Disequilibrium: HOW MODI IS CUTTING THE HEAD OF THE SNAKE
India’s deep state led by PM Modi has assiduously cultivated Pakistan’s principal Sunni political Islam persuasion allies and economic benefactors — Saudi Arabia, Qatar & UAE — to try and drain Toxicistan’s fountainhead of blood money being funnelled by hawala conduits into the Valley. Sadly these wins have got lost in the tower of babble over his innumerable foreign tours

The Hurriyat Conference website actively seeks donations from the citizenry, its renegade and anti national chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani's appeal reads like this — Help the families of martyrs and prisoners . It is the duty of the people to enquire about the well being of these families. To overlook it may invite Allah’s wrath on us. Tehreek-e-Hurriyat is doing whatever possible to make legal aid available to these prisoners including those sentenced to life imprisonment. People should come forward and help TeH monetarily in this endeavour. Tehreek-e-Hurriyat is one of the best organisations to give Ushr, Zakat and other sadaqaat. People should come forward for donations in the month of Ramadan as the number of people affected by this movement is large.

Incredibly, he gives his personal J&K Bank account complete with IFSC code on the site for the same donations. It is not that he is blagging for help, he is doing it brazenly under the eyes of the torpor induced Government of India for the freedom of Kashmir. Ostensibly, his appeal for donations is to help the families of martyrs and prisoners, one doesn’t really know whether part of the proceeds fuel the the purported Azadi struggle in the Valley. While the Ajit Doval doctrine using a mix of discrediting the Hurriyat and use of jackboots on the ground failed in Kashmir, the Prime Minister's strategy of cutting off the snake's head so that the body dies has partially been successful in terms of long-term diplomacy. The key is to drain the flow of blood, in this case cash economy to fund the industry that has taken root in the Sunni persuasion dominated Valley.

Displaying his diplomatic heft by systematically engaging with three principals of Salafi Wahabism — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE — equally financial sponsors and Sunni religious doctrine benefactors  of Pakistan, Modi has managed to deplete the flow of blood money to the terror factory and Jehad Central. Sadly, this facet of his diplomacy has got lost in the tower of babble over his numerous foreign visits. In order to neutralise Pakistan’s clout in the Sunni dominated nations and to circumvent the cash lines for the alleged Kashmir freedom struggle, not enough credit goes to the PM.  The fact that this engagement is bilateral with PM Modi visiting these countries and their heads of state coming here means that the volume has been ratcheted up and India is weaning away the fountainhead from Toxicistan, practitioner of a dreaded ideology and theology.

Votaries for long of Pakistan, major allies and economic benefactors the wedge driven between Saudi and Qatar relations has only helped India. The terror taint having now stuck to Pakistan indelibly. Pakistani government sided with the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) — comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — against Qatar. But this was primarily driven by the PML(N) and Sharif brothers’ business interests in Qatar where larger issues were ignored over personal business interests. In 2015, Pakistan refused to join the Saudi alliance against Yemen prompting swift angry retaliation from the UAE authorities. Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan ’s biggest benefactors in the past, virtually asked Pakistan to choose between Riyadh and Doha earlier this year, when the Gulf states hit out at Qatar for its alleged support to terrorists.

Pakistan's isolation

Pakistan, for a while, considered pulling out Gen Raheel Shareef as commander of the Saudi-led anti-terrorism alliance after Nawaz Sharif felt ignored and shunned in Riyadh during a visit by Donald Trump. Sharif was not allowed to deliver his prepared speech, nor could he meet Trump. Making things worse, Trump named only India as a victim of terror, even Pakistan has wailed and railed that it has paid the largest cost in human terms. The religiously driven proxy war funded by Salafi Wahabi backers has seen an all pervasive cult of death practiced for close to 30 years now in Kashmir. To cut the feedstock to this bloody war for the misplaced notion of azadi was imperative and Modi and his security mavens have realised this. Modi has gone beyond the pale and engaged with Jordan, Oman and Iran as well in this push for the middle east and Levant. At its very kernel remains the isolation of Pakistan, wins like the joint statement with UAE are worth their weight in gold — A statement issued by Modi and UAE’s Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan managed to redefine the contours of a relationship that had long been bereft of political reality. Both sides denounced terrorism in “all forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, calling on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.”  The prime minister is keen to see that Pakistan's close allies apply pressure on Pakistan as a rogue state sponsor for terror.

To understand the dynamics at play, Adam Weinstein,  Policy Associate, National Iranian American Council, Veteran of Afghanistan writing in Huffpost says — Wahhabism is an ideology of compromise between the ambitions of the zealot and the needs of the ruler. Wahhabism can be thought of as a religio-political subcategory of the Salafi approach to Islam. Salafis get their name from the al-salaf al-salih or “pious companions” of Muhammad whose practices they claim to imitate. What distinguishes Wahhabism from Salafism is that the former is dependent on the House of Saud for its power whereas the latter is a phenomenon that exists globally. The 18th century partnership of tribal leader Ibn Saud and cleric Abd al-Wahhab wedded two parallel sources of legitimacy in Arabia—religion and tribal kinship. The clerics known as ulema received their authority from God and then conferred it upon the Saud clan themselves. In exchange the ulema are protected from the risks that come with governance. Wahhabis must be distinguished from jihadi Salafis because Wahhabism is inextricably linked to the Saudi state and therefore not revolutionary in nature. The Royal family walks a tightrope between the liberalization necessary for economic development and strong political ties with the West, and the more conservative demands of the Wahhabi movement. One such demand is to turn a blind eye to the sponsorship and export of terrorism and jihad in South Asia, the Middle East, and even the West...

The close relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan began as early as the administration of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. According to a recently available CIA report, in 1975, Bhutto “obtained assurances of generous aid from Saudi Arabia” during a state visit. In exchange for such support Pakistan “furnished military technicians and advisers to the armed forces of Saudi Arabia.” Other CIA documents reveal that during Zia ul-Haq’s military dictatorship, Pakistan viewed the Soviet presence in Afghanistan beginning in 1979 as an existential threat. So Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was more than enthusiastic to train Pashtun mujahideen to fight the Soviets with Saudi and US assistance. Saudi officials naturally garnered greater respect from Pakistani officers than their American counterparts due to the revered status of the Kingdom as caretaker of the two holiest sites in Islam. The US also underestimated the extent to which Pakistani officers would develop sympathies for the militants they spent years training.

ISI an intermediary

The ISI became an intermediary between Saudi Arabia and militant Islamic groups across South Asia. During the 1990s, the ISI shifted its focus towards Kashmir and the Punjab in an effort to counter perceived Indian aggression. But the deep connections fostered between the ISI and various militants resurfaced after 9/11 when their focus pivoted back to Afghanistan. Meanwhile the ISI fought some militant groups while allowing others like the Haqqani Network to remain powerful. When Osama bin Laden was discovered in Pakistan, the US ramped up drone strikes against safe havens, and the ISI retaliated by releasing the name of the CIA’s Islamabad bureau chief which resulted in numerous death threats. Since 9/11, Gulf dollars have continued to bolster extremist groups inside Pakistan even as Pakistani civilians die by the thousands from suicide operations linked to Saudi-sponsored madrasas. In exchange for tolerating Gulf-sponsored terrorism Pakistani leaders get security. While in power they have an unofficial army of militants they can call upon to deal with anything from Baluchi separatists to keeping India on its toes. Once they leave power they have an escape hatch to protect them and their family. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was found guilty of corruption, kidnapping, and hijacking, in the summer of 2000, Saudi Arabia accepted him to live in exile. Benazir Bhutto’s notoriously corrupt widow and ex-president, Asif Zardari, went on a “self-imposed exile” to the UAE throughout 2016. And the former president and general, Pervez Musharraf, is currently hiding out in Dubai to avoid prosecution for treason charges.

But the export of extremism from Saudi Arabia is not always by design. In his history of Pakistan, Ian Talbot argued that “the exposure of the lower-class Pakistanis to the Islamic heartland further encouraged a mindset favourable to Islamization, although Zia was to find that its impact on sectarianism was to prove unpredictable and potentially destabilizing.” Saudi Arabia fears the effects of its own radicalisation and recently deported 40,000 Pakistani workers over concerns of terrorism. Today South Asia is rocked by sectarian violence from the mountainous peaks of Kabul to the tropical markets of Karachi and posh hotels of Mumbai. This February, suicide attacks killed hundreds across Pakistan. The province of Sindh begged the central government to shut down Gulf-funded seminaries. Islamabad declined. The internet age rendered in-person missionary work by Saudi clerics less relevant. The radical messages of Saudi preachers and their protégés can be viewed on mobile phones across the world. Students filter into the seminaries in Mecca and Medina and return to teach at the hundreds of madrasas spread across the world. These representatives of the Kingdom do not always preach a militant message. Sometimes, and perhaps more dangerously, they preach an apologist one. In 2008, popular Indian televangelist Zakir Naik called 9/11 an “inside job” done by the Bush administration to defame Islam. He also commented that “If he [Osama bin Laden] is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him.” Despite these comments Naik went on to win the King Faisal International Prize for his “service to Islam.” The conspiracy theories he peddles are crucial to Saudi Arabia’s standing among the Muslim masses that are not necessarily prone to violence. However, conspiracy theories that brush aside the problem of extremism within the Kingdom are nothing new. Rumours of US involvement in the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca led to an attack on the US embassy in Islamabad in 1979 resulting in the death of two US citizens.

Counter narrative

The counter narrative essayed by the diplomatic mavens in New Delhi with the PM at its vanguard has seen an outreach of magnified proportions. The deportation of Dawood Ibrahim associate and 1993 Mumbai blasts accused, Mohammed Farooq, alias Farooq Takla, from Dubai to India to face the law and the arrests of banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)-Indian Mujahideen (IM) fugitives in Saudi Arabia after a decade indicate that West Asia is no longer a safe haven for Indian criminals.  Another landmark was reached with UAE being willing to sign an MoU on bilateral action against the Indian underworld. This caused panic among the Dawood company network who have huge properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with investments in the construction business. At least three Chota Shakeel properties have been identified and details shared with Dubai.

Equally, the counter-radicalisation narrative in Riyadh, Aqaba and Abu Dhabi has been constructed in deep consultation with India and Asean countries so that no ideological differences or religious interpretations creep in. And perhaps most decisively rhetoric has been tuned off.  Incessant Pakistani propaganda diatribe against India on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) platforms over Jammu and Kashmir and alleged human rights violations has been largely diluted with West Asian countries now being directly in touch with New Delhi.

Take Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who was the chief guest at India’s 2017 Republic Day celebrations, which ran from January 24 to 26. Modi personally received Sheikh Mohammed at the airport. The two leaders warmly embraced each other in what appeared to be a clear sign that India and the UAE are set to cement their strategic partnership during this visit.

Hinting at the widening and deepening of the friendship, at the invitation of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed paid his first state visit to India from 10th to 12th February, 2016. This came on the back of  Modi’s historic visit to UAE in August 2015. The tone and tenor of the joint statement reflected this new resolve — The Indian side expressed deep appreciation for the solidarity expressed by the UAE on the terrorist attack on the Indian air force base in Pathankot in early January.

In the context of religious intolerance and radicalisation being witnessed worldwide, the two leaders commended each other on their efforts to build pluralistic societies based on universal values of humanity and peaceful coexistence among different faiths and communities. The two sides noted that the Indian and UAE models act as strong bulwarks against the forces of extremism and radicalism. They affirmed their abiding commitment to the ideals of promoting harmony between different cultures and faiths through interfaith dialogue.

Similarly, the visits of the Emir  of Qatar His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to New Delhi in March, 2015 and of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Doha in June, 2016, and subsequently of Qatar’s Prime Minister, are a testimony not only to the historic friendship but also to the emerging partnership between the two countries. In December, 2016 —  HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Qatar, was in India on a two-day visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  The level and frequency of exchange of visits between two countries are an important parameter of the level of engagement and cooperation between them.

During PM Modi’s Qatar visit in June 2016 both sides noted that addressing the menace of global terrorism should be based on a comprehensive approach which should include, but not limited to, countering violent extremism, combating radicalisation and recruitment, disrupting terrorist movements, stopping all sources for financing of terrorism, stopping flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters, dismantling terrorist infrastructure, and countering terrorist propaganda through the internet.

Perhaps the most significant event in this journey was PM Modi's visit to Saudi Arabia in April, 2016. Combating terrorism and radicalisation were expected to figure high on the agenda of his talks with the Saudi leadership. PM Modi was conferred Saudi’s highest civilian honour. The prime minister was presented the award by King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Royal Court on the night before his scheduled departure to New Delhi. The award is named after Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the modern Saudi state. This visit assumed importance against the backdrop of the Pakistan-Dubai-Saudi terror financing nexus which for years has been funding extremism in Jammu and Kashmir. A deep seated National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the unimpeded cash stockpile to the alleged Kashmiri struggle and its proponents revealed that the funds generated from Dubai and Saudi Arabia are regularly routed to the Valley with the help of Hawala conduits in India and ISI officials based in Rawalpindi to finance the bloodletting in the turbulence state.

Silent project

India has been silently working on various security issues with the UAE since Modi's last visit in 2015 and security agencies of both the countries are regularly sharing intelligence inputs on militancy. After Modi's 2015 visit, UAE had handed over Indian Mujahideen terrorist Abdul Wahid Siddibapa in May 2016. Since February 2002, at least 18 fugitives have been nabbed and extradited to India by the UAE.

Even as terror funding is being zealously tackled and contained worldwide, the ISI’s notorious S wing which handles Jehadists runs a mammoth fundraising network in the UAE and other West Asian countries. The NIA's ground breaking investigation and chargesheet reveals the labyrinth of how the funds get to the Valley from UAE and Saudi Arabia through Hawala via Delhi (Ballimaran, Chandani Chowk) and militants and their masters depend heavily on these non-banking channels and conduits to funnel cash to channelise anti-India activities in the Valley.

The probe report is revelatory, it states that accused A-10 Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali is one such conduit. the seizure of the incriminating document from the house of his cashier-cum-accountant viz. Ghulam Mohd. Bhatt regarding the foreign contribution received by Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali from Pakistani handlers and terror organisations and their further remittance to the Hurriyat leaders and secessionists of Jammu & Kashmir clearly shows that he was an active channel to transmit funds from abroad to India to fund secessionists activities.

During the course of investigation, it was further revealed that accused A-10 Zaboor Ahmad Shah Watali was bringing money from off-shore locations to India by layering it through the scores of firms and companies he has opened. It was ascertained that Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali has an NRE A/c No 0252040200000505 in J&K Bank and he received foreign remittances to the tune of Rs.93,87,639.31/- in this account from 2011 till 2013 from unknown sources.

During the course of investigation, it was also Mentioned that the accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali was showing foreign remittances under 'other income' in his proprietorship firm viz. Trison International, Srinagar. From the analysis of his bank accounts, it has been ascertained that foreign remittances to the tune of Rs.2,26,87,639.31 were received by the accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in different accounts from the year 2011 to 2016. An amount of Rs.93,87,639.31./- came in Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali A/c No. NRE-0252040200000505 J&K Bank from 2011 to 2013. an amount of Rs.14 lakh was remitted in the account of Acharya Shri Chander College of Medical Sciences (ASCOMS), Jammu accont No.1213040100000229 on 09.04.2013 throuh NEFT against fee deposited for his son, viz. Yawar Zaboor Shah Watali. an amont of Rs.60 lakh was remitted in current account of accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali in J&K Bank A/c No. CD4508. an amount of Rs.5 lakh was remitted in the account of Trison Farms & Constructions Pvt. Ltd. A/c OTN-10162. The investigation has revealed that all these foreign remittances are from unknown sources.

During the course of investigation, it was also revealed that on 07.11.2014, one Naval Kishore Kapoor, son of Om Prakash Kapoor, resident of P.O.Box 8669, Aman, UAE entered into an agreement with Trison Farms and Constructions Pvt Ltd through its Managing Director Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali to take a piece of land measuring 20 Kanals in Sozeith Goripoea Nagbal, Budgam on lease in consideration of an amount of Rs.6 crore as premium and Rs.1000/- annual rent for an initial period of 40 years extendable as may be mutually agreed between the parties. In the agreement, M/s Trison Farms and Constructions Pvt Ltd was declared to be the absolute owner of the piece of land in question. Mr Naval Kishore Kapoor remitted a total amount of Rs.5.579 crores in 22 installments between 2013 and 2016 to the accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali.

Role of UJC

Pertinently the role of the United Jihad Council (UJC). Jama’at-Ud-Da’wah (JuD), Kashmir Cell/Kashmir Committee & Pakistan-based wing of the Hurriyat  was under the scanner. During the course of investigation, it was ascertained that the United Jihad Concil, Jamat’-Ud-Dawah, Kashmir Cell/Kashmir committee and the Pakistan-based Hurriyat leaders are acting in unison; they are getting support from Pakistan, they are carrying out anti-India propaganda and are supplying funds and arms & ammunition to the terrorists active in Jammu & Kashmir in furtherance of their conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India.

The United Jihad council, also known as the Muttahida Jihad council (MJC), is a conglomerate of various terrorist outfits active in Jammu & Kashmir. Formed in 1994, it is currently headed by (A-2) Syed Salahuddin, the Chief of Hizbul Mujahideen. Some of its affiliated terror organizations are : Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Harkat –ul-Ansar (HuA), al-Barq, Al-Badre, Jamait-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, etc. the UJC acts on the advice of Pakistani agencies and gives shape to the terrorist incidents and secessionist activities in Jammu & Kashmir in collusion with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which has a convener in Pakistan viz. Ghulam Mohammad Safi. Safi along with another Pakistan-based Hurriyat leader viz Advocate Parvez Ahmad liaise with the Pakistan authorities and convey the instructions of Pakistani government to Hurriyat leaders in Jammu & Kashmir and vice-versa. This is clearly reflected from an email sent by Ghulam Mohammad Safi to A-7 Ayaz Akbar Khandey on 10.07.2016 and retrieved from his email account viz. ayazakbar73@gmail.com, which reads as follows :-

Funding from Pakistan:

The Hurriyat leaders are receiving funds from Pakistan through conduits and also from the Pakistan High Commission directly. It was substantiated by an incriminating document seized from the house of Ghulam Mohd. Bhatt during search. Ghulam Mohd. Bhat worked as the cashier-cum-accountant with accused A-10 Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, a known Hawala conduit. The document clearly shows that accused A-10 Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali was receiving money from accused A-1 Hafiz Saeed (Head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa), from the ISI, from the Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi and also from a source based in Dubai. Accused A-10 was remitting the same to the Hurriyat leaders, separatists and stone-pelters of Jammu & Kashmir. The said document has been maintained in regular course of his business and is signed by accused Zahoor Watali himself. This document clearly shows that Hurriyat leaders were receiving funds from Pakistan through the officials of Pakistan High Commission and through accused A-10 Zahoor Watali.

The signature of accused A-10 Zahoor Watali has also been verified and as per the expert report, his signature on the questioned document matches with his specimen handwriting as well as his admitted handwriting.

Indian strategy

Draining the blood to the fount remains at the core of the Indian offensive and defensive strategy on Kashmir. Unfortunately the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as Kashmir interlocutor has hindered and slowed down the NIA probe and taking the same to its logical culmination. The February NIA chargesheet hasn’t seen much action thereafter but with Governor’s rule now in place, renewed aggression may be in place. As many as 12 people were chargesheeted including linchpins of the terror factory and aides of several prominent separatists including the troika Geelani, Mirwaiz Farooq and cold blooded murderer Yasin Malik. It also included Geelani’s son-in-law  Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Fantoosh and Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate.

NIA have questioned Geelani associate Ghulam Nabi Sumji earlier, one of the principals of this dubious financial architecture. Now Sumji will be summoned soon. NIA has lots of questions for him. Besides Sumji, the agency also intends to call Abdul Rahim Wani, brother-in-law of businessman Zahoor Watali, who has already been charged in the case; Abdul Razak, a close aide to separatist Shabir Shah; Shakeel Bakshi, an aide to separatist Yasin Malik; and advocate Shafi Reshi, who is the legal secretary of Geelani’s Hurriyat. Reshi is also the uncle of Yasir Reshi, who is a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) MLC.

A combination of prudent diplomacy and active investigation with substantive evidence can contain terror channels from funnelling cash. Crippling this vast swathe of architecture is crucial in India’s war against indigenous and state sponsored proxy terror. Best time to clean up is now with soft separatist Mehbooba Mufti out of the way.

@sandeep_bamzai

Columnist: 
Sandeep Bamzai