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Rashid Engineer: The mainstream politician who helped establish a terror base and move funds

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New Delhi, Feb 04: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will question former J&K MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid for his links with self-styled Hizbul Mujahideen commander Naveed 'Babu', arrested along with suspended Jammu and Kashmir Police DSP Davinder Singh.

Rashid, popularly known as 'Rashid Engineer' and leader of the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), contested as an Independent candidate in the 2014 Assembly constituency from Langate in North Kashmir.

Sheikh Abdul Rashid

The officials said the agency would soon approach court for seeking a production warrant for summoning Rashid and question him about his association with Naveed alias 'Babu', whose full name is Syed Naveed Mushtaq Ahmad.

Naveed had claimed during interrogation that he had been in constant touch with the legislator for establishing a firm base for the terror group in North Kashmir and was looking for possible hideouts in that area, the officials alleged.

NIA to quiz former J&K MLA for links with Hizbul Mujahideen commander

Engineer has been questioned by the NIA several times. After his arrest in the terror funding case, it was found that he was a frontman for the main accused in the case, Zahoor Watali, a Kashmiri businessman.

This is the first arrest involving a mainstream politician from the Valley in the terror funding case, in which Lashkar-e-Tayiba chief, Hafiz Saeed is also an accused. Rashid was a legislator from the Langate Assembly constituency in north Kashmir prior to the Jammu and Kashmir assembly being dissolved a year back.

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    Rashid's name cropped up during the questioning of Kashmiri businessman, Zahoor Watali, who is accused of channelising the funds for separatists and terrorists, who in turn caused trouble in the Valley. Watali was arrested by the NIA in 2017.

    Watali is centric to the probe by the NIA, which has so far unearthed heaps of details on how funds were brought in to the Valley and challenged.

    In 2017, Rashid had been questioned by the NIA. Sources in the NIA said that he was not convincing during the questioning and hence he had to be arrested so that he could be questioned in custody.

    During the probe, the NIA stumbled upon a front in which money would be parked. Watali would receive money from Pakistan and Engineer in turn would help him park it in the Joint Effort Trust. Some of the money from this trust would be channelised to various other accounts and the same would be used to create unrest in the Valley.

    It may be recalled that the Enforcement Directorate had attached properties belonging to Watali to the tune of Rs 1.73 crore. It may be recalled that the ED had in April attached properties worth Rs 6.19 crore belonging to Watali and his family members. The attached assets consisting of immovable properties worth Rs. 1.48 crores in the name of family members of Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali and balance available in the Bank Account of Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd, New Delhi worth Rs. 25 lakh.

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    Investigation 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.

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