Drive against hawala forces Hurriyat to shut down offices
At a time when separatists are losing the battle for relevance, effective clamp down on hawala transactions has made things worse from them. Sources said the clamp down has severely affected separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference’s finances and forced it to shut many offices and lay off employees. A Srinagar daily reported that Hurriyat has closed down its district offices in the Valley and laid off 16 employees. The conglomerate has also slashed funding to its constituents by 50%. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has even ordered the closure of the kitchen at the conglomerate’s central office in Srinagar. Sources said Mirwaiz has also asked many Hurriyat leaders to move back to their native villages to reduce the cost of their living in Srinagar. Even as he admitted to a severe financial crunch, Mirwaiz put up a brave face saying Hurriyat would create resources and take the ‘‘freedom struggle to its logical conclusion’’. Besides properties in the Valley, the Hurriyat had an office at Malviya Nagar in New Delhi. The office was closed after a split within the Hurriyat ranks. The New Delhi office’s closure was a blow to the conglomerate’s finances as it was allegedly used as a transit lodge for getting funds from the Pakistan High Commission. Delhi police have arrested several Hurriyat leaders in the past in connection with the hawala transactions. Police sources said Pakistani hawala channels dried up due to the mounting international pressure to stop terror activities in Jammu & Kashmir. ‘‘Clamp down on the hawala network used to fund various separatist groups has also worked,’’ J&K police chief Kuldeep Khoda said. He said police achieved a major breakthrough with the arrest of one Imtiyaz Bazaz in 2002. Bazaz was allegedly channelling funds to militant organisations from UK-based President of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement, Ayub Thukar.