Hyderabad: Security agencies suspect that Prashant Maidam, the software professional from Hyderabad who has landed up in Pakistan, could have signed up with travel agents who perhaps promised him hassle-free travel to Europe via Pakistan but eventually abandoned him there after collecting the money.
It is believed that Prashant and Darilal, who was arrested with him, crossed the international border through the deserts of Sri Ganganagar district in Rajasthan and reached Bahawalpur (in Pakistan), which is less than 100 km from Sri Ganganagar. Both were arrested in Bahawalpur district for entering Pakistan illegally.
What is intriguing about the whole incident is why would Prashant — who could easily have flown to any country of his choice and entered it legally - opt for going to Europe illegally? It is said that he wanted to travel to Switzerland to meet the woman he fell in love with when they worked together in a company in Bengaluru, but it is unclear why he crossed over to Pakistan.
Highly placed sources in New Delhi and Rajasthan told Deccan Chronicle over the telephone that though there is a strict vigil along the borders with Pakistan, there are quite a few locals in the border areas of Rajasthan who are familiar with the geography of the area and can facilitate exfiltration for money. They in turn have links with travel agents operating not only in Rajasthan but also New Delhi. In fact, a few of them have come on the radar of the security agencies several times as they are said to have facilitated travel of many persons abroad via Pakistan — all for jobs — but could not be arrested so far.
“People have been made to cross over to the other side from Rajasthan and then taken to Karachi from where they have been sent to countries like Norway, Australia and even Canada after making fake documents in Pakistan, though the fate of many is not known. All have mostly gone for jobs. But in the process, many have also been abandoned in Pakistan and Prashant appears to be one of them. He may have been promised easy travel to Europe in exchange for good money,” sources said.
Over the years, there have been several inputs as to how many people are being duped by agents who facilitate their illegal travel to Pakistan but have abandoned them. The agents collect the money before the start of the journey and once there are hassles in further travel, they leave them midway. “There appears no other reason how and why Prashant and the other man could have ended up in Pakistan other than that they planned to travel abroad via Pakistan,” reasoned top officials based in New Delhi.
It is suspected that Prashant and Darilal could have been headed to Karachi port, some 800 km from Bahawalpur, from where they would have gone abroad.
“Though it has now become very difficult for agents to smuggle people into Pakistan because of the strict vigil amid the heightened tensions, individuals still do it despite the fear of being caught or shot by either the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel or the Pakistani Rangers. Any individual who does not know the routes and terrain of the border area is bound to get lost and die in the desert. We do not think that Prashant would have crossed over on his own,'' sources said.
Over the last few years, the BSF has erected an electric fence called ‘Cobra’ which can be fatal for intruders.
The fencing is in place along the 1,070 km border covering Jaisalmer, Sri Ganganagar, Bikaner and Barmer in Rajasthan.
But the main problem is the shifting sand dunes, some of which pile up as high as 80 to 90 feet making the border fence vanish in a matter of hours.
“We have to keep clearing the desert sand from around the border pillars to keep them visible. At several places, the fencing has given way to the windblown sand, leaving gaping holes that are ideal for intruders. When the loo blows hard, an embankment of sand forms which can sometimes settle on the fencing itself,” explains a BSF officer posted along the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan.
“If Prashant has chosen this route (via Pakistan) to meet his girlfriend in Switzerland, he must be clearly out of his mind or may have got carried away by the assurances made by those rogue agents who may have taken advantage of his foolishness,” the officer added.
He said that the BSF carries out a detailed exercise to check the footprints of intruders to find out if someone has come in from the other side or gone out.
Although Rajasthan has the reputation of being a quiet frontier, it has seen several smuggling and infiltration attempts in recent years.
In 2006 the BSF shot dead three terrorists who attempted to breach the fence in Sri Ganganagar. All three were carrying explosives. In 2014, three youngsters aged between 12 and 14 sneaked in through the fence (the fence was not electrified then). The three had no terrorist links and were handed over to the Pakistan Rangers.
A few intruders have been caught who were deployed by the ISI to pick up any information about the BSF and the Army formations.
In 2014, Jamaat ud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammed Saeed was spotted in Islamkot village, which is just across the border near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.