On Sunday, early morning, in a major crackdown on funding to militant organisations, in Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K police arrested Syed Ali Geelani, the most high-profile pro-Pakistan leader in India, under the new anti-terrorism law, POTA, for receiving unaccounted funds from a UK-based expatriate, Ayub Thukar, long suspected to be a conduit for ISI.
It may be recalled that Home minister L.K. Advani had informed British foreign secretary Jack Straw, during his last visit to India, of Thukar’s role in funding militants in Kashmir. So all that was awaited was an opportune time. What could be better than tackling one of the "internal aspects" of the J&K problem than to do it soon after having received assurances from international community that the "external aspect" was being taken care of with pressure on Musharraf?
Geelani's two sons-in-law were also arrested after the raids carried out at 11 places in Srinagar, Baramulla and New Delhi, police said. While one of his sons-in-law Altaf Ahmed alias Fantoosh was arrested under POTA, the other, Iftikhar Geelani, was arrested in New Delhi under the Official Secrets Act. Rs 10.25 lakh in cash from his residence and Rs 97,000 from his office, besides some secret documents pertaining to the army.
The raiding party also recovered a list of slain ultras during the militancy for which he was receiving funds from Hizbul Mujahideen Supremo Syed Sallahuddin in Pakistan.
It was all done in the wee hours of Sunday morning when the Income Tax personnel and police raided Mr. Geelani's Hyderpora residence and arrested him. He expressed a desire to offer morning prayers around 4.30 a.m. but was told that he could do it at the airport.
Before the search at his two-storey bungalow began, he was taken to the Air Force airport where a BSF plane was kept waiting. Since Geelani has a heart problem, senior cardiologist, Khurshid Iqbal from the Soura Medical Institute was flown along to Ranchi to be lodged in the Central Jail.
The action followed the arrest of the editor of a local magazine Imtiaz Bazaz last month, who during interrogation revealed that he had been receiving funds from the London-based Kashmiri separatist leader, president of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement Ayub Thakur, to be passed on to militant groups. Those named as recipients included Geelani and Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief, Asiya Indrabi.
Bazaz told the police that he received money regularly through several bank accounts in New Delhi and Srinagar from Thukar. He had an account (number 33348416) in the New Delhi branch of a multinational bank. Bazaz also had an account (No. CD6076) in the Srinagar branch of a state-owned bank.
According to the police version, in the beginning of 2001, Mr. Salahuddin had sent a consignment of Rs. 48 lakhs to Mr. Geelani through Dr. Thukar. The arrest of Asiya's husband Qasim Faktoo who was financial chief of the Jamiatul Mujahideen, led to a severe financial crunch and Asiya started getting money from Thukar through Imtiyaz Bazaz to provide funds for the JuM and the DeM.
The recoveries from the search of the Hyderpora residence of Mr. Geelani include cash of Rs. 10,25,000 and $10,000, vouchers relating to the purchase of a large quantity of jewellery, documents relating to the purchase of properties in Srinagar, one diamond-studded watch with an inscription `From the Pakistan Government', three vehicles, passbooks of several bank accounts, locker keys, two computers with details of transactions and a list of militants, and secessionist propaganda literature.
According to an initial assessment of I-T officials, the monthly expenses of Mr. Geelani was more than Rs. 1,50,000 which is against his declared annual income of Rs. 7,100 as pension for being a former MLA (the police chief was suitably scathing about a Pakistani supporter receiving and declaring MLA pension) and Rs. 10,000 from agriculture.
From the residence of Mr. Fantoosh too, several documents relating to the purchase of properties have been seized. During the raid conducted at the residence of Mr. Geelani's driver, G.M. Baba, the latter has been found in possession of a truck and a drilling machine worth Rs 1.3 lakhs. Searches are on to arrest Asiya Indrabi and others.
Predictably, the APHC has strongly reacted to the arrest of Mr. Geelani and called for a general strike protesting against it on Tuesday. Pakistan has strongly criticised India for arresting Mr. Geelani in "utter disregard'' of fundamental rights and demanded his immediate release. Mr. Geelani called the arrest "politically motivated" and said that he wanted a peaceful resolution of the J&K dispute under the UN resolutions.