October 2002 News

Hurriyat leaders in I-T net

17 October 2002
The Statesman
H Bula Devi

New Delhi: Political returns from Kashmiri separatism may be getting low — see the disorientation in Hurriyat ranks now — but it sure is a lucrative trade. One that gets its main practitioners crores in income and, therefore, crores in income tax demands. The Hurriyat hardliner and currently jailed Syed Ali Shah Geelani is likely to soon receive a missive from Income Tax — a tax liability assessment of about two crore. And he is not the only Kashmiri separatist who seems to have done rather well for himself. Others include Mr Geelani’s son-in-law Mr Altaf Ahmed Shah (undisclosed income: Rs 57 lakh-plus; tax assessment: Rs 34 lakh-plus), Ghulam Mohd Baba, a close confidante and political assistant of Geelani (Rs 5 lakh-plus; Rs 3 lakh-plus), Ghulam’s brother, Baba Abdul Qayoom (Rs 19 lakh-plus; Rs 11 lakh- plus) and his brother-in-law, Nazir Ahmed Baba (Rs 20 lakh-plus; Rs 12 lakh-plus). In the middle of this year, security forces arrested a Valley-based “journalist”-cum-businessman, Mr Imtiaz Bazaz, in Delhi. Following his interrogation, several fund routes to Kashmiri separatists were discovered. Mr Ayub Thukar, a London resident, about whom Delhi has spoken several times to the British authorities, was found to be one of the conduits. Mr Bazaz had apparently confessed to having received funds for several parties. Prior to Mr Bazaz’s arrest, funds worth over Rs 4 crore, sources said, had been recovered. The money was meant “to sustain militancy”. But “that was the tip of the iceberg,” an official said. Further investigations led to the arrest of the JKLF leader, Mr Yasin Malik, sources said. The I- T department started looking at a period of six years for investigating sources of income. That is when, sources said, Mr Geelani’s income details came to light. Mr Geelani’s house in Peer Bagh has been raided and several items have been recovered. He has two more houses in Rawalpura and in Sopore. His properties are likely to be attached, officials said. The other big catch for security and I-T officials is Abdul Rashid Saraf. Officials said he is “a conduit for routing finances to the Hurriyat chairman, Mr Abdul Ghani Bhat”. They said Mr Saraf has “confessed during interrogations that his brother, Ashraf, based in PoK and is the vice-president of Muslim Conference, has been sending funds for the Hurriyat chairman”. Saraf’s income is over Rs 3 crore. The I-T department notice to him will demand over Rs 2 crore in tax.


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