Intelligence: Screwed Spies Sue Superiors


June 27, 2008: One unintended consequence of India and Pakistan establishing better relations in the last year, is a bunch of lawsuits by former Indian spies against the Indian government. The former spies are suing to obtain pay for the years they have spent in Pakistani jails. That's because both countries have freed hundreds of men who had been imprisoned for spying, but the agencies that hired these men, often will still not admit it.

Along the border, especially where the frontier divided Punjab into Pakistani and Indian provinces, it was relatively easy for people to sneak across the border. This was often done to find work or visit kin, and the intelligence agencies recruited Punjabis to cross the border and collect information about what was going on in the other Punjab. Most of Punjab ended up in Pakistan, when British India was split into Indian (mostly Hindu) and Pakistani (mostly Moslem) portions sixty years afo. Punjabis are the largest minority (45 percent of the population) in Pakistan.

The Pakistanis quickly caught on to this espionage scheme, and it's unclear exactly which side thought of it first. Both nations caught spies in their Punjabs. Some were executed, but most were put in prison, for anything from a few years, to over thirty. That's partly because some of the spies weren't,  but were just guys looking for work and happened to look suspicious, or maybe the spy catchers hadn't hit their quota that month.

The Indian spies were generally local farmers or laborers, willing to risk their freedom for less than a hundred dollars a month. Indian intel operatives gave the spies assignments, usually simple stuff like just going to a specific part Pakistani Punjab and collecting information on some military matter. Most apparently did not get caught, and a few went back again and again.

Both nations denied that they were running these spy operations, and refused to recognize captured agents as their own. Now that there are peace negotiations going on, some of the freed spies have been officially recognized, but most have not. So the lawsuits are not just about money (usually just lost wages, about a thousand dollars a year), but about recognition for the sacrifices the spies made. The Indian government is fighting the lawsuits. There are no lawsuits in Pakistan, where the success of such undertakings is much less certain.




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