The Delhi Police on Saturday claimed in the face of the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s assertions with regard to the arrest of Kashmiri militant Liaquat, that they had ample evidence to show he had started out from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He had boarded a Pakistan Airways flight using a forged passport, reached Nepal from where he crossed over to India via Sonauali, and was arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell at Gorakhpur in coordination the Sashastra Seema Bal. The Delhi Police said that during interrogation he disclosed he had reached Nepal on March 19, and then destroyed his forged Pakistan passport.

“There was no official communication from the J&K Police. If they were aware of Liaquat’s plans to surrender, why didn’t they make any arrangements for his smooth transition from Pakistan to their State? They could have sent representatives to the Indo-Nepal border to receive him or coordinated with their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and other States like Delhi, Haryana and Punjab to avert any problem. The militant could also have directly crossed the border from Pakistan to the Valley,” said a Delhi Police officer. The officer asked whether the J&K Police had any proof to show Liaquat had written to the State expressing willingness to surrender. “When did they come to know that he was on his way to give himself up?” he asked.

“After reaching India, he made a phone call to someone in Pakistan. At his instance, we carried out a search in a guesthouse, and from one of the rooms seized an AK-56 rifle, two magazines, some plastic explosives, three hand grenades and a map. We also found there a public telephone booth receipt revealing that the person staying there had called up the same number dialled by Liaquat. The militant had been asked to meet the person staying at that guesthouse,” said the officer. Police sources said the AK-series rifle is of Chinese make, but they could not share further details on the seizures -- including the hand grenades -- stating that they were immediately sealed as per law.

At the guest house

Haji Arafat, in whose name the guest house is being run in Gali Khanakhana near Jama Masjid in the Walled City of Delhi, told The Hindu that around 4 p.m. on March 20, a man aged around 25-26 years and of whitish complexion, checked in with one handbag. He gave identification proof. Details filled out by the person, Mr. Arafat claimed, were there in the register which is with the Special Cell.

Explaining in detail the movement of this person, Mr. Arafat said he went out of the room not more than twice; first on the night of March 20 and then the next morning. The person was later seen with two bags. He left the room for the last time around 6 p.m. on March 21, without checking out and leaving the bags in the room (Room No: 304). The police came later that night looking for the person.

Following police searches, the guest house has not been receiving any customers. Most of the hotels and guest houses in the vicinity have got CCTV cameras installed at the entry gates and receptions, but no cameras were found installed along the street leading to the Haji Arafat Guest House.

The 2.27-minute CCTV footage shared by the police with the media is inconclusive in identifying the person. The suspect, clad in T-shirt and jeans, can be seen climbing the stairs up to the reception area at 4:01:30 hours on March 20. But he wears a cap and keeps his head down throughout the conversation with the guest house staff, suggesting that he was mindful of the fact that his movements were being recorded.

Family’s version

Meanwhile, authoritative sources in Srinagar told The Hindu that Liaquat’s wife, 50-year-old Akhtar Nissa, had reached her home district of Kupwara along with her speech and hearing-impaired daughter Jabeena Gilani (20). Ms. Nissa, whose parents live in Kralpora village of Kupwara, reported at the Lalpora police station. She told the police Jabeena was her daughter from her first husband in Kupwara. According to her recorded statement, she went to Pakistan in 2006 and married Liaquat. She said she had no children from her second husband, who had crossed over to the PoK in 1997 after working as an active militant in Kupwara for about a year.Liaquat’s first wife, Amina Begum, has been living at his home in Dardpora village with two of her sons, Shabir Hussain (22) and Saddam Hussain (16).

Informed sources said Mohammad Ashraf Mir alias Shaheen, who was also a militant and was returning to Kashmir with his family via Kathmandu when Liaquat was arrested, reached Srinagar on Saturday. He surrendered before Superintendent of Police, Counter Intelligence Kashmir, Junaid Mehmood, along with his Pakistani wife Fauzia of Mansehra, and five children.

A senior police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Hindu that Ashraf of Argam, Bandipore, his family and Liaquat’s wife Ms. Nissa narrated how the group had travelled by air from Karachi to Kathmandu earlier this month.

According to the police officer, Liaquat and Ashraf informed the SSB authorities they were going to surrender before the J&K Police. Ms. Nissa told the police all members of the group travelled on fake Pakistani passports. These were destroyed before the group reached the Indo-Nepal border in Gorakhpur. According to her, Liaquat was taken into custody by the authorities and others were allowed to travel to J&K.

The J&K Police official claimed that Liaquat’s family had first applied on February 5, 2011 for permission for his return and surrender under the 2010 policy. The application was processed and forwarded to IGP CID of the J&K Police on February 28, 2011. As it remained “under process” between the Indian and the Pakistani authorities for a long time, Liaquat’s family approached the Lalpora police station and informed the Station House Officer as well as SP Kupwara about his intention to return and surrender.

“On March 7, Liaquat’s family approached us along with [the] village headman and the sarpanch to inform that he was returning. All Police, Army and intelligence agencies here, including Commander of Sector 7 of Army at Cherkote Kupwara, had information about his arrival via Nepal. We were waiting for his surrender when we were told the other day that he had been arrested by Delhi Police,” said another senior police official at Kupwara. He said the arrest by Delhi Police was “not illegal” as any agency could arrest such militants before arriving in Kashmir.

However, the seizure of the weapon, according to him, was “doubtful.” He said the State police had not made any arrangement for the travel or security of any of the 241 militants and over a thousand of their family members who had returned via the “not designated route of Nepal” since 2010 and subsequently surrendered in Kashmir.

On March 11, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah revealed in the Assembly that there were 3,974 Kashmiri militants in Pakistan and the PoK. Of them, 1,089 had applied for permission to return and surrender. Only 191 applications had been approved. During the period, 241 militants, mostly with Pakistani wives and children, had returned and surrendered, but all of them had come back via Nepal and other routes not designated under the government’s policy.

More In: National | News