Terror funding case: Kashmiri separatist leaders mentioned in NIA charge sheet but no formal charges
The charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in January in the terror funding case that names Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin also points to links between them and the top leadership of several Kasmiri separatist groups that are part of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Asiya Andrabi and Shabbir Shah.
However, the charge sheet doesn’t charge the Hurriyat leaders despite highlighting their role in conspiracies to attack Indian security forces in the Valley and in instigating young people there to resort to violence.
Excerpts from the charge sheet, which has been seen by Hindustan Times, are explicit about their role. For instance, it lists a DVD which contains around four conversations of Hafiz Saeed with Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and one conservation each with Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi, Shabbir Shah and Masarat Alam. In most of these conversations, a person named Iftikhar Hyder Rana also figures but the charge sheet did not shed any light on his identity.
The charge sheet claims that Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq together form the Joint Resistance Leadership, which espouses the cause of secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India.
It mentions that a May 14, 2017 WhatsApp message of Mirwaiz recovered from the phone of Hurriyat spokesperson Ayaz Akbar Khandey, who has been formally charged in the case, reads: “Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik on Sunday in a joint statement asked all political and militant organisation to follow freedom struggle with vision and wisdom.”
According to the charge sheet, the NIA’s investigation further revealed that protests and demonstrations in the Valley happened as per the elaborate calendar of protests authored by joint resistance leadership.
These calendars had detailed instructions on picketing, blockage of routes, suspension of public transport, and exhorting people to play ‘azaadi taranans’ (songs). One such calendar of August, 2016 was recovered from the house of Altaf Ahmed Shah Fantoosh (Geelani’s son-in-law) and was singed by Geelani.
Fantoosh’s lawyer Rajat Kumar declined to comment.
Most damningly, the charge sheet claims that through money launderer Zahoor Watali, who has been charged in the case, Hurriyat leaders received money from Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan’s ISI, and also directly from the Pakistan high commission.
But despite all this, the agency formally charged only seven second rung separatists along with Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salauddin.
“Our probe with regard to all other aspects not touched in the first charge sheet is continuing,” said a senior NIA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, hinting that these leaders could perhaps be charged in a supplementary charge sheet.
Geelani and Yasin Malik could not be reached for comments. Shabbir Shah is in jail in connection with a case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate.
“We have been saying from day one that the NIA investigation is a farce. It is a pressure tactic. The agency is being used by the government to create an opinion against us. If the NIA has any evidence against us they should present it. We have always maintained that the struggle is totally indigenous and the protests spontaneous,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The NIA is yet to question the top separatist leadership, though two sons of Geelani have been questioned by the NIA many times.
Interestingly, the charge sheet also mentions a chat between Fantoosh and Rona Wilson in which Fantoosh hailed Afzal Guru as icon of Kashmiri freedom struggle. Wilson’s occupation and identity has not been specified by the NIA. But Wilson, who is secretary, public relations of Committee for Release of Political Prisoners, the outfit headed by SAR Geelani. Geelani was once an accused in the Parliament attack case along with Afzal Guru but was acquitted by the Supreme Court.
“I had no such chat. This is all rubbish,” said Wilson, who has often been portrayed a sympathizers of Maoists as well. Wilson doesn’t agree to that portrayal and says his fight is for unfairly arrested ‘political’ prisoners.
According to the charge sheet, between 1990 and 2016, about 14,000 civilians and 5043 security personnel have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir where terrorism is organised, funded and orchestrated by intelligence agencies of Pakistan. In 1993, All Party Hurriyat Conference was formed as conglomerate of 26 political, social, and religious organizations to give a political mask to secessionist activities.
“The alliance has been consistently promoted and supported by Pakistan to fulfil its evil designs and to establish claim over Jammu and Kashmir,” says the charge sheet.