Hurriyat Leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's Arrest - ISI Funding for Kashmiri Militants

10 June 2002

ISI Funding For Kashmiri Militancy
On 8 June 2002, former All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman and leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and his son-in-law were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (Pota) in Kashmir. Geelani's arrest revealed the nexus between Kashmiri separatist leaders and Pakistan's ISI in receiving money through hawala channels and then distributing them to different militant organisations in Kashmir. The arrests followed raids by the Indian Income Tax department and the Jammu and Kashmir police at Geelani's residence and nine other places in the Kashmir Valley and New Delhi. Geelani was arrested and has since been lodged in Central Jail, Ranchi in Jharkhand to prevent him from continuing anti-national activities. The raids were carried out at around 5 am on 8 June 2002 at the residences of Geelani, his son-in-law Altaf Fantoosh, women's separatist outfit Dukhtran-e-Millat chief Asiya Indrabi and another person in Srinagar and Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir. Police have however, been unable to arrest Indrabi who has since gone underground. According to media reports, the raids at Geelani's led to the recovery of Rs 10,25000 in cash, $10,000, vouchers relating to the purchase of large number of jewellery items and documents relating to the purchase of two properties in Rawalpora on Srinagar airport road. Two computers with details of transactions and list of militants and secessionist propaganda literature were also recovered from Geelani house.

According to Jammu and Kashmir police chief, A.K. Suri, Geelani, in his returns filed in the last two years, had shown he received a monthly pension of Rs 7,100 per month from the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for being a former MLA and Rs 10,000 as agriculture income. However, the approximate monthly expense of Geelani worked out to more than Rs. 1,50,000. One diamond studded watch with the inscription "From Pakistan government" and two vehicles purchased out of unaccounted sources were also recovered from Geelani's residence.  Geelani also maintained 14 servants at his house who were paid Rs. 2,000 each. Geelani's wife on interrogation revealed she was given Rs 25,000 per month for kitchen expenses, and said the house was on rent but did not specify the rent amount and to whom it was being paid to. Geelani's driver and close confidant, G. M. Baba also possessed  a truck worth Rs.2,40,000 and a drilling machine worth Rs. 1,40,000 besides documents relating to mining contract business of stone quarries. Baba has not been filing his income tax returns. On 10 June 2002, police in New Delhi arrested Iftikhar Geelani, son-in-law of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Police and income tax officials raided Iftikhar Geelani's residence in New Delhi and seized a computer which had a file of five pages with information about the strength of troops of the Indian Army and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Geelani, a correspondent with a Kashmir-based daily has also been charged under the Official Secrets Act.

The latest raids were carried out after the Jammu and Kashmir police launched an operation to halt the funding sources of militant organisations in Kashmir. Earlier on 25 May 2002, another Kashmiri journalist, Imtiyaz Bazaz was arrested on charges of channelling funds to militant organisations from UK-based President of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement, Ayub Thukar. The raids on Geelani's premises were carried out after Bazaz's interrogation and reports indicating that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin had been sending money to his commanders in the state through UK-based Kashmiri expatriate Ayub Thakur and Geelani. Salahuddin had reportedly sent a consignment totalling Rs. 48,00,000 to Syed Ali Shah Geelani in the beginning of 2001 through Ayub Thukar. In January 2002, Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief Asiya Indrabi's husband Qasim Faktu was arrested. Faktu was the financial chief of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and his arrest was a severe blow to the militant organisation, which had been facing a financial crunch since then. Asiya Indrabi had reportedly started getting funds from Ayub Thukar through Imtiyaz Bazaz to provide finances to the Jamiat-ul Mujahideen and the Dukhtaran-e-Millat for carrying out their militant and subversive activities.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani - Pro-Pakistan Kashmiri Leader

Born in 1933, Syed Ali Shah Geelani started his career as a school teacher and was a prominent activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami.  He was elected to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly thrice in 1972, 1977 and 1987. He resigned in 1987 and joined the secessionist movement. Geelani has been a strong supporter of the Kashmiri militancy and believes that violence has given the much-needed leverage to the political movement and has made India take their 'cause' seriously. Geelani is known for his close relationship with Syed Salahuddin, Supreme Commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen and Chairman of the United Jihad Council (Muttahida Jihad Council). Salahuddin reportedly seeks Geelani's advice on important matters and other Pakistan-based terrorist organisations also consider him as the undisputed secessionist leader in Jammu and Kashmir. In a statement issued in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir on 10 June 2002, the Muttahida Jihad Council condemned Geelani's arrest and  warned the Indian government of serious consequences "if anything happened to the Hurriyat leader."

Pakistan's military government also acknowledges Geelani's advice and assessment and frequently seeks directions from him in matters related to Jammu and Kashmir. Geelani reportedly receives funds provided by the ISI and other donors and channelises them to fund militant and secessionist activites in Jammu and Kashmir. Among the Hurriyat leaders, Geelani has been most vocal in revealing his pro-Pakistan stance. On several occasions, he has asserted that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of Pakistan and that India has forcibly occupied the territory. In recent months, Geelani had started facing opposition from within the Hurriyat Conference with the late Abdul Ghani Lone and Maulvi Umer Farooq becoming more moderate in their views. Geelani was especially embittered when Umer Farooq and Lone participated in the Dubai conference in April 2002 without seeking his advice. The two moderate Hurriyat leaders had held talks in Dubai in April 2002 with chief of Pakistan's Kashmir cell, Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan. He made public statements against Lone and Umer Farooq and also asked Hurriyat Chief Abdul Ghani Bhat to initiate disciplinary action against the two leaders.

Geelani has also been instrumental in opposing any peace moves launched by the Indian government. In July 2001, the Indian government had announced a ceasefire and Geelani was the prime factor responsible for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference rejecting it. When Hizbul Mujahideen commander Abdul Majid Dar supported the ceasefire move, Geelani had tried his best to convince him against doing so. After the split in the Hizbul Mujahideen in May 2002, Geelani remained in constant touch with Syed Salahuddin, advising him on the course of action. Moderate Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone's assassination in May 2002 further revealed Geelani's ties with the ISI. The assassination of Lone, a moderate leader was suspected to be the handiwork of the ISI in collaboration with pro-Pakistan Kashmiri elements. Geelani had remained in constant touch with Salahuddin on Lone's moderate policies and had sought his help to contain the damage to the secessionist cause. Lone's son Sajjad Lone had even charged Geelani with the murder of his father, Abdul Gani Lone. Geelani was also in close contact with former Pakistani High Commissioner to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi. In fact, Geelani met Qazi a day before the latter's departure to Pakistan and held consultations with him. Geelani was the main recommending authority for all visas to Pakistan and his clearance was always sought by the Pakistan High Commission before sanctioning visas to any person of Kashmiri origin. The Pakistan High Commission also used Geelani as a conduit to channel funds to Kashmiri militant groups.

With the arrest of Geelani under the Official Secrets Act, the Hurriyat Conference clearly stands discredited both as a representative outfit of the Kashmiris and as a political organisation which long claimed to be 'independent' in its outlook. The Hurriyat itself is in a disarray today with the death of its most moderate voice Abdul Ghani Lone. It is also reportedly split on the issue of participating in the forthcoming state assembly elections. Moreover, the disillusionment of the common Kashmiri with the Hurriyat was brought to light in a survey held in April 2002 by MORI International. Nearly 70 per cent of the respondents both in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region stated that they would want a new political party in Kashmir to act as their representative for finding a lasting solution to the dispute.