A ‘militant Attack’ That Was Actually A Murder Plot Gone Awry18 February 2011
The Indian Express
Srinagar: When gunmen appeared at Durhama village in Baramulla district late Tuesday evening and fired inside a house from the window, injuring two girls, it wasn’t a militant attack and the girls were not the target. J&K Police investigation reveals a rare and unusual motive behind the incident - the man armed with a Chinese pistol had been “hired to kill the house owner, Ghulam Mohideen Akhoon, by his own wife”. The worrying aspect of this “contract to kill” conspiracy involved an unusual mix: a former militant who police say is now active as an overground worker, a special police official and a land broker. “Yes, the wife is involved. She is at the centre of this conspiracy. The pistol was provided by a former militant who is now active as an overground worker of Lashkar,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir range S M Sahai told The Indian Express. “This is an indication of criminalisation within Kashmiri society because of the free flow of weaponry and is a matter of serious concern”. Akhoon, 48, is a senior engineer, who is married for 15 years and has four children. Akhoon earlier lived with his family in Sopore where his house was burnt down in “mysterious circumstances” on December 21 last year. The family shifted to the house of his sister-in-law (wife’s sister) in Sopore itself, where the first unsuccessful attempt to kill Akhoon took place. “It was around 7.30 in the evening of January 27. I went to the bathroom and as soon as I entered, someone fired,” Akhoon said. “Then I decided to leave and return to my ancestral place (Durhama village). I felt insecure there”. The killers made another attempt and this time too Akhoon escaped miraculously. “I had gone to the adjoining room to smoke and as soon as I returned to kitchen and sat down, there was firing through the window,” he said. Akhoon’s sister Shaista, 19, and a niece Monisa, 6, were injured in the firing. “I know they are after my life. And it is someone who is very close to me”. The attack on Akhoon was a surprise. “He is one of those non-controversial types who is busy with his work and is least interested in anything else,” a police officer said. “We knew it was not a militant attack. So we started probing other angles”. After detailed investigation, the police finally picked up two suspects who “spilled the beans”. Here is what emerged from the investigation. “Akhoon’s wife Haseena is 15 years younger to him. She was running a boutique in Sopore which was running into losses. Akhoon closed it down. The family had a piece of land at a residential area - Khanday Colony - at Nowgam in Srinagar city. The wife was trying to change the ownership of the plot to her.” “The husband (Akhoon) found this out and didn’t allow it. In the meantime, she had already taken Rs. 9 lakh as advance for the plot from a land broker Ghulam Ahmad Hajam who is from Delina (Baramulla). The broker had already sold this piece of land to one of his friends identified as Mohamamd Ashraf Lone. Haseena was unable to pay back the advance while the land was also not available.” “Broker Hajam and Lone put pressure on Haseena to pay back or give the land papers. This is when the conspiracy to murder Akhoon was hatched. Haseena asked them to kill her husband and then subsequently she would sell the plot. The man who would organise the murder plot is Jana (his real name is Nazir Ahmad Beig), who is Ashraf Lone’s driver and a small-time rogue”. The police probe reveals that Jana got a neighbour and friend Mohammad Shafi Rather - a special police official - involved in the conspiracy. “SPO Shafi Rather contacted Showkat Khan, who is a former militant. He had a Chinese pistol which he used to keep in the custody of Shafi Rather, because he was a SPO and thus nobody would doubt him. Hajam had already paid Rs. 50,000 as advance for the murder. Hajam himself is a bad character”. Akhoon said he had strained relations with his wife for the last one year. “When I look at all that has happened for last two months, I have no doubt that it is somebody very close to me who wants to get me killed,” he said. Haseena was called for questioning and was not available for comments.