Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Gani Lone and other mainstream political leaders, including senior Congress leader and former MP Tariq Hameed Karra, were in touch with separatist leaders before they were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in July in the Kashmir terror funding probe.
As per call detail records (CDRs) of the separatist leaders, businessman Zahoor Ahmad Watali, one of the prime accused, was in touch with some PDP leaders as well as MLA Langate Er Rashid. Besides Watali, others who are in judicial custody include Altaf Ahmed Shah, son-in-law of former Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Ayaz Akbar, Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Shahid-ul-Islam, Nayeem Khan of the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front and Farooq Ahmed Dar aka Bitta Karate.
Rashid, who called Watali at least 240 times, has been among the most frequent callers. PDP youth leader and Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council secretary Waheed ur Rehman Parra called Watali at least 69 times, NIA records revealed. Rashid was earlier questioned by the NIA during its probe into funding from Pakistan to separatist leaders and “stone-pelters” and also expressed his willingness to join the separatists.
Others who had been talking to separatist leaders include senior Congress leader Karra, former revenue minister and MLA Khansaheb, Hakeem Yaseen, CPM Kulgam MLA MY Tarigami, former minister and Democratic Party Nationalist (DNP) chairman Ghulam Hassan Mir.
Yaseen said that he may have been in touch with some separatist leaders. “What is wrong with that? We have been seeking dialogue with separatists and I even visited Pakistan in 2005 and met top leaders. Talking to separatists has been part of our larger effort to seek the resolution to the Kashmir problem,” he said.
Karra, however, said talking to the separatist leaders “doesn’t mean that I own their ideology”. “Kashmir is a close-knit society. Some separatist leaders have kin in mainstream political parties. There is no harm in talking to them. Even my father was relative of Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq.” Karra earlier resigned as a PDP MP and accused Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of failing to check the excesses by the armed forces on the Kashmiri youth. However, he later joined the Congress.
Mir said separatists were also the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and “we are not bifurcated”. “I may have talked to the separatists,” he said. Lone, as per the CDR, have been calling from his number (9*********). However, the number is now with his mother. Lone was not available for comment.
The CDRs of the mainstream leaders are part of the NIA investigation into the alleged involvement of separatist leaders in the 2016 agitation after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. More than 70 civilians died and thousands others injured in the months after Wani’s death. The NIA has also collected the emails of the separatist leaders discussing organising the 2016 protests.
As per the CDRs, some officials of the Intelligence Bureau as well as top police officers were also in touch with the separatist leaders before they were arrested. Mobile records revealed that some top Pakistani politicians frequently called the separatist leaders. PDP youth leader Parra told Firstpost he was in a meeting and refused to comment.
NIA Inspector General Alok Mittal said the investigation agency filed a charge sheet against 12 individuals (including Watali). He said, “All documents relevant to the case have been submitted before the court and it is for the judiciary to decide on the involvement of separatist leaders.”