UK-based Outfit Funded J&K Separatists
27 October 2004
The Asian Age
B L Kak
Jammu: By far the most significant development: British authorities have found 'sense and substance' in New Delhi's evidence in relation to the clandestine funding of secessionist groups in Jammu and Kashmir by a UK-based organisation for years together. The organisation, as identified by New Delhi, is the World Kashmir Freedom Movement (WKFM). The organisation's chief, Ayub Thakur, a Kashmiri expatriate, who died of cancer some months ago, was charged with having played 'a decisive and definite' role in this regard. It is official: After Indian officials handed over evidence in the case of clandestine funding of secessionist groups in J&K by the WKFM, British officials confirmed launching of investigations by them of the activities of the prominent overseas backer of separatists in the most sensitive north Indian State. Britain's Charities Commission and the Metropolitan Police began examining, in depth, allegations levelled by New Delhi that before his death Ayub Thakur had funnelled funds raised for charity to the terrorist groups. The UK-based Thakur's charity failed to conceal the flow of funds into Jammu and Kashmir for separatists. The lid, in fact, was removed following the discovery of the charity's funds for terror as well. Two senior functionaries of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and 'a highly knowledgeable' police officer of Jammu and Kashmir played the main role in the preparation of a detailed account of funds funnelled from Ayub Thakur's charity, known as Mercy International. And the passage of these funds was through Standard Chartered Grindlays Bank (renamed as Standard Chartered Bank) and the Development Credit Bank. Indian investigator's yet another achievement: They made available transcripts of telephone intercepts and identity of the recipients of the funds in India. Intelligence Bureau was not to blame when it, not long ago, nabbed a Srinagar- based newsman, who, officials claimed, was a key conduit for transferring funds to Hizbul Mujahideen commanders in Jammu and Kashmir. Before the newsman walked into the police trap, investigators had found that he had received a foreign currency remittance of Rs 4, 84, 875 into his account with Standard Chartered in New Delhi, and a second remittance of Rs 14, 98, 000 into the Development Credit Bank. British officials appear hesitant to make public results of their investigations. One thing, which is acknowledged by Indian officials, that can impede the progress of investigations is the absence on the scene of Ayub Thakur. What is significant, on the other hand, is that after Thakur's death, Mercy International has not ceased to operate in the UK. There is no explanation why the organisation did not send supposed philanthropic donations to several charities in Jammu and Kashmir. These charities continue to have clearances under the Foreign Exchange Management Act. Long before the National Democratic alliance (NDA) Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee fell during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, LK Advani, by virtue of authority vested in him as the country's Home Minister, had handed over to British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, a dossier on the activities of secessionist groups in Britain. The document, titled 'Misuse of British Soil by Kashmir expatriates Based in the UK for Funding Terrorism in J&K', had outlined many of the charges which investigations had added substance to. Muslim expatriates, listed in the document, have been charged with their warm flirtations with some groups of Islamist militants in the United Kingdom. British authorities do not deny the fact that while Britain has a sizeable Muslim population, the impact and influence of jihadi ideology and philosophy over section of the British Muslims has been, over the years, real than apparent. In UK, there are Muslim fanatics whose activities are being watched by British officials. If media reports from Britain in recent times were to be believed, a radical Islamic group in Britain is involved in subtle attempts to keep alive and kicking jihadi elements in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan. Identified as Al Muhajiroun this group funnelled large amounts of cash to Kashmir and to the Taliban of Afghanistan even after the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. Much significance is attached to the reported confirmation by the British authorities of the existence of the group in the UK. New Delhi was recently informed about the link between Al Muhajiroun and the World Islamic Kashmir Freedom Movement, also operating from the British soil. There is no definite data vis-a-vis the actual number of jihadi elements Al Muhajiroun commissioned to perform duties in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan. However, some media reports from London suggested that the number of such elements was in hundreds. One of these reports was specific: Al Muhajiroun sent up to 200 young Asians from Britain, after the September 11 attacks on America, to join the Taliban and terrorist groups in Pakistan. The recruits as young as 15 were sent to join groups fighting jihad with the backing of Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the radical leader of Al Muhajiroun. Al Qureshi, who was a leading member of the group before he separated himself from it in December 2003, was responsible for dozens of young Asians who had arrived to fight in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Qureshi was quoted to have disclosed from his Lahore house: 'They catch these young guys and do brainwashing. Young guys with no jobs, no house, no money. They are easily trapped'. It is official: British Government continues to be in touch with Washington and Islamabad on the most crucial question of tackling extremism. Adherents of the benighted Osama bin Laden have sprung up in various parts of the world, including Britain and the USA. And knowledge of the techniques of terror has spread far and wide. A section of the Al Saud royal family, which is in the throes of a succession struggle, have extended support to the fanatics. Under the circumstances, this particular strain of religious extremism is not likely to fade out. The target of the contemporary transitional terrorism is as much mainstream Islam and moderate Muslim countries as it is the West. Strong, effective international cooperation is essential, as no country can combat the threat from transitional terrorism on its own. A British publication recently quoted the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)-based Maulana Gohar Shah, principal of Dar-ul-Uloom madrasa, as saying: 'We are in mourning for the collapse of the Taliban. We are still weeping for them. As soldiers and rulers, the Taliban served the people well'. Gohar Shah is known for his secret role in making available dozens of jihadis for aid and advice to Islamic radicals and rebels in Kashmir in recent years.