Strict screening measures ensured that anti-Modi, anti-India protesters were unable to re-create what they had done at the Indian High Commission in London.
New Delhi: Pakistan’s plan to disrupt the “Howdy, Modi” rally, was devised directly while keeping Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the loop. It’s a different matter that the plan fizzled out.
The Sunday Guardian has accessed pictures and other details of how, systematically, the whole thing was planned with the intention to bring at least 22,000 protesters to the venue. However, as videos of the event showed—which were also corroborated by eyewitness accounts—the number of anti-Modi and anti-India protesters who finally were able to reach the event site was much less than the intended 22,000, despite the protests being managed by people reporting to Imran Khan himself.
The Sunday Guardian’s investigation has found that all the main faces behind the protests are related to Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and they got support from a major Muslim organisation which is the sister concern of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen.
One of the main organizations, which exclusively became active to gather public support for this anti-Modi campaign, was the International Humanitarian Foundation, a group that is managed by a resident of Houston, but who is originally from Rawalpindi. It was this organisation that played the role of the nodal agency to spread messages and coordinate the 22 September protests at the NRG Stadium in Houston.
The website of the organisation, as per the electronic footprint records accessed by The Sunday Guardian, became active in July-August this year. It is pertinent to mention that the announcement of the “Howdy, Modi” event was made public in July this year. This means that this organisation was brought into existence specifically with the purpose to disrupt the event.
The individual behind the website and the Facebook page also runs a Twitter handle of the “Overseas affairs of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)” and is a prominent PTI voice of Houston.
The Sunday Guardian has also learnt that a major gathering to deliberate on how to disrupt the event was held on 4 September at a restaurant in Houston where PTI leaders, along with Khalistani faces, met to raise funds for the anti-Modi protests. The Sunday Guardian is not publishing the name of the restaurant.
Among those who were present in the meeting was one Atif Khan who is the “President of PTI, Houston Chapter”. Later, his efforts to “successfully disrupt” the “Howdy, Modi” event came in for personal praise by Imran Khan who met him personally on 24 September.
A similar event—attended by the same group of people, in which Ali Amin Gandapur, who is the Pakistan union minister for “Kashmir affairs” and Gilgit-Baltistan, was present—was also held just one day before the “Howdy, Modi” event, to make sure that everything was “in place”. Prominent stakeholders of a local news channel owned by Pakistani nationals, too, were a part of these strategy meetings.
The event was also attended by Sajjad Burki, who is a senior leader of the PTI overseas wing and is into the realty sector.
The Sunday Guardian has also very reliably learnt that a major part of the funding for the protests was arranged by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), whose Houston unit president, Sultan Salahuddin, was himself present in the meeting and was given special attention because of the “hold” he has over the Muslim population of the area.
It is important to mention that the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a “domestic affiliate” of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which is a banned organisation in India. The Jamaat’s terror wing is Hizbul Mujahideen, which owned the Abbottabad-based Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden was living at the time of his death.
The involvement of ICAN perhaps explains how some of the mosques in the area were used by the protesters to broadcast messages asking people to enroll themselves in large numbers for the protests. The involvement of the members of the “2020 Punjab referendum”, that calls for a separate Khalistan, in the whole disruption activity, has already been well documented.
Free bus rides for protesters were arranged from many religious sites, including the Miskah Islamic Center, a Houston-based organisation that works towards “conserving and promoting” Islamic culture.
An elaborate planning was put in place to disrupt the event that included arranging at least 20 prescribed points of shuttle service, comprising 120 buses arranged by the organisers to carry the protesters and drop at the venue of the protest. More than 700 volunteers were engaged in this process.
Experts believe that the reason why the anti-Modi protesters could not assemble a bigger crowd or disrupt the event, despite putting in so much effort and backing from the Pakistani money-bag of the area, is the strict screening measures that were used before allowing participants inside the venue and the joint efforts that were put in by the Indian and American security intelligence agencies to make sure that no untoward incident was allowed to happen.
Those who wanted to participate in the event were asked to fill in a form that sought lots of details and only after the organisers were satisfied of the bonafides of the individual, he or she was given a ticket for the event. Due to these strict measures—apart from the presence of US President Donald Trump at the venue, due to which the security arrangements were increased several notches—the anti-Modi, anti-India protesters were not able to re-create what they had done at the Indian High Commission in London.