The stepped-up campaign by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against Kashmiri separatist leaders—three of them Shabir Shah, Asiya Andrabi and Masarat Alam Bhat were arrested earlier this month—is not the first time the agency has sought to expose the nexus between them and Pakistan. In an earlier case, the NIA noted that Hurriyat leaders were being funded by India’s neighbour through the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to foment unrest in the Kashmir Valley.
“They are getting funds from the Pakistani establishment through the Pakistan High Commission; the funds are being remitted to India from offshore locations through hawala and accused A-10 Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali is an important conduit for the same,” said the NIA while pressing charges against Kashmiri businessman Watali who is now behind bars.
“To fuel the secessionist activities, Pakistan is providing funds to Hurriyat leaders and the same are channelised through hawala, LoC trade and other means,” said the NIA in the Watali case. As for the role of the Pak High Commission, it went on to add, “Sometimes, the funds are provided directly by the Pakistan High Commission.”
The charges are part of the Supreme Court judgement that cancelled Watali’s bail in a terror funding case in early April. The bail had been granted to him by the Delhi high court but the Supreme Court observed that the NIA had produced ample evidence showing Watali’s involvement in terror-funding activities.
Watali along with Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and nine others have been charged by the NIA with conspiring to wage war against the government and creating unrest in the Valley.
The NIA’s findings that are now part of the SC judgement note that the Pak High Commission organises functions and meetings in Delhi to which Hurriyat leaders are invited and “given instructions and funds so that the unrest in the Valley can be fuelled in an organised manner”.
Further, the agency said that terrorists and Hurriyat leaders have a close nexus with active militants, overground workers and stone pelters in the Valley. “They are closely coordinating with each other and have formed a terrorist gang to achieve their common goal of secession from the Union of India by way of an armed rebellion,” said the NIA.
The Modi government had come down hard on Hurriyat leaders during its first term and did not take kindly to their meetings with officials of the Pakistan high commission, including the high commissioner. Just three months after taking charge in 2014, the Modi government had called off the visit of then foreign secretary Sujatha Singh to Islamabad to meet her Pak counterpart after then Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit engaged with separatist leaders despite New Delhi making its displeasure known.
In its findings in the Watali terror funding probe, the NIA has accused the Hurriyat leaders of “working in a systematic and organised manner as per the instructions of their Pakistan handlers by setting up a network of their cadres at the village level, block level and district level.”
The NIA accuses the Hurriyat of having convenors/representatives in Pakistan who “liaise with Pakistani agencies and also with the Kashmir cell of the ISI, the United Jehad Council and the Jamaat-Ud-Dawah.” Further, it alleges that the “benefits drawn out of the LoC trade are reaching the Hurriyat leaders for fuelling unrest in the Valley.”
The NIA probe’s findings also said that Hurriyat leaders along with terrorists and terror organisations as well as stone pelters are “working in tandem and they are getting the financial and logistics support from Pakistan.”
As for Watali and his links to the high commission as well as other accused in the terror funding case, the NIA said its probe revealed that the Kashmiri businessman was a known hawala dealer and financier. It further said that the money is routed through a complex system of hawala transfers and cash couriers with persons like Watali “who gathers money from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and through fake and bogus companies floated in the UAE and other countries and delivers the funds to the Hurriyat leadership for subversive activities.”
Shah, Andrabi and Alam too have been charged with organising protests and stone pelting in the Valley at the behest of Pak-based terror groups.