India to seek extradition of Hafiz, 20 others at HS level talks: Singh

Mechanism in place to check hawala money through trade

Union Home Secretary RK Singh at a meeting with cross-LoC traders at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch on Thursday. (Another pic on page 6)			    —Excelsior/Harbhajan
Union Home Secretary RK Singh at a meeting with cross-LoC traders at Chakan-Da-Bagh in Poonch on Thursday. (Another pic on page 6) —Excelsior/Harbhajan

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 17: Union Home Secretary RK Singh said today that India would reiterate the demand for extradition of 20 “most wanted militants’’ from Pakistani including Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) Chief Hafiz Sayeed during the Home Secretary level talks in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 24 and 25.
He said India was committed not to allow cross-LoC border trade to be misused for hawala transactions for funding terrorism. However, at the same time, the Government would take all possible steps to boost the trade on bother cross-LoC routes of Uri-Muzaffarabad in Kashmir and Poonch-Rawlakote in Jammu besides International Border of Wagah in Amritsar district of Punjab.
In a brief chat with media persons at Chakan-Da-Bagh situation at zero line dividing India and Pakistan in border district of Poonch this morning after holding a high level review of cross-LoC trade with businessmen and officers in two separate meetings, Mr Singh said India would press for extradition of LeT Chief Hafiz Sayeed from Pakistan as he was an accused in 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai.
The Union Home Secretary, who was on a two days visit of the State, flew to Poonch from Srinagar at 8 am today along with State Home Secretary B R Sharma and Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda. After review of cross-LoC trade, Mr Singh visited Salamabad on Uri-Muzaffarabad route and held similar meetings there with traders and officers. He flew back to New Delhi this afternoon. Last night he called on Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at Srinagar and discussed internal security situation and other aspects with them.
“We will also ask Pakistan to handover all 20 “most wanted militants’’, whose list has already been furnished to Pakistan a long back’’, he said. The list included United Jehad Council (UJC) and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salah-ud-Din and Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) Chief Ranjeet Singh Neeta, both of whom hailed from Jammu and Kashmir. Under world don Dawood Ibrahim also figured in the list. While Salah-ud-Din was operating from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Neeta was based in Lahore. Dawood, however, keep on changing his hideouts.
Pointing out that Hafiz Sayeed was wanted to India in 26/11 terror attacks of Mumbai, the Union Home Secretary said he would seek his extradition during talks with his Pakistani counterpart at Islamabad on June 24 and 25.
Recently, the United States had declared a bounty of 10 million on the head of Hafiz Sayeed and other Pakistani terrorists.
Besides seeking extradition of 20 “most wanted militants’’ and LeT Chief Hafiz Sayeed, the Home Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan would also discuss Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), cross-border terrorism and cross-LoC trade, the Home Secretary said.
Replying to another question on misuse of cross-LoC trade for funding terrorism through hawala transactions, R K Singh said the Government of India has put a mechanism in place to check this illegal practice.
“There have been reports wherein hawala money had been routed through cross-LoC trade on both Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes. This practice would be curbed. Directions have been issued to ensure that accounts of every traders were check after six months to tally them with items imported and exported by him’’, Mr Singh said, adding the imports and exports by the traders should match till the barter system of trade was in place.
Worthwhile to mention here that some traders on two routes had imported more items than exported and used rest of the money for funding terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country. Police had unearthed the practice and booked the traders involved in hawala transactions.
Considering major demand of the cross-LoC traders, which had also been endorsed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the Union Home Secretary said the Government of India favoured converting the trade from barter system to currency. However, the conversion required consent of the Government of Pakistani.
“I would take up the issue with Pakistan Government for switching over to currency based cross-LoC trade at both Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes’’, he said expressing confidence that Pakistan Government would accede to the demand.
There had been a proposal for setting up bank branch on either side of the LoC at Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad to facilitate the traders to import-export goods on payment basis instead of present barter system.
Asserting that demand of the traders for free import-export on the two routes excepting a negative list would depend consent of both Indo-Pak Government and could take time, Mr Singh till then the Union Government would take steps to ensure that there were no restrictions on 21 items approved by both India and Pakistan for import-exports on two cross-LoC routes.
“It would be ensured that Standing Operating Procedure (SOP), which was in place for governing cross-LoC trade was properly followed and all 21 items were allowed by both countries for import and export’’, he added.
It may be mentioned that some of the items have been banned by authorities on this side for export to PoK while PoK trade authorities have also banned few items for import by the traders on this side.
To a question, Mr Singh said export of banana and coconut from this part of divided State to PoK should be allowed if the items fell in the list of 21 approved items.
The Home Secretary also conceded another major demand of the traders of Poonch-Rawlakote route for increasing number of trucks used for exporting items to PoK to 50 instead of 25 at par with Uri-Muzaffarabad route.
“There would be no disparity between the traders. At both the routes, 50 trucks would be allowed from now onwards’’, Mr Singh assured the businessmen during his meeting with them at Chakan-Da-Bagh.
At present, 25 trucks were allowed to cross over to PoK from this side daily on Poonch-Rawlakote route on four days of trade (Monday to Thursday) while 50 trucks were allowed from Salamabad (Uri-Muzaffarabad route). The traders of Poonch had, for the past quite sometime, been demanding that number of the trucks should be unlimited or, at least, 50 per day.
On restoration of communication facility for the traders (ISD link) from Jammu and Kashmir to PoK, Mr Singh said this demand required thorough examination as the link was closed due to security considerations on apprehensions that it could be misused by the anti-national elements. Nevertheless, he assured the traders that the demand would be taken up at highest level and appropriate forums.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had recently supported the demand.
Mr Singh said the traders demand for a meeting between the businessmen dealing in cross-LoC trade every month at Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) either at Rangarh in Poonch or Hajeera in PoK instead of Chakan-Da-Bagh zero line would be considered.
“As the traders of either side had to cross LoC for holding meeting at the TFC or Immigration Centres, it required permission of both the Governments of India and Pakistan, The demand would be taken up at appropriate level and hopefully acceded’’, he told the traders.
The Cross-LoC Traders Federation has decided to increase the number of their members from 44 to 60 i.e. 15 each from each side of Chakan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad instead of earlier 15.
The Association submitted a memorandum to Mr Singh demanding installation of full body X-Ray scanning machine at Chakan-Da-Bagh for speedy clearance of items and increase number of trucks used for export of items. “This will also serve the purpose of security and safety of goods and faster processing’, they said and also demanded construction of a yard for parking of at least 200 trucks.
The Association demanded that if cross-LoC traders meetings couldn’t be arranged at Immigration Centres, the authorities should construct pre fabricated huts at zero line for comfortable meetings. They demanded that the Government should publish a negative list and allow trade of all other items. They called for widening of road from Betar Nalla bridge up to TFC Rangarh for smooth movement of trucks.
They called for setting up of One Man Trade Authority for overall control of the trade to enhance coordination between Customs and Custodian Departments as well as security agencies. They said cross-LoC trade should continue with zero tariffs instead of treating it as an international trade. They demanded cold storage facility at the TFC for fruit traders.
They demanded that the traders from both sides should be given business permits so that they could visit each other’s territory, see the items, assess their value and then place orders to give boost to cross-LoC trade.
Mr Singh also had a detailed meeting with local officers at Chakan-Da-Bagh. Among other present in the meeting included Home Secretary BR Sharma, DGP Kuldeep Khoda, Deputy Commissioner, Poonch, A K Sahu, SSP Poonch Shamsheer Hussain, Additional SP Poonch Yougal Manhas, Additional DC Jatinder Singh and officials of other concerned agencies including Customs and Immigration.
Poonch Brigade Commander M K Maggoo also met the Union Home Secretary. Poonch MLA Aijaz Jan and MLC Jehangir Mir were also present.
The cross-LoC trade on Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote had recently been increased from twice a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) to four days (Tuesday to Friday). However, in the absence of increase in number of items and use of currency, the trade had not been picking up, sources said.
It may be mentioned here that the trade between India and Pakistan through the land route has soared by 44 per cent in 2011-12 to Rs 2,341 crore from Attari-Wagah route.
Though the balance of trade is still in India’s favour, the import from Pakistan through land route rose by over 100 per cent to Rs 965 crore in 2011-12 against Rs 453 crore in the previous fiscal.
Mr Singh instructed district Poonch administration and Army authorities for construction of visitors shed at LoC for facilitating the meetings of traders periodically to clear their accounts and hold face to face interaction.
The Home Secretary also reviewed facilities and other arrangements available at Immigration and Custom Office at Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point at an officers meeting. He instructed district administration and Army that no compromise be made on the issue of nation’s security and integrity of the country, adding that strict vigil and checking be ensured to check hawala like trades.
He also instructed the administration that four sniffer dogs and deployment of additional staff at immigration and custom office be ensured. He said that the issue regarding clarification of pending applications of PoK side would be taken up with concerned authorities during his ensuing visit to PoK.


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