Azad Remark Puts Spotlight On Govt's Failure To Choke Terror Funds

15 July 2008
Times Of India

New Delhi: When he endorsed the view that attempts to choke the financial arteries funding terrorism in Kashmir had failed, former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad put the spotlight on the Centre's failure to crack down on hawala operations, usually through charities fronting for terror groups, sustaining separatists. Azad spoke of foreign funding to separatist elements in the context of their recent violent agitation against the Amarnath land transfer but even in January this year, a Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) functionary Jahid Lone was held in Delhi with around Rs 15 lakh he had received from abroad through hawala channel. The accused, during interrogation, allegedly confessed that the money was to be delivered to rebel Hurriyat faction chief S A S Geelani. In November last year, security agencies had interrogated Hurriyat leader G M Bhat, a close associate of Geelani, in connection with hawala funding. Bhat's aides - Jamali Khan and Danish Anwar - had earlier been detained in Udhampur while they were ferrying a consignment of Rs 50 lakh to the Valley from Delhi allegedly at Bhat's instructions. These were, however, not solitary instances where the security agencies had established the channels funding separatist activities in the Valley and their recipients. In the last few years, at least half-a-dozen such funding channels were busted and the source of the funds were allegedly traced to charities in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and other leaders of the separatist amalgam - including Shabir Shah, G M Bhat, Abdul Gani Bhat - had all come under the scanner following the arrest of courier agents caught while smuggling money to the Valley from Delhi. Besides so many instances of links of separatist leaders to foreign 'charities', usually fronts for fundamentalist groups, the government had let these sympathisers of terror outfits off the hook, often with lame excuses like lack of substantial proof. The very purpose of bringing in stringent acts such as the newly implemented Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), to choke the funding of militancy, was defeated when in almost all such cases those who were arrested were later released as the agencies failed to make a concrete case against them despite cash seizure and other evidences in hand. Nasir Shafi Mir was arrested in February 2006 with Rs 55 lakh. He had allegedly claimed during interrogation that he was carrying the money for Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. The friend of Mirwaiz had been running two companies out of Dubai, Cash Express and Reems Express. Aslam Wani, an associate of Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah, was arrested in September 2005 with Rs 63 lakh. He was merely a courier who received money from hawala dealers in Delhi and delivered them to Shah's wife in a hospital in Jammu where she is working as a doctor. Sheikh Aziz of People's League, a Hurriyat partner, was arrested in 2004 for allegedly receiving two instalments of cash through hawala channels from his Rawalpindi-based brother Yaqoob Sheikh. The money was allegedly meant for separatist activities. Former Hurriyat chief Prof Abdul Gani Bhat too had been caught in controversy when Zamrooda of Muslim Khawatin Markaz was arrested from outside the Pakistan high commission in 2003 with Rs 2.5 lakh. She had revealed that the money was meant for delivery to Bhat.