Months after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) completed its probe and established charges of a ‘nexus’ between the Peoples Democratic Party’s youth leader Waheedur Rehman Para, the dismissed Police officer Davinder Singh and the outlawed guerrilla group Hizbul Mujahideen, yet another chargesheet of sensational revelations has been filed in a court.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has alleged in its chargesheet in the NIA court that Para—known to be the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s confidante— was an ‘asset’ of the Pakistan-based terror network and he had ‘deep-rooted links’ with the top commanders of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).
Mehbooba and her party have repeatedly contradicted the charges levelled on Para by the two investigating agencies. The PDP leaders have maintained that Para was a victim of the political vendetta and witch hunting by the BJP government at the Centre. According to them, the act of re-arresting and detaining the PDP youth wing president in the thick of the elections for the District Development Councils (DDCs) was the part of a ‘political conspiracy’.
In the DDC elections held in November-December 2020, Para contested but failed to campaign due to his custody with the NIA. Still he was declared elected from the PDP’s traditional stronghold of Pulwama, in southern Kashmir.
Para was among the mainstream political leaders who were arrested and detained for several months ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A and break-up of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir into the two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh in August 2019. Within weeks of his release, he was re-arrested by the NIA in November 2020 and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Prevention of the Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
While continuing as President of the PDP’s youth wing, Para had been appointed by Mehbooba’s PDP-BJP government as Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council where he handled the Union Sports Ministry’s Khelo India programme. On one occasion, he also organised a well-attended youth rally for the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at an indoor sports stadium in Srinagar.
In March 2021, the NIA chargesheet alleged that Para had stayed in touch with the Hizbul Mujahideen and provided huge amounts of money to the militant organisation as well as the separatist Hurriyat Conference through Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah aka Fantoosh.
Subsequently, the NIA court released Para on bail but the CID sleuths arrested him and claimed to be investigating separately some charges and evidence against the PDP leader. Para filed petitions for bail which were rejected. On the last weekend, the J&K Police filed a chargesheet, claiming that Para’s journey of over 13 years from 2007 to 2020 as a journalist and politician was “a saga of subterfuge, deceit and double dealing".
According to the J&K Police chargesheet, Para was hand-in-glove with militants to further the agenda of Pakistan-based militant groups and also to ensure that his political adversaries were neutralised. The 19-page chargesheet, with voluminous annexures, has given instances of his attempts to eliminate his political opponents and to help his own party leaders by bribing the terror groups and manipulating the results in his party’s favour.
The chargesheet has highlighted Para’s alleged links to the LeT’s Pakistani commanders, Abu Dujana and Abu Qasim. It has alleged that Para used to be in liaison with the two LeT chiefs and their Over Ground Workers (OGWs), even as Dujana and Qasim were both killed by the security forces in two separate encounters. According to the chargesheet, Dujana’s “forced marriage” with a woman of Kakapora area had matured with Para’s blessings.
The CID’s Counter Intelligence Kashmir (CIK) wing has tracked Para’s journey from his visit to Pakistan and an interview with the Hizbul Mujahideen chief Salahuddin which had been broadcast through his cable TV channel in Pulwama. It has mapped Para’s journey from Ram Jethmalani’s ‘Kashmir Committee’ to his admission into the PDP in 2013. "…once ensconced in the safety of a recognised political party…, the accused systematically went about strengthening himself by craftily deepening his roots on two sides of the divide — India and Pakistan", says the new chargesheet.
"…Para had the permission of the Pakistani establishment to keep throwing crumbs at India, allowing them petty tactical gains and systematically pushing the overall situation, slowly but surely, in favour of Pakistan in a strategic sense. What played out over 13 years (2007-2020) was a saga of subterfuges, deceit and double meaning," the J&K Police have alleged.
Claiming that some leaders and activists in the mainstream political parties were misusing their power and helping the militants, the CIK had filed a case last year against unnamed politicians. Para is the only mainstream politician till date against whom the CIK has established charges.
In March 2021, the NIA had claimed in its chargesheet that Para paid Rs 5 crore to the Hurriyat hardliner Geelani through Fantoosh for sustaining a street turbulence after the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter in July 2016. The PDP has disputed this charge, asking why Para would have destabilised his own party’s government.
While Geelani has been immobilised by his age, health conditions and a prolonged house arrest, Fantoosh has been arrested and detained in Delhi’s Tihar Jail since 2019.
Even as several quarters from Srinagar to New Delhi have been complaining of “deep-rooted infiltration of the double agents” into the mainstream political parties, Police and security agencies and other government institutions since 1999, it is for the first time that two premier investigating agencies have filed such charges against a well-connected mainstream politician in Jammu and Kashmir. However the two chargesheets have raised questions—many contending that no ‘intruder’ could exist and survive in the system for 13 years.
“How would he (Para) survive in isolation for such a long time? If the sensational revelations against him are true, the NIA and the CIK shall have to identify and book his patrons and godfathers in mainstream politics and the government. Did he receive all those crores (of Rupees) from the skies and pass the same to the terrorists and the Hurriyat? The agencies will have to identify the source and all the hands through which the money has passed. They cannot single out one individual for such a sensitive investigation which would have a bearing on the issues of national security”, said a former Director General of Police.