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Top Kashmiri lawyer to face NIA grilling over terror funding

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Mian Abdul Qayoom had allegedly received money from across the border in 1990s and owns several properties worth crores of rupees in J&K and Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom will be questioned by the National Investigating Agency on 6 September for his alleged involvement in the terror funding case, in which seven Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah, have been arrested.

Investigators suspect that Qayoom received money from across the border in the early 1990s and owns several properties worth crores of rupees in J&K and Delhi although on paper his income is low.

The arrested men are said to have told the agency that Qayoom was working in close association with the Hurriyat and as a strategist of Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

“He operates through two agents — Shakeel and Majid — and has given legal aid to many separatists. He has reportedly incited violence in the Valley on several occasions. He drafts all press statements issued by the Hurriyat and represents them in many cases,” an NIA officer said.

According to the probe agency, Qayoom claims that he only takes token fees for fighting these cases and hence pays a minimal income tax. The Intelligence Bureau, however, sent a note to the NIA listing properties he allegedly owns in various places.

The properties that have been linked to Qayoom include two houses in Bul Bul Barzula worth Rs 3 crore, a house along with four kanals (21,598 sq ft) of land in village Sankpora near Lasjan, Pantha Chowk, worth Rs 2.5 crore, another two-storey house built on four kanals, a flat in Delhi, a shopping complex in Srinagar, a house worth Rs 2.5 crore in village Sankpora and several properties in Hyderpora, Peer Bagh and Lal Bagh. Sources also said that he allegedly received money in the early 1990s from across the border, which he later invested in properties across J&K.

“If he earns only a meagre amount, then how is he able to purchase these properties? Why was he sent money from across the border? These aspects need to be probe,” an investigator said.

The summons reached Qayoom Monday, following which there was a strike in the
high court.

Bashir Sidiq, general secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, told ThePrint that Qayoom was being “harassed” as the investigating agency wants to prevent him from discharging his duties by dragging his name into the case. “He is a prominent lawyer and has over 50 cases listed every day. Everyone knows that he is there to provide legal aid to political prisoners and has no other links,” Sidiq said.

“It is completely false that he received any sort of fund from across the border. If it is proved that any of us has received any fund from any organisation, we are ready to withdraw from the bar association. He has been called as a witness and we will definitely appear before them (NIA). But this is harassment and nothing else,” he added.

Sidiq maintained that Qayoom may have done a few cases of Geelani, but that does not mean he is a strategist for him. “He is a lawyer and has a wide clientele. The legal fraternity here is very upset over the notice and will be abstaining from court work.”

Qayoom has been the president of the high court bar association for the past eight years and had also filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the use of pellet guns to manage crowd, especially stone-pelters, calling this practice unconstitutional.

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