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Sacked J&K Bank officer’s deep links with Pakistan’s ISI stand exposed

Jammu and Kashmir Bank Chief Manager Sajad Bazaz.

Srinagar:  Jammu and Kashmir Bank Chief Manager Sajad Bazaz’s dismissal on Friday has led to startling disclosures about Pakistan’s control on Kashmir’s media and the State-owned premier financial institution for nearly 33 years.

Three newspapers on Saturday, quoting official sources, carried details of how Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had purportedly embedded its assets in Kashmir’s media and the J&K Bank to sustain a robust intellectual ecosystem with pro-azaadi and pro-Pakistan narrative since the outbreak of militancy in 1990.

According to the anonymous investigators quoted by the newspapers, “Bazaz owns and operates as many as 68 accounts within the J&K Bank alone. Sajad Ahmad Bazaz is a critical component of the overall terror ecosystem carefully nurtured by the ISI and terror outfits”.

According to the news stories carried by Jammu-based Daily Excelsior and Srinagar-based Kashmir Convener and Rising Kashmir, Bazaz had been successfully embedded by the ISI as its asset as a cashier-cum-clerk in 1990. Quoting sources, the newspapers have reported that Bazaz was ‘planted’ in J&K Bank through a prominent journalist and editor-owner of the influential English language daily ‘Greater Kashmir’.

Bazaz was then elevated as an officer with the help of the then Chairman J&K Bank Mohammad Yousuf Khan, Director Haseeb Drabu (who later emerged as co-author of the Agenda of Alliance of the PDP-BJP coalition and functioned as Finance Minister in Mufti Sayeed’s and Mehbooba Mufti’s government in 2015-18) and two more officials in October 2003 through illegal means.

While exposing the recruitment of Bazaz into J&K Bank, investigators revealed that he was lifted from the chair of a clerk to that of a gazetted equivalent post of Editor, specially created for him. Sources said that on 20th October 2003, a proposal for creating a post of Editor in J&K Bank was placed before the Board of Directors of J&K Bank and was approved.

An officer level post of ‘Editor’ was created by the Board of Directors during Mufti Sayeed’s PDP-Congress regime only to absorb and elevate Bazaz in October 2003. On 16 October 2003 an internal communication called for applications from cashiers-cum-clerks of the bank having Masters in Journalism and Mass Education. Eligibility norms were allegedly tailored to promote Bazaz.  On 20 October 2003, four particular in-service candidates were interviewed without any public notification. As planned, Bazaz was picked and appointed as ‘Editor’. “The officer cadre employees having qualification of mass communication and journalism and who were superior candidates were kept out of competition”, Kashmir Convener reported while quoting a report of the investigators.

“Officials further stated that despite open knowledge that Sajad (Bazaz) was a full-time employee of Greater Kashmir even when he was on the rolls of J&K Bank, the interview board comprising the then Chairman of the Bank M.Y Khan, Director Haseeb Drabu, Chief General Manager P.Z Lateef and Deputy General Manager M.A Shah selected Sajad from among a very small group of four on the basis of an interview”, Kashmir Convener reported. “The Board also ignored that he was rabidly against the Indian state and an open secessionist. In this context, the stranglehold and penetration of the adversary into the J&K Bank is in itself a matter of comprehensive inquiry”.

“Bazaz had risen through the ranks within the bank’s hierarchy, all the while allegedly serving as a crucial asset for the ISI’s objectives and the agendas of terrorist groups. Investigators reveal that the current bank management seemed to have no clue that Bazaz was one of the most important Pakistani assets, secretly working for ISI and terror Outfits.  After abrogation of article 370, the top investigators were probing links of deep ISI assets within the terror ecosystem and the Bazaz name popped up”, the newspaper reported.

Quoting investigators, Kashmir Convener reported that in 2004, Bazaz was “suddenly given a jump to a position that was highly suspicious but it did not raise any eyebrows because of the then larger and deeper subversion in the system”. For about 25 years, Bazaz, while rising to higher positions in J&K Bank, continued as a regular business and political columnist in Greater Kashmir. For years, he, as incharge of J&K Bank’s Corporate Communications Department, doled out the bank’s paid advertisements to select newspapers and newsmagazines to provide them with funds.

According to the anonymous investigators quoted by the three dailies, Bazaz in his articles and activities glorified Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, promoted separatist narrative including azaadi and the UN resolutions on plebiscite and discredited the Indian institutions and security forces. “Investigators said they found almost all of his news stories and columns centred around justifying and glorifying the secessionist-terrorist campaign in J&K”, Kashmir Convener reported. “They said Bazaz has authored numerous such write-ups and opinion pieces in Greater Kashmir that support the Pakistan ISI and Terror Outfits narrative on Kashmir”.

“Discreet investigation has revealed that Sajad (Bazaz) who actually had been planted by the adversary in the current position in J&K Bank was instructed from across the border to help in setting up additional media platforms that would amplify and echo the jehadi and Pak narrative already being propagated by Greater Kashmir in a far more vicious and vitriolic manner”, Kashmir Convener reported while quoting sources.

The newspaper reported that on one particular occasion, the editors of Greater Kashmir (Fayaz Kaloo) and Kashmir Reader (Mohammad Hayat Bhat) clashed over the allotment of the advertisement hoarding sites of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. As directed from his handlers, Bazaz, in spite of being a regular columnist and employee of Greater Kashmir, sided with Hayat Bhat. Hayat Bhat allegedly received an amount of Rs 2 crore from ISI officials at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi which was laundered with the help of Bazaz.

The daily reported that Hayat Bhat defeated Fayaz Kaloo in the hoarding business with the help of the then Lashkar-e-Tayyiba Kashmir chief Abu Qasim.  “There are two most striking common features of these news magazines/ newspapers: firstly, any casual or cursory reading any of the pages of any of the issues would instantly reveal that the content is all about propaganda and secondly, all were supported by Sajad through channelling J&K Bank’s money by placing advertisements”, the daily reported.

Quoting investigators, it reported further that several terrorist outfits during the 1990s had placed their representatives in Press colony Srinagar, designated by them as ‘Publicity Chiefs’ and many such people disguised as journalists were actually active terrorists or important senior functionaries of terror outfits. “Sajad Ahmad Bazaz worked shoulder to shoulder with such elements in Greater Kashmir for the common objective of popularizing and amplifying the pro-Pakistan narrative and spreading falsehood against the Indian state”, it reported.

The newspapers reported that Bazaz was in frequent communication with another lynchpin of this terror ecosystem namely Shabir Hussain Buch of Srinagar (93xxxx5xx3)”

“Shabir Buch is a known close associate of Mushtaq Latram, chief of Al-Umar terror outfit and a constituent member of UJC (United Jihad Council) and a close associate of Masood Azhar, the JeM chief. Latram and Masood are operating from Pakistan. Shabir Buch’s connection with the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi has always been a matter of concern. He was one among the key facilitators in embedding Carin Jodha Fischer, an American citizen of German origin. After operating for about 10 years in J&K, her cover came to be blown as a deep asset of ISI subsequent to which she was deported forcibly”, the newspaper reported quoting investigators.

During her 10-year-long stay in Kashmir, Carin Jodha also functioned as a press and public relations aide of the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. In 2016 she was declared as a national security risk and was forcibly deported to the USA on a communication from the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Also read: J&K Bank Chief Manager sacked in interest of security of State