An aide of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and a businessman from Kashmir have been questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the funding of terror and separatist groups in the Valley. The NIA has been questioning Shahid-ul-Islam, a close aide of the Mirwaiz, and businessman Zahoor Watali for last three days about the alleged assets possessed by them, official sources said in New Delhi.
The questioning of the two by the officers of the central probe agency, which has registered a case against separatists and terror organisations operating in the Valley, was continuing separately, they said.
The businessman has been asked about his association with the separatists, especially hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the sources said. The NIA may also seek a production warrant from a special court against close aides of Geelani, including his son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh and his spokesman Ayaz Akbar, they said.
Both were placed under preventive custody by the Jammu and Kashmir police on June 27 on account of law and order situation in the Valley. This move by the state police had raised many eyebrows as neither of them had ever been taken into preventive custody during the peak of agitations earlier.
Shah was questioned by the NIA early last month after which he had sought time from the probe agency on account of Holy month of Ramzan and Eid festivities, the sources said. He has been asked by the NIA about his moveable and other properties, including houses in the Valley as well as in Jammu, and the source for their funding, they said, adding that the questioning also related to the alleged funds received by the Geelani-led Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
Shah’s Srinagar house was raided by NIA sleuths, who also searched the premises of others like Shahid-ul-Islam, an aide of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who heads the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, and businessman Zahoor Watali. Apart from being the son-in-law of Geelani, Shah is perceived to be influential in the evolving the policies of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
Hafeez Saeed, Pakistan-based chief of Jamaat-ud Dawah, the front for banned Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), has been named in the FIR as an accused, besides organisations such as the Hurriyat Conference (factions led by Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Dukhtaran-e-Millat.
The raids were part of NIA’s efforts to clamp down on separatist groups allegedly receiving funds for subversive activities in the valley. The NIA had recovered some account books, Rs two crore in cash and letter-heads of banned terror groups, including LeT and HM during its searches.
The NIA investigation seeks to identify the chain of players behind the financing of terrorist activities, including those who pelted stones at security forces, burnt down schools and damaged government establishments. This is for the first time since the rise of militancy in Kashmir in the early 1990s that a central probe agency has carried out raids in connection with funding of separatists.
In 2002, the Income Tax department had conducted searches against some separatist leaders including Geelani and seized cash and documents. However, no criminal case was registered then.