Lt Col Shahid Mehmood Malhi, also referred to as “Chaudhary Sahib” within the Pakistani army, is probably the brain behind “Referendum 2020” — a movement started in Canada and some European countries by rights groups to ask for Khalistan — according to Indian intelligence officers.
Sleuths in India claim to have ferreted out documents from Malhi’s computer that give a detailed roadmap for Referendum 2020. Sikhs For Justice, the US-based rights group behind the referendum, has consistently maintained that there is no sinister international conspiracy behind their initiative and they are only asking for their rights under international conventions.
However, documents accessed by TOI suggest that ISI is working with select groups based in Pakistan and elsewhere. Senior officers believe “Chaudhary Sahib” was
heading ISI’s Lahore detachment, which sponsors Punjab-specific activities, in 2015. As such, he could have had a role to play in the targeted killings of mostly right-wing Hindu leaders in Punjab over the past two years.
Top sources also don’t rule out the possibility of the Lahore detachment helping plan the terrorist strike in Gurdaspur’s Dinanagar town in July 2015 and the fidayeen strike on the Pathankot airbase in January 2016.
Lt Col headed ISI’s Lahore detachment
A native of Wapda town in Lahore, 45-year-old Shahid Mehmood Malhi — service number PA-35043 — was commissioned into the 25th Battalion of the Baloch Regiment on October 13, 1995 and was promoted to the rank of Lt Col on August 10, 2012. According to intelligence documents, he had earlier been a part of the UN mission in Kosovo from May 2004 to May 2005. His brother, Lt Col Khalid Mehmood Malhi, is also in the Pakistani army’s 2 Sindh Regiment.
According to documents accessed by TOI , ISI has codenamed the Referendum 2020 initiative ‘Operation Express’. ISI’s Lahore detachment, Indian intelligence agencies claim, controls activities of Pakistan based Sikh militant leaders and sponsors Punjab-specific activities. The intelligence documents reveal Malhi commanded the Lahore detachment which had eight persons, including one Major Danish.
Among the documents is an internal communication sent by Malhi to his superior officer. It proposes the date for launching Referendum 2020 as “6 Jun 2020”, the 36th anniversary of Operation Bluestar. At present, the referendum is being led by the US-based rights group Sikh for Justice.