Just a day after the Union home ministry suspended cross-border trade between India and Pakistan, a central government report accessed by Mint has revealed that trade had become a conduit for channelling funds for terror, illegal arms and the peddling of narcotics and fake currency notes.
While the suspension of trade deals a heavy blow to the small cross-border trade between India and Pakistan, the ministry has reiterated that it was aimed at cracking down on all sources of terror funding as well as the fact that cross-LoC trade routes were being misused by Pakistan-based groups “for funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency."
This trade, which was carried out four days a week, is meant to facilitate exchange of regular consumer goods across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir through trade facilitation centres at Salamabad, Uri, Baramulla and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch, has been halted from Friday, according to a home ministry directive issued on Thursday.
“LoC trade was intended as a confidence-building measure for the population living in remote areas of Jammu & Kashmir and living across the LoC in PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir). However, third parties manipulated the trade and misused it for trading goods being produced outside J&K. For example, almonds produced in California found their way in LoC trade and it involved a large transport network spread in many countries," a senior home ministry official revealed on condition of anonymity.
While the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also been probing Zahoor Ahmad Watali, a Kashmiri businessman, for his involvement in terror funding activities, the official quoted above revealed that the “Pakistani trader under-invoices produce like California almonds. On receipt of a consignment, a trader on the Indian side sells California almonds at the prevailing market price and makes extra profit. The money so generated is handed over by the trader to multinational elements and terrorist organizations in the Valley to fuel anti-India operations."
The report accessed by Mint also revealed that a significant number of trading concerns “are engaged in cross-LoC trade and are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organizations, especially the Hizbul Mujahideen. Some India nationals who have crossed over to Pakistan and joined militant organizations have opened trading firms in Pakistan. As a result, many trading firms under the control of militant organizations are engaged in LoC trade with Indian trading firms that are operated by their own relatives on the Indian side."
While another central government official revealed that around 66.5 kg of heroin had been seized from a Valley-based consignee through the LoC trade route, recently, a “large cache of pistols, grenades, spares and ammunition concealed in a consignment of bananas had also been seized from a cross-LoC driver from Kulgam in the Kashmir Valley."