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India-Canada row: Who killed Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar? The new ISI link, revealed

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Who killed Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar? The new ISI link, revealed

The India-Canada diplomatic standoff is ongoing with no resolution. Amid this, government sources have revealed that the ISI orchestrated Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing. The aim was to get rid of the Khalistani leader and to stir up tension between New Delhi and Ottawa

FP Explainers Last Updated:September 28, 2023 10:05:24 IST Who killed Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar? The new ISI link, revealed

A banner with the image of Hardeep Singh Nijjar at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple, site of his June 2023 killing, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Some sources within the government have revealed that there's a Pakistani hand behind Nijjar's killing. File image/Reuters

It’s been almost 10 days since Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau alleged that India had a hand in the killing of Khalistani leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, back in June. Since then diplomatic ties between the two countries have deteriorated – diplomats have been expelled from both sides, New Delhi has suspended visa services to all Canadians – and there’s a fear among the Indian diaspora residing there about the fallout.

India has repeatedly refuted Canada’s allegations, calling them absurd, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar even saying that this was “not the government of India’s policy” and vowed to Ottawa that action would be taken if they provided specific information.

But even as Canada continues to stick to its view that India was behind the murder of the Khalistani leader, there’s a new twist; sources in the government have revealed that it was Pakistan’s spy agency – the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – that orchestrated Nijjar’s killing.

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As the fallout continues, let’s investigate this new angle.

Pakistan’s hand in Nijjar killing?

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the chief of the banned group Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was gunned down on 18 June outside a gurdwara in Surrey in Canada’s British Colombia province.

CCTV footage reviewed by the Washington Post has revealed moments leading to his shooting and the eventual murder of Nijjar. As per the American newspaper’s report, at least six men and two vehicles were involved in the killing.

Revealing the incident, the newspaper adds that a white sedan suddenly pulled in front and blocked Nijjar’s pickup truck and two men in hooded sweatshirts appeared from a covered waiting area and pointed their firearms at the truck driver’s seat, and then the sedan exited the parking lot. The two men then run in the same direction. According to community members, the unidentified assailants fired about 50 bullets, of which 34 hit the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force.

Now, while Canada blames India for this incident, government sources have revealed that the Pakistan’s ISI was behind the killing.

News18 citing sources earlier reported that Rahat Rao and Tariq Kiyani are two ISI plants in Canada and the duo were tasked with the killing of Nijjar. The report further states that the two wanted to finish off Nijjar so that they could be in control of the drug and immigration business.

And it wasn’t just about the drug and immigration business, which is a huge source of income. The sources have also revealed that the ISI wanted Nijjar to lend support to gangsters who stepped on to Canadian soil in the last two years. However, the KTF chief was more inclined to supporting pro-Khalistanis, which put him at odds with the ISI agenda.

Additionally, killing Nijjar would put a strain on Indo-Canadian ties, which is a definite win-win for the Pakistan spy agency.

And it doesn’t stop there. It has been reported that the ISI is now actively looking for a replacement for Nijjar and is in the process of mobilising more terrorists within Canada.

Also read: India-Canada row: Is Pakistan’s ISI funding Khalistani groups?

The role of Pakistan’s ISI has been under the scanner since the diplomatic standoff began. Earlier, the Outlook citing intelligence sources had reported that ISI agents in Canada had met leaders of several Khalistani groups in Vancouver earlier.

The “secret meeting” was attended by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and other heads of Khalistani outfits. They chalked out a strategy, dubbed ‘Plan-K’, to “extensively” spread anti-India propaganda, according to Outlook.

Who killed Nijjar?

While a needle of suspicion has been pointed towards the ISI, the Canadian intelligence agencies are still to make any breakthrough in the murder of Nijjar.

Investigators belonging to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have tried to ascertain if Indian-origin agents travelled in or out of the country around 18 June – the day of Nijjar’s killing – but have come up empty.

Terry Milewski – author of Blood for Blood: Fifty Years of the Global Khalistan Project – in a Rediff interview shared another theory on who killed Nijjar.

The author said that there’s a popular theory in Canada that Nijjar’s killing was revenge for the murder of Ripudaman Singh Malik – accused in the 1985 Air India bombing – that occurred in July of last year. He said that there was some evidence that the Malik camp wanted revenge for the death of Malik by eliminating Nijjar.

India has asked for Canada to share the evidence they have on Nijjar’s killing and assured that they would act on it.

On the other hand, Trudeau on 23 September stated that his country had shared the “credible allegation” that Indian government agents were potentially involved in the murder of a Khalistani terrorist in British Columbia with New Delhi “weeks ago”.

He was quoted by Reuters as saying, “Canada has shared the credible allegations that I talked about on Monday with India. We did that many weeks ago. We are there to work constructively with India. We hope that they engage with us so that we can get to the bottom of this very serious matter.”

With inputs from agencies

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