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Tightening grip on separatists

Amid tightening of screws on Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat leaders by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) on charges of terror funding, a section of Hurriyat leaders including All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF head Yasin Malik reacted rather vehemently, stating that those arrested by the NIA for terror financing had no active involvement either in the 2016 uprising or in issuing the protest calendars.

Such defensive and faint arguments notwithstanding by the Hurriyat, NIA seems to be on a stronger wicket as it has done its homework well and the investigations carried out so far are scientific and rational.

Clarifying the reasons for sparing other separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, NIA said investigations are still on and once the designated court consents on the request to proceed against them, action will be initiated. It may be recalled that NIA has charged Pakistan-based terrorists Hafiz Saeed and Salauddin along with ten of their accomplices for criminal conspiracy and related charges under the clauses of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

NIA claims to be in possession of hard evidence, both material and technical, gathered during the course of investigations probing terror financing. As part of the enquiry, NIA had raided as many as 60 locations leading to procurement of allegedly incriminating documents. Above all, NIA has also named hardcore separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani ‘s son in law, Altaf Ahmad Shah aka Funtoosh, Geelani ‘s personal aide, Bashir Ahmad Bhatt and businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in the chargesheet.

Further, the NIA has accused Hurriyat leaders of acting under the overall direction of Hafiz Saeed and Salahuddin in collaboration with their Pakistani handlers, suspected to be ISI operatives. Communicating to the Hurriyat activists through “ protest calendars” channelled through social media and ultra religious clerics, NIA perceived that such acts are not only detrimental to India’s security interests, they were also designed to create an atmosphere of terror and fear in Jammu and Kashmir to destabilise the state.

Significantly, NIA strongly believes that the investigation based on scientific and oral evidence has established beyond doubt that for carrying out such terrorist and subversive activities, the accused persons were receiving funds from Pakistani agencies through hawala channels such as accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali and others and also mobilising funds from LoC barter trade through under-invoicing and nefarious cash dealings. Investigation also suggests that money was routed through bogus companies floated abroad and remitted to the Hurriyat leaders.

It must be added that Hawala channels were exploited by many and to a larger measure by none other than Syed Salahuddin and Hafeez Saeed. In the meantime, confessional statements of one of the accused directly complicit in the terror fundings in Kashmir should help secure conviction. In other words, evidence is direct.

Statements recorded in many cases go to the extent of stating that funding of stone-pelters was done by separatists. One of the accused has agreed to be an approver. The case is likely to deal a severe blow to the Hurriyat Conference, other terror affiliates and Dukhtaran-e-Milat. Also it is bound to adversely affect their operations.

It is reliably known that bank officials in Kashmir are on a 24×7 watchlist and officials are keeping a tight vigil on deposits. Informal channels of funding Islamic Trusts and the like are again being discreetly pursued and watched. Delhi has been the hub of hawala transactions with a modus operandi that seems almost untraceable and hidden (kachcha bill and circulation of money).

Chats of stone-pelters, their exact locations during stone pelting and their accomplices from Pakistan in the group are important leads. Literature, pamphlets etc mentioning links and texts obtained from across the border are also part of the evidence.

With NIA tightening its noose around the Hurriyat leaders in terror funding, and vigorous pressure by the US on Pakistan to slash funding and dismantling of terror camps, the image of Pakistan has been further dented. The all round offensive unleashed by India to root out terror through decisive counter-terror operations and to isolate Pakistan with robust diplomacy appears to be paying off.

The writer is a retired IPS officer and security analyst. The views are personal.

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