ISI wanted a Hurriyat-like body in Kashmir, says NIA

ISI wanted a Hurriyat-like body in Kashmir, says NIA

 

New Delhi: Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, sought to create a non-government organisation (NGO) parallel to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) because of a perception that Kashmiris had lost faith in the latter , according to a charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in July against Davinder Singh, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), J&K Police, and four others.

ISI authorities delegated the job to Irfan Shafi Mir, 31, a lawyer from Kashmir, who was trusted by both the Pakistani establishment and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the primary terrorist group in the Valley, the charge sheet says.

According to the charge sheet, a copy of which has been reviewed by HT, the Central anti-terror probe agency has named at least six ISI officials – Umar Cheema, Eshan Chaudhary, Faizal, Sohail Abbas, Arbaaz and Sheikh Sahab – who were in touch with Mir.

Shafkat Jatoi alias Hussain, a Pakistani high commission official, who was repatriated from New Delhi to Islamabad in June for allegedly engaging in anti-India activities, paid Rs 2.5 lakh to Mir in two instalments to organise two seminars to fuel separatist sentiment — How to defend Article 370, and Violation of Human Rights in the Kashmir Valley — the charge sheet said.

These seminars were allegedly chaired by Hameeda Bano, an academician based in Kashmir and the wife of the separatist activist Nayeem Khan, who was charged in 2017 in the NIA’s Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) terror funding case, it added.

Professor Bano, however, denied that she chaired these seminars. “It’s a white lie. I have not attended any such seminar”.

Mir is alleged to be the key person in the conspiracy to revive HM’s activities in the Valley; he used to regularly visit the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi “to receive instructions and money, and also facilitated the (Pakistani) visa applications for a number of Kashmiris,” according to the charge-sheet.

He was arrested along with Davinder Singh, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), J&K Police, and two HM terrorists – Syed Naveed Mushtaq alias Naveed Babu and Rafi Ahmad Rather — on January 11 in Shopian, south Kashmir. Davinder Singh was suspended from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police after he was arrested while ferrying the two HM terrorists in a vehicle on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway.

APHC, an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organisations from Kashmir, was formed in March 1993 as a united front to raise the cause of Kashmiri separatism, but has been ineffective in Kashmir for over the past two years. APHC’s leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani , 90, the face of Kashmir’s separatist movement for over three decades, resigned in June.

There has been consistent action against separatist leaders by the NIA and Jammu and Kashmir Police in the past two-three years and many of them have either been jailed or put under house arrest.

The NIA charge sheet stated that Mir has known senior ISI operatives since 2016 through a person identified as Majeed, who invited him to Pakistan to meet the HM leadership.

During his 10-day trip to Pakistan four years ago, Mir met HM chief Syed Salahuddin, Khurshid Alam, Najar Mahmood, who are HM’s operations and finance heads, respectively, among others.

In 2018, he made two trips – in February and September– to Pakistan, during which he was instructed by Alam to find a contact in West Asia, preferably in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for obtaining funds transferred through hawala channels for keeping terror activities alive in Kashmir, the charge sheet said.

Mir’s father Mohammad Shafi Mir used to be a J&K police constable who turned rogue and joined HM and was eventually killed near the Line of Control (LoC) in the 1990s by Indian security forces while trying to cross over to Pakistan.

Mir used secure messaging applications such as BBM, Zangi, KiK, Just Talk, Corp Chat, Cover Me and Sure Spot in a bid to keep in touch with HM terrorists in the valley, the charge sheet added.

Sameer Patil, a fellow at the International Security Studies Programme at Gateway House, a think tank, said: “A combination of factors such as the action by the NIA against its leaders, their inability to hold large gatherings and address the public, a decline in stone pelting incidents etc, shows that the Hurriyat leadership has definitely lost its sheen. This is evident from Geelani’s decision to quit the organisation. He wouldn’t have done so if the Hurriyat had any influence left over (the Kashmiri) people.” (HT)

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