How separatists collected funds and stoked the unrest in Kashmir
New Delhi, June 17: Investigations into the Jammu and Kashmir terror funding case has revealed that Zahoor Ahamad Shah Watali is one of the main hawala conduits who used to generate and receive funds from Pakistan, ISI, UAE and had floated various shell companies to disguise foreign remittances for further transfer to separatist leaders and stone pelters in the valley. These funds were used to fuel unrest in the Kashmir valley and organise violent agitations and anti-India activities which resulted in large scale violence leading to numerous injuries and deaths of civilians and security forces.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had registered cases against the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jammat ud Dawah and Duktaran-e-Millat for raising receiving and collecting funds for funding separatist and terrorist activities in J&K and entering into a larger conspiracy for causing disruption in Kashmir valley and for waging war against India.
During the investigation conducted so far, NIA has charge sheeted 13 accused including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed (leader of Jammat ud Dawah), Syed Salahuddin (head of proscribed organisation Hizb-ul-Mujahideen), seven separatist leaders, two hawala conduits and some stone pelters.
During the investigation, searches were conducted at various locations across the States of J&K, Delhi and Haryana and crucial electronic and documentary evidences were recovered which point towards the pattern of raising, collection, transfer and use of funds for terrorist and separatist activities. Significants evidence relating to funding of these separatist elements through Pakistan and UAE based businessman, ISI, High Commission of Pakistan in Delhi has been collected and presented to the NIA Special Court in the Chargesheets.
Mastermind and kingpin Zahoor Watali had approached the trial court for grant of bail which was rejected by the NIA Special Court. He approached the Delhi High Court, challenging the order and High Court granted him bail on 13.09.2018. NIA filed an SLP in the Hon'ble Supreme Court challenging his bail order and the Division bench of Hon'ble Supreme Court cancelled the bail of Zahoor Watali.
Accepting the plea of NIA, Hon'ble Supreme Court observed that the High Court has not appreciated the material which found favour with the designated court to record its opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations are prima facie true and the High court ought to have taken into account the totality of the materials/ evidences which depicted the involvement of the respondent in the commission of the stated offences and being a member of a larger conspiracy, besides the offence under section 17 for raising funds for terrorist activities.
In continuation of the investigation, the NIA arrested Yasin Malik, leader of proscribed organisation JKLF, Asiya Andrabi leader of proscribed organisation Duktaran-e-Milat, Separatist leader Shabir Shah of JKDFP and Masrat Alam of Muslim League. All the four accused were taken into police custody for custodial interrogation.
During interrogation Yasin Malik revealed that he was instrumental in bringing together the disparate factions of Hurriyat Conference and formed the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) which spear headed the violent agitations in 2016 in Kashmir Valley by issuing "Protest Calendars" leading to economic shut down for over four months and also caused death and injuries to civilians and security forces during the violent protests. Yasin Malik admitted that the JRL and Hurriyat Conference Gilani Group collected funds from business community as well as certain other sources and ensured that economic shut down and violent protests continue to disrupt the daily life of common citizens in the valley.
During interrogation, Asiya Andrabi admitted that she had been collecting funds and donations from foreign sources and Duktaran-e-Milat had been organising protests by muslim women in the valley. Asiya Andrabi was confronted with evidence regarding funding of educational expenses of her son in Malaysia from 2011 onwards through foreign remittances made by Zahoor Watali. NIA has already approached the concerned authorities for providing evidence relating to certain bank accounts used by Mohammad bin Qasim (son of Asiya Andrabi) while he was studying in the University.
During the custodial interrogation of Shabir Shah was confronted with evidence relating to transfer of money by Pakistan based agents and representatives of APHC factions to parties affiliated to Hurriyat in J&K. He was also confronted about his investments in various hotels and businesses in Pehalgam, properties in Jammu, Srinagar and Anantnag. Evidence regarding many of his benami properties is being collected. He was confronted with some of his personal staff and associates who have provided vital information regarding the sources fund raising and investment details. Investigation into these aspects is underway.
Masarat Alam, the so called poster boy of stone pelters and violent agitations in Kashmir valley, during his custodial interrogation, revealed that Pakistan based agents route the funds through hawala operators which were transferred to the separatist leaders including Syed Shah Gilani Chairman APHC(G). Masarat Alam also revealed that there are rifts in the Hurriyat conference regarding collection and use of funds.