. My son has been framed.”

Soz acknowledged meeting Nabi in Dhaka during an official trip last month.

“The father, whom I had known earlier, came to my hotel. He kept saying his son was innocent. I said I don’t know anything about the case. I merely requested my counterpart to help our high commissioner get some information about the boy. Once I returned (to Delhi), I had no idea of what happened.”

The police, known to parade terror suspects within hours of nabbing them, kept the arrest under wraps till the news leaked today.

Deputy commissioner (special cell) Lok Kumar said: “His arrest is not that important. We need to question him, so we haven’t gone public.”

The police say Dar spent only two years in Bangladesh, but Nabi said his son had been in Dhaka since 2000, and his good looks had helped him to the “Mr Dhaka” title in 2003.

“He was brand ambassador of fashion house Ecstasy, which put his pictures on billboards and published ads with his photographs,’’ said Nabi.

Dar’s family said it could be a case of mistaken identity — a Tariq Dar is wanted for the 2005 pre-Diwali blasts. But DCP Kumar said: “He is not the Tariq Dar wanted in the Delhi blasts. He is wanted in a different case.”

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