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Explained: The terror-funding case in which JKLF’s Yasin Malik has been convicted

A NIA court in Delhi has convicted Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik in a case related to alleged terrorism and secessionist activities in the Kashmir Valley in 2016-17. What was the case against Malik, and what has the court ruled? What has NIA claimed to have found on Malik?

Yasin Malik after his arrest in Srinagar, in September 2017. (PTI, file)

Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik, sentenced by a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Delhi, will serve two life sentences and varying jail terms, which will all run concurrently, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the IPC.

What was the case against Yasin Malik?

Yasin Malik, head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was arrested by the NIA in 2019 in connection with an overarching terror-funding case that it had opened in 2017.

In its FIR, the NIA said Kashmiri separatists were receiving funds from Pakistan, including from Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Syed Salahuddin of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, to foment trouble in the Valley through stone-pelting, burning down of schools, and organising strikes and protests.

The NIA arrested over a dozen separatists in the case, including Malik, Asiya Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, and Shabir Shah of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party.

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According to the NIA, Malik revealed during interrogation that he had been instrumental in bringing together disparate factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, and had formed the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) — which spearheaded the violent agitations in 2016 in the Kashmir Valley by issuing “Protest Calendars” that led to an economic shutdown for over four months.

The agency has claimed that the protests, which followed the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July 2016, caused death and injuries to civilians and security forces.

During the violent protests orchestrated by Malik, 89 cases of stone-pelting were reported, the NIA has said. It has said that during a raid on Malik’s home, a note signed by various terrorist organisations had been found; the note, on a letterhead of the Hizbul Mujahideen, told people to disengage from organisers of football tournaments in the Valley, and to instead show loyalty to the Kashmiri “freedom” struggle.

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How did the court rule on the evidence presented by the NIA?

In March, while framing charges, the court said that it had been prima facie established that Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Rashid Engineer, Altaf Fantoosh, Masarrat Alam, and Hurriyat/Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) were direct recipients of terror funds.

The court noted that prima facie there existed a criminal conspiracy pursuant to which large-scale protests, resulting in violence and arson at a massive scale, were orchestrated in the Valley.

It also said that Malik had set up an elaborate structure and mechanism across the world to raise funds for carrying out terrorist and other unlawful activities in Jammu and Kashmir in the name of “freedom struggle”.

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What were the charges of terrorist funding against Malik?

The NIA has claimed that Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali was one of the main hawala conduits who generated and received funds from Pakistan, the ISI, and the UAE using various shell companies that he had floated to disguise foreign remittances, and transferred the funds to separatist leaders and stone pelters in the Valley.

During the investigation, searches were conducted at various places in J&K, Delhi, and Haryana, and crucial electronic and documentary evidence was recovered. The evidence pointed to the pattern of raising, collecting, transferring, and using the funds for terrorist and separatist activities, the NIA claimed.

What else has NIA claimed to have found on Malik?

NIA claimed its investigations had found that Malik not only received funds from Pakistan to foment trouble in the Valley, but had also acquired properties valued at more than Rs 15 crore. The agency has alleged that Malik was in constant touch with the ISI, and that his wife, a Pakistani national, is “very close to” the spy agency.

In an investigation report prepared accessed by The Indian Express, the NIA claimed that it had evidence to prove that Malik received Rs 15 lakh from Watali “to fuel secessionist and terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir”. It also alleged that Malik and his associates had grabbed government land and usurped properties belonging to a Kashmiri Pandit.

Malik’s lawyer Raja Tufail had denied all allegations at the time, and called it an “exercise to malign him”.

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The report had said four protected witnesses had given statements saying Malik and his associates had raised funds from the cross-LoC trade as well, and had given calls for anti-India protests that led to the loss of lives.

“Another protected witness has stated about the role of Basheer Ahmed Bhat (acting president of JKLF) in raising funds through some LoC traders and distributing those funds among militants and stone-pelters,” the report said.

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The report listed 12 alleged benami properties of Malik in Maisuma, Bohrikadal, Bemina, Abi Gujar, Mirgund, and Kanipura in Srinagar, and put the cumulative value of seven of these properties at Rs 12 crore. NIA sources said the other five properties are in key areas of Srinagar, including Lal Chowk, are expected to be worth several crores of rupees.

The properties include those held in the names of Malik’s sisters, associates, and his maternal uncle. The report also alleged that Malik had a stake in a popular chain of schools in Kashmir, and had grabbed a government property in Gobachibag, which he had initially taken to run a school. He also has a stake in a housing colony being built in Nowgam, the NIA said.

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What was Malik’s role in the JKLF?

JKLF was founded by Amanullah Khan along with Maqbool Bhat in Birmingham in June 1976 from the erstwhile UK chapter of the ‘Plebiscite Front’. It established its offices in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), and began sabotage activities in Jammu and Kashmir soon afterward and became the top militant group in the Valley.

Malik is said to have joined the group in the late eighties after returning from Pakistan with arms training. He rose fast up the leadership ladder.

The NIA investigation report says: “Yasin Malik has been involved in more than 65 criminal cases. Most of them are of murder, attempt to murder, rioting and sedition. Yasin Malik was involved in abducting of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in 1989, and also involved in killing of four Indian Air Force personnel in the early part of 1990s.”

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Malik was arrested multiple times. On August 6, 1990, he was arrested from the house of Watali along with other “militants namely Sajjad Lone, Sheikh Abdul Hamid, Yasin Khan and Firdous Masoodi with arms and ammunition”, says the report.

In May 1994, after being released on bail, Malik declared an indefinite ceasefire on behalf of the JKLF, and “renounced violence”. This was not acceptable to many in the outfit, which led to a split.

In February 2009, Malik married Mushaal Hussain Mullick, who belonged to an affluent family in Islamabad. “Of late she has become closer to Pak ISI and propagating anti-India narrative in Pakistan,” the report said.

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First published on: 19-05-2022 at 08:45:11 pm
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