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Terror funding haunts corrupt Kashmiri politicians

Abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State into two union territories on August 5, 2019, has left the mainstream Kashmir based politicians at crossroads

Abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State into two union territories on August 5, 2019, has left the mainstream Kashmir based politicians at crossroads.

For the past one and a half year these leaders who used to call the shots and dictate terms are struggling to even locate their addresses.

On the day the Centre announced its decision to scrap J&K’s special status more than 40 mainstream politicians, including three former chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah his son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were detained to prevent them from fomenting trouble. Prior to the abrogation of the Article 370 the bêtes noires—National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Peoples Conference and others—created a notion that they have buried the hatchet and are ready to fight a “big battle” with the Centre if the Article 370 is fiddled with. On the night of August 4, 2019, Mehbooba Mufti accompanied by the other leaders tried to stage a protest outside Raj Bhavan to know what the Centre was intending to do. Had these leaders not been detained after August 5, 2019, it seemed they had decided to put Kashmir on fire.

After they were arrested these leaders were hoping that people would come out on the streets and stage protests against the revocation of Article 370 and their detention, but nothing of that sort happened. Not a single demonstration was held in Kashmir to seek their release.

PAGD fiasco

After these leaders were released last year, NC, PDP, PC and a few other smaller parties came together and formed Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) to fight for a so-called “bigger cause” to get everything back. These parties contested the District Development Council elections collectively to somehow seek access to the power corridors. The “bigger cause” was forgotten soon after the DDC elections were announced. These parties in these polls fielded proxy candidates and fought against each other. Soon after the results of DDC elections were declared, the Peoples Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone blamed NC for backstabbing his party in north Kashmir and pulled out from the amalgam. Abdullahs, Mehbooba Mufti and others have not met even once after the DDC polls. The PAGD has crumbled under its own weight.

After the abrogation of Article 370 Kashmir based mainstream parties made every possible attempt to hoodwink the people by mourning the demise of Article 370. They tried to project themselves as “Messiahs” of people of Kashmir, but their tactics didn’t work as people were aware of the fact that these leaders are good actors.

Double standards

Mainstream leaders in Kashmir during the past 70-years have enjoyed all the privileges and perks provided by the Centre. Despite that they have never been loyal to the country. Their double standards can be gauged from the fact that when they were ruling J&K they used to describe J&K as an integral part of India in New Delhi and in Kashmir they used to tell the people that it’s an “issue” which needs to be resolved.

From rags to riches

People who were just ordinary citizens prior to joining politics in Kashmir turned into millionaires just within a few years. The journeys of Kashmiri politicians from rags to riches have been interesting.

Political regimes in Jammu and Kashmir have always had a dubious character. Charges of corruption or politicians accumulating wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income were never probed. When NC ruled J&K it didn’t touch the PDP leaders and when the PDP used to be in power it was vice-versa. Skeletons started tumbling out after J&K’s transition into a Union Territory. The anti-graft agencies that were toothless tigers during political regimes were given powers to look into the cases of corruption, bunglings and amassing huge wealth by the politicians and other influential people.

Corruption and terror cases

During the past one and a half year shocking facts have come to fore. In December 2020, the Enforcement Directorate attached assets worth ₹11.86 crore of former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah and others in connection with a money laundering probe linked to alleged financial irregularities in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association.

The ED attached properties located in Jammu and Srinagar. Two immovable assets seized by ED were residential houses, a commercial property and three plots of land.

The book value of these attached properties was estimated to be around Rs 11.86 crore, while their market value was about Rs 60-70 crore. The 83-year-old NC president has approached the court to challenge ED’s action.

The Enforcement Directorate recently summoned PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti for questioning on March 15 in a money laundering case. Her close aides Waheed Para and Naeem Akther are in jail.

Waheed Para was granted bail by an NIA court in January this year but he was arrested again by the Jammu and Kashmir Police over a case related to an alleged nexus involving politicians, militants and secessionist forces.

The case was registered by the Criminal Investigation (Kashmir) range that has been probing terror cases and has filed over two dozen FIRs.

Prior to being arrested by the J&K Police he was arrested by the NIA on November 25 in a case related to his alleged links with Hizbul Mujahideen militants.

Another close associate of Mehbooba Mufti, Naeem Akther, is in jail over serious charges of corruption. In July 2018 a Valley-based BJP leader and former vice-chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) Khalid Jehangir had alleged that the former Public Works Minister (Naeem Akther) had allotted prestigious projects to his blue-eyed persons on verbal directions.

Day before tendering his resignation as JKPCC vice-chairman after the break-up of the PDP-BJP coalition, Jehangir, in a letter to the Governor, had demanded the constitution of a fact-finding committee to probe the graft charges.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who off late has been trying to don the mantle of separatists and is trying to instigate Kashmiri youth seems to have forgotten that her brother Tasaduq Mufti and her sister Dr Rubiya Sayeed don’t stay in Kashmir. Mehbooba’s kith and kin are enjoying peaceful lives but she wants sons of poor Kashmiris to pelt stones to make her relevant in politics. How selfish!

Hilal Rather, son of former J&K Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on January 17 for his alleged involvement in Rs 177 crore bank fraud case. The term loans were sanctioned by J&K Bank for his ambitious township project known as Paradise Avenue at Narwal Bala, Jammu in 2012. The case was later taken over by the CBI.

Hilal was granted bail in December 2020 on a surety bond of Rs five lakh with a direction to surrender his passport and not to leave Jammu and Kashmir.

It was alleged that Hilal had taken a loan from the J&K Bank when his father was the Finance Minister of the erstwhile state, and that the loan was sanctioned without submitting any collateral and the money was diverted from the bank account.  The account had turned a non-performing asset in 2017.

The CBI has alleged that Hilal entered into a criminal conspiracy with the then officials of the Bank to get loans in violation of the rules and guidelines. Hilal had reportedly invested the money in properties in Dubai.

Former Independent MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid, popularly known as Rashid Engineer, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in August 2019 in connection with a case related to the funding of terror activities in Kashmir.

His name had cropped up during the interrogation of businessman Zahoor Watali, who was arrested by the NIA for allegedly supplying money to terror groups and separatists in the Valley.

The case was registered for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and for causing disruption in the Valley by way of pelting stones on the security forces, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India, the probe agency said in the FIR.

Trust betrayed

At present various investigating agencies are holding enquiries into various cases that have been registered after J&K’s transition into Union Territory and the names of mainstream politicians seem to be cropping up everywhere. Slowly it’s becoming evident that these leaders kept the pot boiling in Kashmir to safeguard their own interests. But now the times have changed and they are being held accountable for what all they did in the past. The Kashmiri politicians are claiming that they are facing vendetta but the facts are contradicting their claims. They have betrayed the trust that the Centre and the people had reposed on them.