By: Udayan Namboodiri
Laila Khan has not been seen since February 2011. The Bollywood actress, born in Pakistan, was working on a new movie when she went missing, together with her mother, sister, a family friend and a domestic servant.
The disappearance has puzzled investigators, who have also noticed the apparent discrepancy between the starlet’s luxurious lifestyle and her relative obscurity in the Bollywood world. Adding new intrigue to the case was the discovery on June 2nd of Laila’s Mitsubishi Outlander, abandoned in a remote village in Kishtwar, a district of Kashmir.
Vital papers found in the vehicle suggest that Khan may have had links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists involved in the September 2011 Delhi High Court blast that killed 11 people, a Jammu and Kashmir police official told Khabar South Asia.
“The Delhi blast case’s trail came up to Kishtwar some months back and Laila Khan’s name had been linked to one of the suspects who is still at large. We believe the discovery of this vehicle amounts to a breakthrough,” said Garib Dass, police chief for the Doda range.
Soham Bhide, a senior official with the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), told Khabar that Laila, her mother and sister lived in an apartment in Mumbai and had a country house in the picturesque hill resort of Igatpuri. She also owned expensive cars and jewellery, even though her career had not taken off. Although she starred in the 2008 movie “Wafaa,” the film did poorly at the box office.
“This shows she had a lifestyle not compatible with her known sources of income,” Bhide told Khabar. He said call records show that two suspected LeT associates, Pervez Tak and Asif Sheikh, had frequent telephonic conversations with Laila.
“The bits and pieces are falling into place,” he added.
On Monday, ATS officials questioned film producer Rakesh Sawant, who first alerted Mumbai Police to Laila’s disappearance, for nearly six hours. Among other things, interrogators grilled him about an alleged encounter with Tak at Khan’s Igatpuri house.
Her father, Nadir Khan, who is divorced from her mother, has lodged a missing person’s complaint. He denies that his daughter was involved in terrorism but says he fears the worst.
“I fear that she was mixing with dangerous men who could have killed her after she had served their purpose,” he said.
According to Dass, Laila was previously married to Bangladeshi terrorist Munir Khan, who was linked to the banned group Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Huji). Through Munir she is believed to have come into contact with LeT.
While her exact role, if any, remains unclear, Indian media reports say she may have helped carry out reconnaissance for the terrorists or even lent vehicles to them for their use.
Indian security expert Rajesh Khara told Khabar that Bollywood has long had shadowy links with the criminal underworld.”Since the 1980s, several gangland bosses, notable among them Dawood Ibrahim, had been into movie financing,” he said.
“It was only a matter of time before terrorist groups infiltrated the industry,” Khara added.
Source: Khabar South Asia