The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe in the Kashmir unrest has revealed that the money raised through cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan was used to fan the support for different militant outfits including the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir.
The NIA which has tightened the noose around the separatist leaders has also named some more Hurriyat leaders for spreading the unrest in Kashmir. It has named the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) vice chairman, Bashir Ahmad Bhat and president of Salamabad Traders Union, Hilal Turki, for spreading the unrest. Turki, however, said that he can’t talk as he was busy attending a mourning ritual.
NIA spokesman, Alok Mittal, said that the investigating agency was probing the Kashmir unrest and “we are in the process of collecting the evidence to file the charges against people in the Court”.
The NIA report, which is based on the disclosure statement of some protected witnesses in the case, has also named some LoC traders including Ghulam Geelani Chhota, 50, of Lal Bazar area of Srinagar and Bashir Ahmad Kullu, 50, for taking an active part in agitations during which IS flags were also waved.
The NIA has also disclosed that it was through the official connivance that the traders were under-valuing their goods at the LoC checking point on the Srinagar-Muzafarbad road and the money that was raised through hawala transactions was paid to stone-pelters as well as the militants in Kashmir. It has noted that one of the traders Raja Zahoor Khan, who runs a shop at Parimpora Fruit Mandi, in Srinagar, would transport the California almonds of higher quantity than was allowed along the Uri-Muzaffarabad road and sell the excess quantity and pass on the money to the separatist leaders.
As per the NIA, while only eight tonnes of goods were allowed at one time from Pakistan to India, Raja would import nine tonnes from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and it was sold to traders in New Delhi. The cost of extra four-five tonnes which was transported on the cross–LoC road in a week was between Rs 20- 25 lakh and since the trade was in barter, the commodities of lesser value were sent to PoK and the money thus raised was used for funding separatist activities in Kashmir.
The report has also noted that separatist leaders have been fuelling the agitation in particular areas. While it states that the JKLF leader Bhat was responsible for ensuring stone pelting in the Civil Lines areas, Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, was doing it through his supporters in the Old City area of downtown. It said that in the highly volatile areas of South Kashmir including the districts of Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian, it was Hurriyat (G) chairman, Syed Ali Geelani, who was responsible for igniting anti-India activities. About Bhat, the report said that he is the “main supporter of JKLF and raises funds” through cross-LoC trade.
Also, the report noted that the some of the LoC traders are running multiple firms and are even visiting UAE to stay in touch with the Pakistani traders. While part of the money was allegedly used by the separatists to invest in real estate business on benami transactions, some of the LoC traders were also running proxy firms.
Hurriyat (G) spokesman, Ghulam Ahmad Gulzar, however, said that the allegations against the separatist leader were baseless and “part of the ploy to defame the Kashmiri freedom struggle”.
The report also notes that LoC trader, Raja, has been visiting Dubai in “every six months” and “other than the funds raised by virtue of cross LoC trade” he is continuously getting funds from Pakistan “through hawala channels”. “In the year 2013 his bank account in the Jammu and Kashmir bank Parimpora branch was blocked by the bank because of the reflection of huge transactions from Dubai based firms into his account.” It has been noted that he also owns two cold storage facilities in Industrial Estate Zainakote as well as three kanals of land at Hyderpora and some other real estate assets.
“JKLF is responsible for distributing money in Civil Line areas of Srinagar for funding stone pelting and demonstrations. Bashir Ahmad Bhat is the main supporter of JKLF and raises funds through Raja Zahoor Khan,” the disclosure statement of a protected witness read.
It has also been found that some of the traders whose business turnover ran into crores would regularly meet the separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and JKLF chairman, Yaseen Malik.
Some of the separatist leaders who are already in NIA custody have also been accused of paying the stone-pelters and fanning the pro-freedom sentiment during the funerals of the militants. The NIA investigations were prompted after the agitation in 2016 which was spurred after the killing of top Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Wani.