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LoC trade suspended: 10 Pakistan-based militants were using route to finance anti-national activities in J&K, say security officials

At least 10 Kashmiri militants, now based in Pakistan, set up sham businesses to funnel illegal weapons, narcotics and Fake Indian Currency Note (FICN) into the Valley by exploiting the Line of Control (LoC) trade routes, sources in the security establishment revealed. On 19 April, 2019, the government suspended LoC trade citing misuse of route for anti-national activities. Sources said the firms operated by the 10 militants, who crossed over to Pakistan, were involved in trade with Indian businesses controlled by their relatives.

 LoC trade suspended: 10 Pakistan-based militants were using route to finance anti-national activities in J&K, say security officials

File image of the first truck in 2008 carrying goods from PoK enters India at Kaman Bridge. AFP

“The channel of LoC trade, meant to facilitate exchange of goods of common use between local populations in Jammu and Kashmir, was being exploited to fund illegal and anti-national activities in the state. Money was being transferred to terrorist organisations and anti-India elements by these traders,” sources said. Atop the security agencies' target list is Basharat Ahmed Bhat, originally from Krim shora village in Budgam. Bhat crossed over to Pakistan in 1990s, and joined the ranks of the militants. He subsequently floated the trading firm 'AL Nasir Trading Company’ in Rawalpindi with the aim of financing anti-India activities.  Shabbir Illahi, another Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, is operating two companies from Pakistan:  MN Trading and Sultan Traders.

Illahi, originally a resident of Sopore, controls trade in the Valley through his relatives. Showkat Ahmad Bhat, another resident of Budgam district, is operating 'Taha Enterprises' from Rawalpindi. Showkat crossed over to Pakistan during the 1990s and subsequently set up the business entity, assisted by his aide Iqbal Sheikh, who is a resident of Ichkoot village in Budgam.

The home ministry, while suspending trade, cited a probe by National Investigation Agency (NIA) which observed that a significant number of firms engaged in LoC trade are operated by persons closely associated with banned terror groups and separatist activities. Indian security agencies also received inputs that in order to evade the higher duty, LoC trade could be misused to a much larger extent.

After the Pulwama terror attack, the NDA government withdrew the most favoured nation status to Pakistan. Opposition parties slammed the NDA government move saying it may worsen ties. However, the home ministry maintained that the character of LoC trade has changed: to mostly third-party trade and that products from other regions, including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route and that unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for Hawala money, drugs and weapons. The ministry further said these firms are under the direct control of Pakistan-based terror outfits.

Sources said most terrorists set up base at Rawalpindi in Pakistan and Muzaffarabad. For instance, Noor Mohd Ganai, who is living in Rawalpindi and running a trade company called 'AL Noor.' Originally a resident of Beerwah village in Budgam, Ganai crossed over to Pakistan for arms training in the 1990s. He was conducting LoC trade through his company with the help of his brother Farooq Ahmad Ganai who lives in Beerwah.

Sayeed Ajay Ahmed Shah alias Aizaz Rehmani, vice chairman of People’s League in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is originally from Khanyar, Srinagar. Rehmani, who lives in Muzaffarabad, also crossed over to PoK for terror training in the 1990s.

“Rehmani's brother-in-law Arshad Iqbal Shah alias Ashu is involved in cross LoC trade since 2010 through a company called ‘M/s MA trader’ located at Khwaja Bagh, Baramulla and has links with many LoC traders reportedly involved in the drugs trade and Hawala transactions,” sources said. “Rehmani was the main supplier of PoK goods to Arshad Iqbal Shah through cross LoC trade at Salamabad, Uri. In 2016, Arshad Iqbal Shah was arrested by NIA and is presently lodged at the Baramulla district jail. Mehrajuddin Bhat, originally a resident of Tral, crossed over to Pakistan and joined a militant group. He's in Rawalpindi, and is running a trading company called ‘Mehrajuddin Traders’. His elder brother Abdul Rashid Bhat is a registered LoC trader at Uri and operates through a company called ‘RBS Trading Firm. Khurshid, a resident of Srinagar, now lives in Islamabad and involved in LoC trade through a company called ‘M/S Khursheed and Sons, Muzaffarabad.’”

Another terrorist, Nazir Ahmed Bhat from Pampore, runs ‘New Kashmir Traders' from Pakistan to finance illegal activities in the Valley. Imtiyaz Ahmed Khan, who lives in Muzaffarabad runs two companies: ‘MIK Traders and M/S Imtiyaz Traders Muzaffarabad’. Originally from Budgam, Imtiaz crossed over to Pakistan and joined a militant group.

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Updated Date: Apr 24, 2019 18:02:54 IST