As the government moves against Kashmiri separatists with a string of cases on alleged terror-funding, a probe launched by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last year on the same lines has failed to find any evidence and is “as good as closed”.
Last August, following street protests that rocked the Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the NIA initiated a preliminary enquiry to probe funds stoking unrest in the Valley. It was suspected that these funds were coming from across the border and were being channelised to stone-pelters through suspect bank accounts linked to militants or separatists in the Valley.
A year down the line, the agency has found that all transactions through these bank accounts were legitimate and not connected in any way to terror funding. “No evidence of terror funding or financial aid to stone-pelters has been found in that case. All bank accounts that were brought under the scanner have been found to have had legitimate business transactions. That case is as good as closed,” a senior NIA officer said. The officer, however, said that the latest case of alleged terror funding of Hurriyat leaders, registered by the agency recently, is “going strong” and may result in some arrests soon.
In last year’s case, the NIA probed transactions amounting to approximately Rs 38 crore from 17 accounts in four banks of south Kashmir for links to militants or separatist groups. Over the year, NIA investigators tallied dates of withdrawal of money from these accounts with incidents of stone-pelting or road blockades in the Valley and conducted inquiries with holders of the suspect accounts, their relatives and bank officials to probe the source of funds. Nothing suspicious, sources said, has been found till date.
The probe was based on an input provided by the Army that some bank accounts had suspicious transactions and withdrawals that coincided with incidents of stone-pelting in the Valley. A majority of these accounts were held by small businessmen in areas such as Kupwara and Pulwama in south Kashmir. In one case, sources said, the agency had found an account to be in the name of a plumber from Pulwama. This account received Rs 18 lakh over a period of three months, and was closed within four months after the entire amount was withdrawn in various instalments. However, the transactions have not been found to be linked to stone-pelting.
“That is why the PE (preliminary enquiry) was never converted to an FIR,” an NIA officer said. In May this year, the NIA began a similar PE naming Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Nayeem Khan, Bitta Karate and Ghazi Baba, alleging that they received funds from Pakistan through Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed. This PE was later converted into an FIR which alleges that Hurriyat leaders — without anyone being named specifically — received funds from Pakistan to fund unrest in the Valley.
The FIR mentions Hafiz Saeed apart from Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Millat. The agency has already questioned several separatists in connection with the case and claims to have recovered material against them in raids across the country.