Kashmir police early this morning arrested Geelani, the most high-profile pro-Pakistan leader in India, under the new anti-terrorism law for receiving unaccounted funds from a UK-based expatriate, Ayub Thukar, long suspected to be a conduit for ISI cash.
Geelani, who heads the Jamaat-e-Islami, was later whisked away to the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi. He told a television channel that the arrest was “politically motivated”.
The government claimed that simultaneous raids on nine houses in Kashmir and two in Delhi by income-tax officials and the police yielded evidence against Geelani.
The government said Geelani’s assets and income were far higher than what he had shown in his tax returns. Income-tax officials have estimated that Geelani’s household expenses came to around Rs 1,50,000 per month, while his declared income was less than Rs 1,500 per month.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief A.K. Suri dripped sarcasm while listing the results of the raids. “He claims to be a true Pakistani but still takes pension of Rs 7,100 (per year) for being a former member of the Assembly,” Suri said.
Geelani is also said to have passed on money sent by the ISI through Thukar to loyalists of Syed Salahuddin, the Pakistan-based leader of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen.
When British foreign secretary Jack Straw was in India recently, home minister L.K. Advani had informed him of Thukar’s role in funding militants in Kashmir.
Altaf Fantoosh, Geelani’s son-in-law, was arrested under the anti-terrorism law in Srinagar. Another son-in-law, Iftikar Geelani, was held in Delhi under the Official Secrets Act. But another suspect and chief of the women’s separatist outfit Dukhtran-e-Millat, Asiya Idrabi, disappeared before the police reached her home.
Geelani has over the years tried to get the All Parties Hurriyat Conference to follow Islamabad’s diktat and has been accused of foiling attempts by moderate Hurriyat leaders to come to any understanding with Delhi.
The government has claimed to have unearthed evidence against Geelani at a time when its political initiative in Kashmir suffered a setback with the assassination of moderate Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone.
With Geelani out of the scene for sometime at least, it would be easier for the government to get negotiations underway. For the moment, the Hurriyat is putting up a united front and has called a strike on Tuesday, but the government feels that the combine could be eventually turned around.
“It is time for the government to take a tough stand and stop dilly-dallying. We have to crack down on the militants’ support bases at home. Otherwise, getting Pakistan to stop infiltration would be a meaningless exercise,” a senior official said.
The state police got a lead when they arrested journalist Imtiyaz Bazaz under the anti-terror law last month. Sources claimed that interrogation revealed his links with the ISI and how funds from Islamabad were channelled through the UK-based Thukar to secessionist leaders in the Valley.
Bazaz told the police that he received money regularly through several bank accounts in New Delhi and Srinagar from Thukar.
He had an account (number 33348416) in the New Delhi branch of a multinational bank. Bazaz also had an account (No. CD6076) in the Srinagar branch of a state-owned bank. The sources said Bazaz gave names of organisations which received money from his accounts.
Bombay House is the headquarters of the Tatas, who bought a 25 per cent stake in VSNL from the government in February for Rs 1,491 crore under the divestment programme.
The Tatas have since raised their stake in VSNL — which had the monopoly in handling overseas call traffic till April 1 this year — to 45 per cent after buying another 20 per cent through an open offer to the public.
The Tatas’ proposal incensed communications minister Pramod Mahajan, under whose administrative control VSNL came until the selloff.
Mahajan has opposed the Tatas’ proposal on the ground that it was unethical to invest Rs 1,500 crore and then “spirit away” Rs 1,200 crore from the company the following month. Mahajan also felt that Tata Teleservices was a small company of indeterminate value and such a large investment was unwarranted.
The spat over the VSNL proposal also divided the government with divestment minister Arun Shourie backing the Tatas. Last week, Mahajan and Shourie met home minister L.K. Advani to make peace and announced afterwards that there were no differences between them on the issue.
Both sides were reticent about the proposals that were discussed today for over nine hours. Reports indicated that the talks were continuing late into the night.
Today’s meeting was attended by Vinod Vaish, secretary in the communications ministry, and Kishore Chaukar and N. Srinath from the Tata group. S.K Gupta, managing director of VSNL, is expected to come out with a joint statement if the parties reach an agreement.
The talks were interrupted several times during the day with the officials reverting to their bosses to secure approvals on the wording of the draft agreement. “It was full of drama with both parties breaking the meeting a number of times to get back to their bosses and get their approval. Each break ranged from 15 minutes to one hour,” said a source who attended the meeting.
The two sides were reported to be close to a deal but a last-minute hitch appeared to have stalled a compromise.
The reason given, however, was the same as yesterday’s: “not enough leaders” were present in the capital.
Sources said Naidu’s stand against Alexander and his refusal to visit the capital led to the postponement of the meeting called to announce the presidential nominee.
Naidu is likely to arrive here tomorrow but the meeting is expected to take place after June 13.
On that day, the Maharashtra Assembly will witness a trial of strength between the ruling Congress-NCP and the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. BJP sources said the outcome of the seemingly unconnected developments in Maharashtra, where Alexander is Governor, will have a bearing on the presidential poll.
Another unpredictable but influential player, ADMK chief Jayalalithaa, will be in the capital on Tuesday.
Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who had earlier given a carte blanche to Vajpayee, is now pitching for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Vice-President Krishan Kant, who is nursing ambitions of a promotion and has the backing of the Andhra chief minister, played a key role in activating the “Naidu factor”, the sources said. Kant had, however, politely refused an offer from the Opposition to contest against Alexander if the NDA decided to go ahead with the Governor. The sources added that Kant is not averse to the idea of another term as Vice-President.
A section of the BJP, which includes senior leaders like L.K. Advani, George Fernandes, Pramod Mahajan and Anant Kumar, is opposed to Naidu.
Though sources close to Vajpayee claimed that he was keen on a consensus, BJP leaders insisted that Alexander was the Prime Minister’s “first choice”.
The BJP hardliners believe that a “Christian Alexander” as President would spell a “political death warrant” for Sonia Gandhi. Alexander’s appointment, the leaders argue, would allow the NDA to launch a campaign against the Congress chief in the next general elections on the grounds that the “two top posts” should not go to members of a minority community.
However, not everyone in the BJP shares this perception. The NDA has a wafer-thin majority in the electoral college that elects the President. Moreover, the alacrity with which the Opposition closed ranks and approached Narayanan to contest the polls got the ruling coalition worried.
Many in the NDA had written off Narayanan, but, this evening, there was ample indication that the President has an “open mind” on a second stint. Official sources said Vajpayee will hold further meetings to work out a consensus.
A sport in which teamwork is a mere foundation for individual enterprise runs against the national corporate culture. It’s a strange paradox that coaches in Europe seek to restrict individualism within team discipline while European coaches working in Japan with Japanese players have to battle to encourage it.
Work is the ethic which is making the World Cup turn. The organisation on this side of the 2002 World Cup divide with South Korea is impeccable, the officials polite, efficient and helpful even when the language and Kanji script chasms are so vast. An expatriate friend noted that even the elderly ladies in his local launderette are talking about the World Cup and he judged that the ultimate accolade of Japanese approval.
The Japanese have also provided in Yokohama a stadium worthy of hosting the Final as it will on June 30. The only criticism of Yokohama is that the pitch is distanced not merely by an athletics running track but the long jump and triple jump run-ups. Not that this is obvious since everything from pitch to fence has been covered with plastic grass so that the spectator looks down on a flat green ocean on which the players bobble, away in the distance, like so many breeze-blown ripples.
That represents the threat to Japan’s co-hosting of the finals.
When, eventually, they are knocked out, one fears that the World Cup may then become as remote to most of Japan as the players are to the crowd in Yokohama.
Not that Philippe Troussier’s (the Japanese coach) energetic band in blue will be going out of the World Cup yet.
They should cope comfortably with Tunisia in their last match on Osaka on Friday and thus qualify for the second round, perhaps even top of the group. That is a target the Japanese have been particularly pleased to set for co-hosts South Korea who face the United States in Daegu tomorrow.
That will complete the second round of matches in the first round groups and serve as a prelude for four days of deciding games in all eight sections.
Remarkably, the exit door could open up for the likes of France, Argentina, Italy and even Germany.
What a strange-looking World Cup would then open up with only Brazil, Spain and England of the traditional giants facing the challenge of a new world order in, appropriately, the land of the rising sun.
Behind-the-scenes squabbles are bubbling over the take-up of match tickets and hotel rooms. Certainly, late printing of the tickets created difficulties but these were only minimal in the grand scale of things.
Co-hosting itself is another factor to blame: the ticket prices are affordable to the ordinary Japanese in the street but not to the Koreans.
The imbalance in costs of living was a factor for which even Fifa could not legislate.
Korean and Japanese politicians have also been upset by a lack of take-up of hotel rooms.
But hotel assessments were based on the 1998 World Cup in France. Fans from Europe cannot afford the cost of the Asian adventure in such droves while South Americans have their own domestic economic problems with which to contend.
There is no law which says World Cup matches must be sell-outs. The only consolation for wounded pride among local organisers is that, the longer their own teams survive, the greater the hypnotic power the World Cup will exert on their fellow countrymen and women.
As long as the World Cup remains the prime topic of conversation in the launderette, Japan and Korea have nothing to worry about.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), signed between defence minister George Fernandes and his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld here on January 17, enabled India to share classified information about infiltration from Pakistan and the movement of terrorists within Jammu and Kashmir.
Much of the information contained in a top-secret document handed over by Armitage to Musharraf in Islamabad was culled from data exchanged between New Delhi and Washington under the agreement.
US sources insist that they have independently verified these data, but there is no doubt that the Bush administration was convinced from information provided by India that Musharraf was yet to fulfil the anti-terrorist promises, which he made in his speech on January 12.
The document, which was described by sources here as “amazing” in its details of cross-border infiltration and terror factories in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, took Musharraf by as much surprise as the tape of his phone conversation from Beijing in 1999 with his trusted deputy, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz.
More important, it put him in a spot. As the tough-talking Armitage pressed his advantage, Pakistan’s strongman asked for Washington’s indulgence in protecting the “honour and dignity of the nation and the armed forces”, as the US envoy later put it during his media appearance in Islamabad.
On Friday, Armitage used those very words in his conversation with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He said India must help Musharraf to maintain the “honour and dignity of the nation and the armed forces” if it expects him to act on his promises.
Otherwise, there will be no Musharraf in Islamabad to deal with. Earlier, Armitage had been conveyed this assessment of Musharraf’s durability by the new charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Islamabad, Nancy Powell.
Powell, a former consul general in Calcutta, is a hard-boiled South Asia veteran and is not carried away by Musharraf’s double talk or Pakistani charm the way her predecessor Wendy Chamberlain was.
Clearly, there was dissent within Raisina Hill about giving away anything to Musharraf in return for mere promises.
But having got this far with the US, Vajpayee personally took the decision that he would at least go half way with Armitage and hope for the best.
A major factor that weighed in the Prime Minister’s decision was the low-key, but solid work done by the Indo-US joint working group on counter-terrorism set up two years ago.
In the aftermath of September 11, the working group has provided evidence of al Qaida activities in Pakistan and details about the Taliban, which have helped the US to pursue its war against terrorism.
If the Bush administration has belatedly accepted Indian assessments about Pakistani infiltration across the border and decided to hold Musharraf accountable for what is happening in Kashmir, it is because Indian assessments during the joint working group meetings about the nexus between the Taliban, the al Qaida and Pakistan have been found to be correct, often to the last dot.
They were at variance from US intelligence reports during Washington’s post-September 11 honeymoon with Musharraf. The US has, however, learned to its great cost the folly of trusting Musharraf and ignoring Indian threat assessments at the joint working group meetings.
The Prime Minister’s Office reckons after the way the latest crisis with Pakistan is unfolding that security cooperation with the US is now at the crossroads.
Agreeing to US suggestions on defusing tension with Pakistan, therefore, is a tactic of letting the small fish get away so that the big one is in the net.
Vajpayee clearly believes that there is more to be gained by concessions now in terms of Indo-US relations than in continuing the status-quo, which had, after all, only led to a stalemate on the ground until last month’s terrorist outrage in Kashmir.
The Sunday Telegraph reported today that undercover visits to mosques showed that clerics were openly declaring that money was being channelled to “freedom fighters” in Kashmir.
Another sympathiser boasted that it was “easy” to send money to terrorists, adding that he “had a duty” to support “fighting brothers”.
The Indian government had suggested the same figure to British foreign secretary Jack Straw on his recent trip to Delhi.
The Indian government even handed over a dossier of evidence to him, including bank account details, to prove that two terrorist groups — the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad — were still illegally raising about £5 million a year. Both groups were banned in Britain in January.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that a volunteer at the Kashmir International Relief Fund, a charity in East London, that sends aid to refugees, said it was easy to send money to terrorists.
Mahmood Hussain was quoted as saying: “We have a duty to help our brothers who are fighting for a struggle.” He also gave the newspaper the address of a Pakistani organisation in Rawalpindi and advice on how to transfer funds.
“Once you can make contact in Pakistan there should be no problem, from there you can transfer the funds,” he said.
Officially, Hussain said he supported the armed struggle but would not use the charity’s fund for the purpose.
The Regent’s Park mosque in London has also raised funds for Kashmiri “freedom fighters” though it is not specified which organisation receives the funds.
Abu Hamza, the Imam, said that if funds were raised for terrorism, he would support the fund-raising activities.
“These people are defending their Islamic brothers,” he said.
There are 6,00, 000 people of Kashmiri origin in Britain. Most of these people are from Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Lashkar-e-Toiba has established British links. One Manchester-based Islamic cleric recruited members from his mosque before the group was proscribed.
The British government is apparently preparing for a huge influx of refugees expected from Pakistan and India in the event of a war. Disused military bases in rural England are being set up to house as many as 5,000 refugees, who may arrive in the first wave of the conflict.
If the emergency escalated, the government would use 10 other government properties as emergency holding centres. Estimates of how many will come into Britain range from 1,50,000 to a million.
About 1,00,000 people have a right of residency in Britain because 21,000 people in India and Pakistan have British passports, and each has an average five dependents.
More than one million people have ties to Britain because although they do not hold a passport, their relatives are British citizens.
Hundreds of British people of Indian and Pakistani origin have already made enquiries about bringing their relatives to Britain in the event of a war.
“We have to be prepared for a large number of people coming in a short space of time and that is why we have drawn up these contingency plans to use former military bases,” said a home office official.
“If there is a large-scale war then millions of people will be displaced and for historical and cultural reasons, we must assume that a large percentage would wish to come to Britain,” the officer added.
Sunrise: 4.54 am