New Delhi, Feb 11: In a significant development, unprecedented in the last 32 years of the separatist insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistans Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has filed an FIR against a prominent Kashmiri Hurriyat leader, Altaf Ahmed Bhat, and 15 of his business associates in a fund embezzlement scandal running into hundreds of crores of rupees in a cooperative housing society in Islamabad.
In an enquiry ordered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan over complaints from victims of the embezzlement, FIA has established that money worth billions of rupees had been swindled by President Ataf Bhat and other office-bearers of the Central Board of Revenue Employees Cooperative Housing Society (CBRECHS).
Altaf Ahmed Bhat is a prominent Kashmiri separatist, operating in Pakistan as a representative of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). He has been on the forefront of every anti-India and pro-azadi activity after he switched over from militancy to political activism more than 20 years back. Previously he operated as a militant with Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir under the code name of Tufail.
While Altaf Ahmad Bhat, according to the Pakistani media reports, has gone into hiding, a number of other accused have been arrested in the case. “He will surely be arrested in a day or two”, said a source privy to the developments in Pakistan.
The FIA has arrested Choudhary Nazir Ahmed, Executive Member and Rana Liaqat Ali (land provider) even as the search was underway for other accused individuals and raids were going on at their suspected whereabouts on Thursday. The accused are wanted for executing agreements on exorbitant rates without considering the actual rate of the land of the locality, converting a residential plot into commercial plot without paying any conversion fee and release of payment to the land providers from 2013 to 2019 without physically taking over of the complete land.
According to the allegations, the CBRECHS’s management committee committed fraud, cheating and criminal breach of trust and it failed to safeguard the interest of the society members.
The resultant loss suffered by the Society has been to the tune of Rs 85 crores. According to the reports, an amount of Rs 33. 93 crore was still outstanding against a property dealer while an amount of Rs 36.85 crore was also outstanding against the same property dealer as the land advances. Another amount of Rs 18.34 crore was reportedly outstanding against another property dealer as the land advances.
Who is Altaf Ahmad Bhat?
While Altaf’s elder brother Zaffar Akbar Bhat founded and operated ‘Salvation Movement’ in Kashmir, Altaf maintained the same banner in Pakistan. Both, according to the charges from the Counter-Intelligence Kashmir (CIK) were beneficiaries and promoters of Al-Jabbar Trust, floated in the name of their father. Zaffar joined Hizbul Mujahideen as its “District Commander” in 1991. He was subsequently elevated as the outfit’s “Divisional Commander” for Central Kashmir.
During the battle of Hizbul Mujahideen’s leadership between the factions loyal to Syed Salahuddin and Abdul Majeed Dar in 1998-2000, Zaffar sided with Dar. However Salahuddin’s loyalists allegedly killed Dar and his key associates including the dissident Farooq Mirchal. ‘Commander’ Masood Tantary got killed in an encounter in Pampore. Zaffar’s elder brother and a prominent property dealer Abdul Gani Bhat was also killed during the same internecine clash.
Later Zaffar managed to retain some space in the separatist camp with the intervention of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. On the other hand, the Jammu and Kashmir government provided Police protection to the Salvation Movement chief Zaffar Bhat, even as he played a key role in mobilising anti-India and pro-azadi demonstrations in Kashmir in 2008 and 2010.
In July 2020, the CIK of Jammu and Kashmir Police filed a case against unnamed persons for allegedly generating ‘terror funds’ through MBBS admission of the Kashmiri students against huge cash payments in Pakistan’s medical colleges. On 18 August 2021, the CIK arrested 6 of the accused including Zaffar. The agency has established the charges and filed a challan in the designated court for CIK and NIA cases in Srinagar.
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