Liaquat Ali Shah, who the Delhi police claims is a Hizbul Mujahideen militant and was planning to execute terror strikes in the capital, was returning from Muzaffarabad under Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s ‘Militant Rehabilitation Policy’, family and police sources say.
Police sources in Kashmir told TEHELKA that Liaquat Ali Shah, son of Syed Sakhi Shah of Dardpora area of Kupwara, was returning to the valley with his Pakistani wife Akhter and daughter, and the local police knew about his return as he was returning under the militant rehabilitation policy. They say Liaquat first crossed the Line of Control in 1991 and joined Al Badr Mujahideen militant group.“He returned in 1993 and remained active in Kashmir for four years. Later he crossed the LoC in 1997 as a Hizbul Mujahideen militant and since then, has been in Muzaffarabad, where he got re-married,” sources say.
Police sources say Liaquat was wanted but had recently gotten in touch with the police through relatives and was willing to return back which was agreed to and the 20 March Nepal border crossing was a part of that plan.“He’s not a big man,” they say.
Despite repeated attempts and texts, Kashmir police chief, Abdul Gani Mir, couldn’t be reached for his comments. The Delhi police spokesperson, Rajan Bhagat, too, declined to comment on this aspect of the issue. “There is a statement we’ve released today and there is nothing beyond it that I can tell you,” he told this scribe.
A police statement released on 22 March in New Delhi reads that Shah’s disclosures led to one of the rooms of a hotel, whose details are being withheld for operational reasons, which was raided in the Jama Masjid area, from where one AK-56 rifle, some hand grenades, a memory card, two magazines, a map and dry fruits were recovered. For the Delhi operation, fake Pakistani passports were arranged by his handlers and Liaquat was instructed to destroy all the passports upon arrival in Kathmandu so that when he and his family entered India, there would be no evidence of any Pakistani connection, it reads.
The rehabilitation policy, announced in 2010 by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, is conditional on a ‘change of heart’. It includes identification, monitoring, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration of former rebels into normal life. It requires their parents to file surrender applications before the Superintendents of Police concerned; the ex-rebels can also file applications on their own to the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. The applications are then scrutinised by various intelligence agencies, and if cleared, the rebels can enter the state. The four entry points identified for return include Uri-Muzaffarabad, Poonch-Rawalakote, Wagah (Punjab) and the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. Those surrendering will, however, be tried for cases pending against them. But recently, Omar told the State Assembly that none of the over one hundred ex-militants who made it to Kashmir since 2010 came through these routes.
Sources say almost all of the returnees went to Muzaffarabad but never fought in Jammu and Kashmir “and that’s why most of them are not charged for cases here except for illegally crossing the LoC.”
The Chief Minister’s announcement had triggered home coming of many ex-militants and according to sources, all of them returned to the Valley via Nepal and Uttar Pradesh and surrendered before the police before they actually reached home. TEHELKA has previously documented cases of some of these ex-militants whose change of heart led them to abandon militancy and return back home.
Meanwhile, Shah’s first wife Ameena, who has two sons from Shah, told TEHELKA that Shah used to call her and has been telling her about his return since 2010 “and the last time he called was some ten days ago. He said he would come on 20 March. But later an anonymous phone call from Delhi said he has been arrested. He also wanted to come back through Nepal, the way other former militants have returned with their wives and children” she said.
Shah’s second wife, Naseema, is a teacher in Muzaffarabad and has a son, Hassan, from Shah. According to Ameena, she had refused to come with Shah. “But his third wife, Akhter, is with him. They have a daughter, Jabeena, with them,” Ameena says.
Shah’s older brother, Inayat Shah, told TEHELKA that the family had submitted the surrender application form with the police two years ago but since then Shah never managed to arrange enough money to return. “He (Shah) was working as a labourer in Pakistan. He didn’t have enough money to spend on visa and other travel expenses. That’s why he missed the chance to return when others were coming back in hordes during the first few years,” he says.