July 2017 News

The Men Who Are Under NIA Scanner For Funding Terrorism In Kashmir

24 July 2017
Suhas Munshi

Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested seven Kashmiri separatist leaders on Monday in connection with its ongoing probe into terror funding. Among the arrested are Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, senior Hurriyat leader Naeem Khan and Altaf Ahmed Shah, the son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Five of those arrested are considered close to the senior most Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani, except Karate, who heads his own faction of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), and Shahid-ul-Islam, who is a leader of Hurriyat (Mirwaiz) faction. NIA had ordered a preliminary inquiry into the funding of separatist groups by Pakistan supported terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba after a news channel aired sting videos of Hurriyat leaders like Khan and Karate accepting that they had received money from Pakistan to foment trouble in the Valley. In the sting tapes, Khan had boasted about Rs 100 crore being pumped in the Valley by Pakistan to sustain protests in Kashmir. He also says that money from Pakistan flows to 'Mirwaiz' and 'Yasin'. He had also claimed to have burnt down schools and other institutions to keep the valley on the boil since Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in July last year. Farooq Ahmad Dar: Infamously known as Bitta Karate, he was among the earliest local terrorists in the valley, and among the first locals to cross over to Pakistan to receive training in arms. He became famous for accepting on a video, killing 20 Kashmiri Pandits. He earned the nickname 'Karate' for being a martial-arts enthusiast. He was imprisoned between June 1990 to October 2006 on various charges, mainly for murder. In October 2006 he was released by a TADA court in Jammu and except for brief instances, has remained free. Shahid-ul-Islam: He's a lawyer by training and a former militant who once started and ran his own militant outfit for eight years before being caught and sent behind bars under Public Safety Act (PSA). Islam has been one of the most senior figures in the Hurriyat (Mirwaiz) faction. He's a lawyer by profession and has served Mirwaiz Omar Farooq as his political advisor and media advisor. He has been a spokesperson for Hurriyat (M) and was right now leading Mirwaiz's outfit Awami Action Committee. Naeem Ahmad Khan: Khan is perhaps the most prominent Hurriyat figure in the list of those arrested by NIA. Considered to be close to SAS Geelani, Khan was Hurriyat (G) spokesperson and its provincial President. Khan is a chairman of a separatist outfit Jammu and Kashmir National Front (JKNF). Both his outfit and his membership in Hurriyat (G) was suspended by Geelani following the sting by the news channel. Altaf Ahmed Shah: Popularly known as Altaf Fantoosh, he is the son-in-law of SAS Geelani is often mentioned whenever a conversation on 'what-after-Geelani' comes up. He's ambitious and but not often visible and active like some other Hurriyat leaders and is known to have Geelani's ear. Fantoosh has a shop at Lal Chowk and deals in cloth, the trade which is most often linked to Hawala transactions. Fantoosh was associated with Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) since its inception and has been its media advisor. He is also a member of Hurriyat (G) and its secretary, public relations. Notably, Geelani on one hand suspended Naeem Khan from his Hurriyat faction, he went out on a limb to defend Fantoosh who was accused of similar crimes. In a statement released in June, Geelani said, 'Altaf Shah, has been active in politics since past 35 years and his all activities are transparent and open. However the policy makers in Delhi are intimidating political workers on one pretext or the other. It is illogical and unjustified. NIA is being used as a war weapon against political workers.' Ayaz Akbar: Akbar is an old loyal associate of Geelani and chose to stick to him when severe difference cropped up between Geelani and his old associates at Jamaat-e-Islami. He is a spokesperson for Hurriyat (G) and has always joined Geelani at public protests and marches. He is usually the go-to person for anyone looking to get quotes and information on SAS Geelani. Akbar was put behind bars soon after militant Burhan Wani's death. Intelligence agencies consider him, as they do many on this list, too close to Hizbul. Mehrajuddin Kalwal: He is the third, after Fantoosh and Akbar who are considered very close to Geelani. All three of them are also members of TeH. Kalwal is the district chief of TeH's Srinagar division. Kalwal is a surrendered Hizb militant who once was close to another Hurriyat leader Shabbir Shah but broke away from him and joined the hardline Hurriyat (G) faction. Peer Saifullah: Saifullah is largely a non-political figure, and except his close association to militant groups, is known mainly for being Geelani's personal secretary and a long time member of TeH.