Centre identifies 10 top Kashmiri ultras involved in cross-LoC trade

Militants were operating from Pak, PoK

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 24: The Centre today came up with strong evidence in favour of suspension of cross-LoC trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on both Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes by naming 10 Kashmiri militants of different outfits, who had floated firms and, were carrying out the trade and routing funds for terrorism and other undesirable activities in the Valley.
A document released by the Central Government, a copy of which was in possession of the Excelsior, has named 10 militants, all of whom were Kashmiri residents but had crossed over to Pakistan and PoK for arms training. They had settled there over a period of time and later floated firms, reportedly in connivance with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to get involved in cross-LoC trade for smuggling weapons, fake currency and narcotics to the Valley and fund the militancy.
The Government released names of 10 militants in less than a week after it suspended the cross-LoC trade on Chakan-Da-Bagh route in Poonch district of Jammu and Salamabad route in Baramulla district of Kashmir on April 18. The Ministry of Home Affairs had confirmed that the trade had virtually been taken over by the militant outfits especially Hizbul Mujahideen.
“Investigations have revealed that 10 militants identified by the Government had opened trading firms in Pakistan and were active in cross-LoC trade,’’ sources said, adding that these militants were either based in Islamabad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan or Muzaffarabad in PoK and were carrying out the cross-LoC trade with active involvement of Pakistan and PoK Governments, concerned authorities and Pakistan’s ISI.
They (the militants) were operating businesses ranging from almonds, dry dates, and dry fruits to mangoes as part of the modus operandi to send money to fuel unrest in Jammu and Kashmir on behalf of the ISI, sources said.
“The 10 Pakistan-based militants were involved in funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency into the Valley misusing the recently suspended cross LoC trade routes,” they said.
The LoC trade across Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad was intended as a Confidence Building Measure for the population living in Jammu and Kashmir and across the Line of Control (LoC) in PoK.
Security officials also gave details of the 10 militants and their businesses which were involved in the cross-LoC trade.
They said Mehrajuddin Bhat, a resident of Tral, had gone to Pakistan to join militancy about a decade ago. He stays in Rawalpindi and had set up ‘Mehrajuddin Traders’ to get involved in the cross-LoC trade.
His elder brother, Abdul Rashid Bhat is a registered LoC trader on the Indian side at the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Uri and was operating through a company called ‘RBS Trading Firm’.
Nazir Ahmed Bhat, a resident of Pampore, had crossed over to Pakistan and joined militancy. He stays in Islamabad and runs a business through his firms ‘New Kashmir Traders’ and ‘New Kashmir Firm’.
Basharat Ahmed Bhat and Showkat Ahmad Bhat, residents of Budgam, had crossed over to Pakistan during nineties and had joined militancy. They both stay in Rawalpindi.
Sources said Basharat runs his business through the ‘Al Nasir Trading Company’, while Showkat’s trading firm is ‘Taha Enterprises’. Mohammad Iqbal Sheikh son of Ghulam Ahmad Sheikh R/o Ichkoot in Budgam district of Kashmir was associated with Taha Enterprises.
Noor Mohammad Ganai, who also hails from Budgam, had crossed over to Pakistan over 20 years ago and joined militancy. He, too, stays in Rawalpindi and has a company ‘Al Noor’. He was doing trade with the help of his brother, Farooq Ahmad Ganai, who was a resident of Beerwah in Budgam district.
Khursheed, a resident of Srinagar, had crossed over to Pakistan and joined militancy about eight years ago. He lives in Islamabad and does business through ‘Khursheed and Sons, Muzaffarabad’.
Sources said Imtiyaz Ahmed Khan, who was originally from Budgam, had crossed over to Pakistan about seven years ago. He stays in Muzaffarabad and was involved in the cross LoC trade through ‘MIK Traders’ and ‘Imtiyaz Traders’.
Amir, a resident of Pattan in Baramulla, had crossed over to Pakistan and joined militancy. Currently, he lives in Rawalpindi and was an active LoC trader, they said, adding his family including brother were living in Pattan area of Baramulla district in Kashmir.
Sources said Sayeed Ajaz Ahmad Shah alias Aizaz Rehmani, who hails from Srinagar, had crossed over to Pakistan in the 1990s and joined militancy. He stays in Muzaffarabad and holds the post of vice chairman of the ‘People’s League’ in PoK.
Aizaz has set up business entities in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad.
Enquiries have revealed that Aizaz’s brother-in-law, Arshad Iqbal Shah alias Ashu is also involved in cross LoC trade since 2010 and through a company called M/s MA Trader located at Khwaja Bagh, Baramulla and has links with many cross LoC traders who were allegedly involved in drugs trade and hawala transactions, they said, adding that Rehmani was the main supplier of PoK goods to Arshad Iqbal Shah alias Ashu through cross-LoC trade at Salamabad, Uri. In 2016, Ashu was arrested by NIA and is presently lodged at District Jail, Baramulla.
Shabbir Illahi, who was originally from Sopore, has been an active member of the terror group Hizbul Mujahideen and was charge sheeted by the NIA in a case.
He was involved in the cross LoC trade through his firms ‘MN Trading Company’ and ‘Sultan Traders’.
The trading firms under the control of the above mentioned militants were doing LoC trade with Indian trading firms which were mostly operated by their own relatives on the Indian side, sources said.
“The channel of LoC trade, meant to facilitate exchange of goods of common use between local populations in PoK and Jammu and Kashmir, was being exploited to fund illegal and anti-national activities in Kashmir.
“Money was being transferred to terrorist organizations and anti-India elements by these traders,” sources said.
The direct involvement of militants in the cross LoC trade and their contribution to fund terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir was one of the reasons to suspend trade across the LoC.
The Government will revisit the issue of resuming the LoC trade after strict measures and systems are put in place to address these issues.
New measures are expected to restore benefit of LoC trade to local population only, rather than allowing terrorist organizations and unscrupulous traders based far away from these trading points to siphon off benefits and fuel instability in the Valley, sources said.