New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has gathered damning evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the unrest in Kashmir with Masarat Alam, general secretary of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, confessing during custodial interrogation that “Pakistan-based agents route the funds through hawala operators" and this is then “transferred to separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference".
Alam has also revealed that there were growing rifts within the Hurriyat Conference regarding collection and use of funds, the NIA said in a statement.
The NIA’s findings come in the wake of India’s recent crackdown on cross-border trade between India and Pakistan, which was aimed at clamping down on illegal funds that were used for militant activities in Kashmir.
On 30 May, the NIA had registered a case against terrorists of the Jammat-ud-Dawah, Duktaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, as well as other separatist leaders in the Valley “for raising, receiving and collecting funds for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and entering into a larger conspiracy for causing disruption in Kashmir valley and for waging war against India".
So far, the NIA has chargesheeted 13 accused, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the head of the Jammat-ud-Dawah, Syed Salahuddin , who heads the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, seven other separatist leaders, two hawala conduits, and stone pelters.
In April, the NIA had arrested Yasin Malik, the leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Asiya Andrabi, the chief of Duktaran-e-Milat, separatist leader Shabir Shah, and Alam, who is also a member of the Jammu Kashmir Muslim League.
“During interrogation, Yasin Malik revealed that he was instrumental in bringing together the disparate factions of the Hurriyat Conference and formed the joint resistance leadership (JRL), which spearheaded the violent agitations in 2016 in Kashmir valley by issuing protest calendars, which led to an economic shutdown for more than four months and also caused death and injuries to civilians and security forces during the violent protests," the NIA said on Sunday, referring to the time following the elimination of separatist leader Burhan Wani in 2016.
Malik admitted that the JRL and the Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani had collected funds from the business community as well as other sources “and ensured that an economic shutdown and violent protests continue to disrupt the daily life of common citizens in the Valley", the probe agency said.
“Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, who was denied bail by an NIA court, is one of the main hawala conduits who used to generate and receive funds from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and had floated various shell companies to disguise foreign remittances for further transfer to separatist leaders and stone pelters in the Valley," the NIA said.
“Investigations have concluded that funds that changed hands were also used to sustain home-grown terrorists. This money was used to finance their food, provisions, and upkeep, as well as for the other expenses that they incur," said a senior intelligence official on condition of anonymity.
The Union home ministry in April shut down two trade facilitation centres at Salamabad in Uri and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch after investigations revealed that they had become hotbeds of militant activity.