Businessman's diary is key evidence in case against Hafiz Saeed

19 January 2018

A diary doubling as an account book seized from the office of Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Watali is the key evidence the National Investigation Agency gave to a special court on Thursday to link Kashmiri separatists with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.

The diary has entries of receipt of several lakh rupees against the name of Hafiz Saeed, mentioned in brackets. There are corresponding entries for payments made to one ''Fantoosh'', which the NIA has claimed is the nickname of Altaf Ahmed Shah, son-in-law of Tehrek-e-Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani, according to an Indian Express report.

Letters from Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru to separatists, voice samples of pro-azaadi speeches and role of some Pakistan High Commission officials are among evidence cited by the NIA which on Thursday filed a voluminous chargesheet in its case of alleged terror funding of Kashmiri separatists.

The 12 accused listed in the chargesheet include seven separatists arrested last year, apart from Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin. The separatists include Aftab Hilali Shah alias Shahid-ul-Islam, Ayaz Akbar Khandey, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Nayeem Khan, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal and Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah apart from Watali and alleged stone-pelters Kamran Yusuf and Javed Ahmed.

According to sources, during searches at the offices and residences of Watali, who was arrested and charged by the NIA in the case, an account book with entries written by hand was discovered. These entries pertain to payments received and given over the years by Watali to various people. One entry has the name of a person followed by Hafiz Saeed. There are corresponding entries against the name ''Fantoosh''.

''There are similar entries against the name 'Geelani' mentioned in brackets,'' a home ministry official said. The NIA has questioned both sons of Geelani, Nayeem and Naseem, but never made any move to arrest them.

The chargesheet has also mentioned the name of a Pakistan High Commission official who used to regularly meet key separatists.

The NIA alleged that this official, identified as Mudassar Cheema, arranged for finances for separatists on multiple occasions. Cheema, a first secretary at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi, was sent back to Pakistan last year along with five other officials for alleged spying.

The chargesheet has mentioned some 20 companies floated by Watali in the UAE, claiming that these were shell companies used by Watali to move money from Pakistan to India.

''He took a cut on each transaction,'' an official said. The complete financial trail and source of remittances have not been explained. NIA has sent a request under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to UAE to further investigate these companies.

NIA attached letters of Afzal Guru and incarcerated separatist Masarat Alam. ''Guru's letter requests separatist leaders to shift him from Delhi to a jail in Kashmir. Alam also made pleas to get himself released,'' the official said.

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