Amid crackdown on leaders in Kashmir, Engineer Rashid arrested in terror funding case

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday arrested independent MLA from North Kashmir Engineer Rashid in connection with a case of terror-funding. The arrest came amid the lockdown in Kashmir, where more than 800 political leaders and activists have been detained in the past four days. Rashid was being questioned by NIA for more than a week in relation with the case, where it is alleged that Kashmiri separatists received funds from Pakistan, including from LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, to foment trouble in the Valley.

“Rashid has been arrested. We have found evidence of his transactions with Zahoor Watali. He also had dealings, both financial and otherwise, with other separatists in Kashmir,” a senior NIA officer said.

Watali is a key accused in the case where separatists like Shabbir Shah, Yasin Malik, Asiya Andrabi and Masarrat Alam are already under arrest. NIA has alleged that Watali was the key conduit between elements in Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists for terror funding. It has alleged that Watali also received funds through Pakistan High Commission.

Several political leaders, activists and civil society members have been detained from across Kashmir over four days, a senior police officer said.

Three former chief ministers — NC president Farooq Abdullah, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah — former ministers and legislators are among the detained political leaders. Former PDP minister Naeem Akhtar is under house detention, while JKPC leader Sajad Lone is confined in a hotel. PDP youth wing leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra has been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) due to “security threat”.

This is the first time in 30 years that several mainstream leaders have been booked under PSA, which allows the government to book a person for a period of three to six months without trial.

The separatist leadership, barring the ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani and a few others, is also behind bars.
“We are getting directions from New Delhi on these arrests,” the senior police officer said. “Anybody who has any following is seen as a threat to law and order and is being detained.”

Civil society members who have been detained include Shakeel Qalandar, president of Federation of Chamber of Industries Kashmir; Mohammad Yasin Khan, president of Kashmir Economic Alliance; trade leader Dr Mubeen Shah; Kashmir University professor Hameeda Nayeem and RTI activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat.