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Separatist leader among 4 persons held for ‘selling’ Pakistani MBBS seats to Kashmiri students

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Srinagar: Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of four persons including a separatist leader and a woman for “selling” MBBS seats in Pakistan to Kashmiri students and “using the money to support and fund terrorism”, an official spokesperson said here.

The Counter Intelligence (Kashmir), a branch of CID Department of J&K Police, had registered a case in July last year after receiving information through “reliable sources” that several “unscrupulous persons”, including some Hurriyat leaders, were hand in glove with some educational consultancies and were selling Pakistan-based MBBS seats and seats in other professional courses in many colleges and universities.

The probe into the case suggested that “the money collected from the parents of the aspiring or potential students was used, at least partly, to support and fund terrorism and separatism in different ways,” the spokesperson said.

The case was registered under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), he said.

During the probe, it surfaced that MBBS and other professional degree related seats in many cases “were preferentially given to those students who were close family members or relatives of killed terrorists”.

There were also cases where the quota allotted to individual Hurriyat leaders were sold to anxious parents who desired their children to have MBBS and other professional degrees in one way or the other, the spokesperson said.

He said more than 80 cases were studied in which either the students or their parents were examined for academic years between 2014-18.

Searches were undertaken in about a dozen premises in the Valley to look for evidence of collection of money and its further usage. The analysis of digital records and paper receipts as well as records pertaining to bank transactions revealed that a sizable portion of the money was kept aside for personal use.

“Evidence also came on record to show that money was put into channels that ended up supporting programmes and projects pertaining to terrorism and separatism. For example, payment for organising stone pelting also could also be traced and brought on record,” the spokesperson said.

He said that Pakistan’s snooping agency, ISI, had initiated the programme for “incentivising terrorism by compensating the family of slain terrorists” by way of providing free of cost MBBS and engineering seats.

“However, during examination of witnesses it emerged that many were disappointed as monetary consideration was given precedence over the intended objective of the ISI programme.”

As per investigation, on average a seat’s cost ranged between Rs 10 to 12 lakh but in some cases, the price was brought down on the intervention of Hurriyat leaders. In other words, “depending upon the political heft of a Hurriyat leader who intervened, concessions were extended to the aspiring student and his family.”

Those arrested by the CIK are Mohammad Akbar Bhat alias Zaffar Bhat, chairman of Salvation Movement, son of Abdul Jabbar, resident of Usmania Colony Baghi-Mehtab in uptown Srinagar; Fatima Shah, wife of Nisar Ahmad Shah of Palhalan, Pattan in north Kashmir’s Baramulla, at present 172, Nundreshi Colony, Bemina in Srinagar; Mohammad Abdullah Shah, son of Ghulam Ahmad Shah of Kulpora Salkoot in north Kashmir’s Kupwara; Sabzar Ahmad Sheikh, son of Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, a resident of Nowgam, Shangus in south Kashmir’s Anantnag.

Two more accused persons against whom “there is ample evidence are evading arrest and both of them will be arrested soon, ” the CIK said.

Police are also looking for Bhat’s brother Altaf Ahmad Bhat, who is says is presently in Baheria town of Karachi in Pakistan, and Manzoor Ahmad Shah, son of Ghulam Ahmad Shah of Kulpora Salkote in Kupwara, at present Gulmohar Colony, near High Court Rawalpindi in Pakistan, who is brother of accused Mohammad Abdullah Shah for “being a part of the inward and outward supply chains at one stage or the other and where credible evidence could be collected and brought on record.”

“They played a key role on behalf of ISI in facilitating matters pertaining to admissions under this category for this set of Hurriyat linked persons in India as part of a nefarious design of pumping money into militancy and other terrorist related activities,” the spokesperson said.

“A conservative estimate indicated that the money involved could be around Rs 4 crore per annum, on the basis of the fact that allocation of seats for distribution by individual Hurriyat leaders were around 40 seats for MBBS programme every year.

“It could also be more. This aspect is still open and a matter of further investigation,” the spokesperson said.

“The investigation has also revealed that both at the time of collecting money from the parents as well as channelling it for use by terrorists and separatists, intermediaries used to layer the transactions to conceal the end-use,” he said.

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