Srinagar: Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, the second-in-command of Pakistan-based proscribed outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who played a pivotal role in shaping the insurgency in Kashmir in the 1990s, does not have a single FIR registered against him in Jammu and Kashmir.
Makki, 71, who is also the brother-in-law of LeT founder and the mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai attack Hafiz Saeed, was arrested in Gujranwala in Pakistan last week and is currently lodged in a Lahore jail. His arrest has led to discussions within the security establishment in Kashmir on how it will affect insurgency in the Valley.
Makki is also the second-in-command of banned outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the socio-political wing of the LeT. He has been listed as a ‘Specially Designated National’ by the United States Department of the Treasury, which has in the past announced a reward of $2 million for any information leading to his location.
Although Makki is not a “wanted man” in the Valley, police officials said naming the heads of proscribed outfits during investigation of cases in which their cadres were involved not only aids in a consistent documentation of the chain of command in militant organisations, but it also helps in giving weight to dossiers filed against them.
However, the process has not been religiously followed in Kashmir where thousands of militancy-related cases are lodged in police stations across the state. Most of the top militants hardly have any cases or court convictions against them in the Valley.
“Undoubtedly Makki has been involved in backing the insurgency in Kashmir since the early 1990s. Though LeT had shown some presence in 1993, it was only in late 90s that they gained prominence with their fidayeen attacks. And, Makki has been a major player during all this time,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.
‘We focus more on developing intelligence’
Makki was arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order Act after he made speeches against the Pakistan government’s crackdown on banned terror outfits.
His arrest came close on the heels of the sealing of 12 Kashmiri militant organisations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the Pakistani authorities. The move is being projected by the Pakistani establishment as part of the crackdown initiated on banned outfits after the 14 February Pulwama attack.
The senior police officer quoted above said though J&K police is considered among the best in the country in all aspects of policing, they lag behind in investigations into militancy-related cases.
“There is a very simple explanation for this. Kashmir police is considered more of a militarised force given that it has been battling militancy for the last three decades. It has fought against insurgents not only from Kashmir but from foreign countries as well such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond,” the officer said.
“As a result, the areas where we focus more is developing intelligence, counter insurgency operations and controlling violent street protests. Amidst all these, investigations take a back seat,” the officer added.
‘Arresting militants is a new phenomenon’
The police officer said arresting militants, which invariably lead police to carry out elaborate investigations, is also a relatively new phenomenon. “Earlier, it was just about neutralising the militants,” the officer said, adding that the trend is changing.
“Take for example Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Before he formed JeM in 2001, he was involved in Kashmir insurgency through Harkat-ul-Ansar and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, but he hardly has any cases (against him in the Valley) before he was arrested here in Kashmir. There are several other names and Makki is one of them,” the officer said.
“However, there is a slight change. In the past few years, you see leaders of terror outfits being named in FIRs and even charge-sheeted. One of the examples is the NIA case into terror funding in Kashmir in which Hafiz Saeed was charge-sheeted,” the officer added.