The Asian Age – Create environment of peace in Kashmir: Jama Masjid Imam to Centre

He warned and cautioned that the Kashmir issue can neither be solved through guns and stones nor through military expeditions.

New Delhi, 15 July 2017. The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in the Walled City of Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, has written a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in which he has urged the Centre to take immediate steps to end the volatile atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley, and create an environment of peace.

“The Kashmir situation is becoming volatile day by day, resulting in an increase in tensions between the two countries (India and Pakistan) as days pass. I think that more delay in the creation of a favorable environment for peace shall make the settlement of the Kashmir issue more difficult,” Bukhari said in his letter.

“Therefore, with all the intellect, wisdom and prudence at our disposal, we must make every effort to safe Kashmir from the dangerous destruction and devastation it faces and pave the way for the establishment of peace there.

The common people of Kashmir are in a state of terror and helplessness as they find their dreams for peace shattered,” he added.

Bukhari further said that, “As a paradise on earth, the once peaceful valley known for its joyous life has today become a valley of tears Thousands of people are living, under the shadow of AK-47, a life besieged by bloodshed.
Today, it has become unbelievable that people all over the world once considered the Kashmir Valley as the paradise on earth as today it has become an abattoir. This game of death and destruction is making the situation graver. The only realistic recourse is peace and parleys.”

Maintaining that millions of Indian Muslims are facing a trying situation, Bukhari appealed to Rajnath Singh and the Centre to ease tension on the borders, normalise the situation and initiate a dialogue with Pakistan.

He warned and cautioned that the Kashmir issue can neither be solved through guns and stones nor through military expeditions.

“We should create an environment conducive for the talks at the earliest. Through exchange of views and dialogue on the larger issues, we all should formulate a strategy that is in the interest of both nations,” he said.

“What I perceive in the context of the current situation is that positive measures aimed to ensure the dialogue process are needed, keeping in view the interests of the two countries and their people.

I request you to kindly persuade the militant youth and Hurriyat leaders to agree for a ceasefire through your good offices and influence,” he concluded.

The Indian Express – Police informant’s killing 2 months ago may hold key to attack on Amarnath yatris

War within Lashkar-e-Taiba may have led its ‘commanders’ to hit Amarnath Yatra

Praveen Swami

New Delhi, 14 July 2017. Muhammad Yusuf Dar was buried on the third Friday of May, at his ancestral graveyard in the village of Gadoora, as a few dozen local residents stood by shouting slogans in support of Kashmir’s independence.

His body had been found lying in the fields the previous day, ripped apart by bullets, killed by the men he had risked his life to serve.

Now, as J&K Police and intelligence services investigate Monday’s Amarnath Yatra attack, in which seven pilgrims were killed, one question has emerged as key: what led jihad commanders to raise the stakes by executing the first strike on religious pilgrims since 2006?

The answer could lie in the story of that man buried in Gadoora, a committed jihadist, and at the same time, a police spy.

For years now, jihadists have described the Yatra as part of a Hindutva plot to displace Muslims from the Valley, although such messages were rarely acted on.

But an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed that a grim war within Lashkar-e-Taiba, which claimed Dar’s life, may have led its commanders to finally target the pilgrimage in a bid to establish their ideological legitimacy before their followers.

A committed political Islamist, Dar was known to police for providing shelter and assistance to jihadist groups operating in and around his village. His relationship with Pakistani national Abdul Rehman, the LeT commander code-named Abu Qasim who took charge of South Kashmir in 2010-2011, was said to be intimate.

In 2013, sources familiar with the case say, police found their way in, when Syed Abdul Shabir, Station House Officer of Chadoora, was killed by three gunmen at a hardware store in the local bazaar.

Police detained Dar, sources say, and threatened to prosecute him for murder, even though evidence of his involvement was not compelling. “He flatly refused to cooperate,” said an officer.

But the pressure finally worked: police in Pulwama cut a deal, sources say, through which Dar began to give them information on imminent LeT attacks, in return for protection against raids and harassment.

“There was, let us say, an arrangement, that Abu Qasim would be left alone as the price for cooperation. Either Qasim didn’t know, which isn’t likely, or he was willing to pay this price for his own safety,” said a senior officer involved in running Dar.

Following an attack at Srinagar’s Hyderpora bypass, which claimed the life of eight soldiers, what had been a local deal became a key intelligence operation. Information from Dar, intelligence and police sources say, helped terminate at least six fidayeen operations, with LeT operatives being eliminated before attacks could begin.

Police informant’s killing 2 months ago may hold key to attack on Amarnath yatris

Dawn – Footprints: Tolerance is still alive in held Kashmir

Fahad Shah

Srinaga, 14 July 2017. The killing of Amaranth temple pilgrims in held Kashmir has shown that tolerance is still alive in the Valley irrespective of the ongoing political conflict. The public outrage regardless of the victims’ communal identity has terrified hate-mongers into silence.

The killings took place on Monday after a bus carrying 40 passengers from Gujarat state, which was not a part of the Amarnath pilgrims’ convoy, left Srinagar and came under heavy fire in Botengoo village, in southern Kashmir’s Anantnag, 60 kilometres from Srinagar. In the 30 seconds of shooting seven people were killed and 20 injured.

Amarnath Yatra is an annual Hindu pilgrimage, during which thousands of people visit a cave, located at a height of 12,756 feet in the Himalayas, to pay obeisance to Shiva. The pilgrims have to pass through a 30-kilometre trek to reach the cave, which was discovered by a Muslim family.

The pilgrimage, however, has also come under the political radar due to the ongoing conflict in Kashmir. In 2008, when a piece of land was transferred to the Amarnath Shrine Board, an uprising erupted in the Valley. Eighty civilians were killed during clashes with Indian forces. The order was later revoked.

On Monday, when the news of the killings spread across Kashmir, condemnations started pouring in from all sections of society, militant leaders included. The incident united people on an issue that is seen as a blot on the culture and ethos of Kashmiri society.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti spent Monday-Tuesday night with survivors of the attack at the Anantnag district hospital and apologised for their loss.

Eyewitness accounts and the police statement clarified that the attack was not aimed at the pilgrimage and that the bus came under fire when gunmen were attacking police and a paramilitary party.

Whether it was a targeted attack or not, seven people who were returning from the Amarnath shrine were shot dead.

Security lapse

Questions have been raised about the security lapse as the pilgrimage is a heavily guarded annual event. Jammu and Kashmir’s deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh told NDTV that the attack came as a shock to the nation.

“Yes, definitely this is a big lapse. We have to enquire why the bus left at 5 pm, why it was allowed to take to the road after sunset,” he wondered, echoing the feelings of many others.

Questions are also being targeted at the PDP-BJP coalition government, with former chief minister Omar Abdullah saying that New Delhi needed to take a long, hard look at the deterioration in the situation after installation of Mehbooba Mufti as chief minister.

The situation in Kashmir has been extremely volatile since the killing of popular rebel commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year. In the bloodshed following his killing, at least 100 civilians were shot dead during clashes with Indian forces and 15,000 were injured.

The Monday killings are, however, being seen as isolated and unpremeditated.

The government has stepped up security around Amarnath Yatra, whose one route passes through southern Kashmir, the most volatile areas of the region.

In the Valley, militancy is on the rise and the number of protests has swelled. For the first time in many years, two militants from Srinagar were shot dead on Wednesday night.

The attack on pilgrims has come at a time when the Valley is battling a political crisis, a rage of youth against the government and growing incidents of violence.

While Kashmiris did question whether the attack was on pilgrims or not, they lost no time to come out against the attackers, largely calling it as an act of terror. It shows the political movement in Kashmir has come a long way and religious differences do not play a role.

Although Kashmiris have been able to separate religion from politics, a new wave, led by former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa, has found takers among the youth. His assertion that the ongoing movement is for an “Islamic caliphate”, and not for a nation state, is reverberating in many parts of Kashmir.

It is in this backdrop that the mature response by Kashmiris to the killing of pilgrims is being seen as a positive development.

In addition to the widespread condemnation over social media platforms, Kashmiris organised a sit-in on Tuesday evening in which several civil society members, human rights activists, journalists and students, participated.

The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights group, has called for a probe by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

There have been major human rights violations in Kashmir over the past 30 years since the armed uprising started in 1989. There has been a persistent demand that Pakistan and India allow the UNHRC to send a fact-finding mission to Kashmir.

The issue of human rights violations in Kashmir has been a major concern for everyone, but hardly any corrective measure has been taken to stop it or an investigation carried out.

The Monday attack should be a starting point for carrying out investigations into all killings and human rights violations.

Kashmir has always welcomed Hindu pilgrims and will not tolerate any act of terror against people of other faith.

The people of Kashmir can understand the feelings of those whose kin were killed this week and how it feels when justice is not delivered in such cases.

The Hindu – India must move back: China

Foreign Ministry says stand-off can be ended at an early date if this happens

Atul Aneja

Beijing, 12 July 2017. China on Wednesday signalled its intent to end the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam area at an early date, if Indian forces withdraw to what it called the “Indian side of the boundary”.

Adopting a less harsh tone than in the recent past, when it had characterised India’s alleged intrusion into Chinese territory as a “betrayal” and insisted that the withdrawal of Indian forces was a “precondition” for talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said: “We once again require India to withdraw the border troops to the Indian side of the boundary and properly settle this dispute at an early date.”

Responding to remarks by the former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon during an interview with The Hindu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the current face-off was different from the past.

“China has pointed out many times the illegal trespass of Indian border troops of the mutually recognised border line into China’s territory.

This is different in nature from the frictions that happened in the undefined sections of the boundary. The Sikkim section has special historical background and this is the only defined boundary between China and India. And this is different from the undefined boundary in the east, middle, and west,” he said.

“According to the 1890 convention, the boundary has been defined and both Chinese and Indian governments have recognised this. And this convention is effective for both countries.”

The stand-off is happening near the western tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China.

“The Sikkim tri-junction is basically the watershed between the Amo (also called the Torsa river) and the Teesta rivers in the Chumbi Valley, so it is clear, and parts of it have been settled.

Since 1960, when this was discussed, both sides have constantly said that this boundary is not such a problem. But the tri-junction remained to be settled, and that is a part of the issue,” Mr. Menon said.

Separately, asked to comment on whether China was ready to engage in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, in the wake of the recent exchange of fire across the Line of Control (LoC), Mr. Geng said: “China is willing to play a constructive role in improving relations between India and Pakistan.”

Kashmir issue

Significantly, he also highlighted the Kashmir dispute outside its bilateral context, by pointing out that it had attracted the attention of the “international community”. Besides, Mr Geng flagged the exchange of fire across the Line of Control (LoC) as a factor undermining “regional stability.”

“Both India and Pakistan are important countries in South Asia. The conflicts occurred near the Line of Control, Kashmir. This will not only harm the peace and stability of the two countries but also the peace and tranquillity of the region.”

The spokesperson hoped that “the relevant sides can do more things that are conducive to the peace and stability of the region and avoid the escalation of tensions”.

The Hindu – Seven Amarnath pilgrims killed in terror attack

Hospital sources say six pilgrims were killed in the attack and one died of injuries in hospital

Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar, 11 July 2017. Seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 12 injured when terrorists opened fire at a patrol vehicle on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway on Monday night. A police official said the vehicle came under fire at Anantnag’s Batengo area around 8.30 pm.

The attack took place when quick response teams of the Army had withdrawn from the highway around sunset, making the vehicle vulnerable.

“A mini-bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims also got hit in the militant fire,” said the police official.

Batengo is a small stopover at Khanabal with sparse population and large swathes of fields.

Hospital sources said six pilgrims were killed in the attack and later one died of injuries in hospital. Three of those injured were in a critical state.

Six of the seven killed were from Gujarat’s Valsad district. According to sources, there were 60 passengers in the bus and were all mostly from Surat, Valsad and Daman. The bus belonged to Om travels in Valsad in South Gujarat. The bus left Gujarat on 2nd July. Darshan was completed day before yesterday.

“Six people killed in the terrorist attack are from Valsad,” said Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. He added, “bodies of Amarnath Pilgrims killed in Anantnag terror attack along with injured will be flown to Gujarat by IAF plane.”

The mini-bus was proceeding from Jammu to Srinagar.

An official said it was not registered with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and was travelling against the advisory not to ply after sunset.

The police had asked all vehicles carrying pilgrims to cross the Jawahar Tunnel in daylight and avoid travelling in the Valley after sundown.

Meanwhile, political parties have condemned the attack. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said it was an attack on Kashmir’s culture and value system. “No stone will be left unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she said.

“These terrorists are the enemies of Kashmir & Kashmiriyat. Every right-thinking Kashmiri must today condemn the killing of the Amarnath yatris and say, unequivocally — this is #NotInMyName,” wrote former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Twitter.

The Centre said it had not taken any decision on calling off the yatra.

CRPF DG R.R Bhatnagar told The Hindu that any decision to “call off or continue” the yatra would be taken by the State government. CRPF is one of the main security forces deployed along the 40-day annual Yatra.

With inputs from Vijaita Singh, Mahesh Langa and PTI

The Indian Express – Nearly 20,000 Sikhs gather at religious congregation in J&K’s Poonch, pray for peace

The crowd gathered despite heavy mortar shelling and automatic weapons fire by Pakistani troops on Saturday which led to the death of a Territorial Army (TA) jawan along with his wife and injuries to three minor girls.

Arun Sharma

Jammu, 9 July 2017. Nearly 20,000 Sikhs, including women and children, gathered at Chakkan Da Bagh, Khari Dharamsal village in Poonch sector, Jammu and Kashmir, and prayed for peace and transquilty in the area on Sunday.

The crowd gathered despite heavy mortar shelling and automatic weapons fire by Pakistani troops on Saturday which led to the death of a Territorial Army (TA) jawan along with his wife and injuries to three minor girls.

The people came from different parts of J&K to join the concluding function of Akhand Path, a 42-day long religious congregation going on in the village, hardly 30 kms from the barbed wire fence along the LoC.

They also conveyed their sympathies to the bereaved families whose members had died in Pakistani shelling in the past and prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls. Karmara village, which falls less than 200 meters from the site of the congregation, has witnessed indiscriminate mortar shelling by Pakistan.

There had been small arms fire by Pakistani troops on the Indian side in the area on Saturday night also and the gun shots were audible to people attending the Akhand Path at Khari Dharamsal.

The unsuccessful BAT action by Pakistani troops last month, in which two Indian soldiers and two intruders were killed in exchange of fire between two sides, too had taken place in Khari Karmara area, nearly 200 mts from the place congregation had been in progress.

“It was our faith that prevailed upon the scare of cross border mortar shelling and small arms fire, otherwise there had been nearly a dozen incidents of ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops in the area since May 28 last,” said Jagpreet Singh, an employee of the revenue department.

There had been community kitchen (langer) also round the clock, as also medical camp for local people, he said.

The practice of holding annual congregation along the LoC had started in 1995 in the name of Sant Bhai Bahadur Singh Ji who came to to Khari Dharamsal in the 18th century and established his Dera there.

As many a local people and devotees used to visit him to participate in daily satsang and listen to his sermons, he got a dharamsal constructed at the present place for brief stay on the people passing through the area.

Nearly 20,000 Sikhs gather at religious congregation in J&K’s Poonch, pray for peace

The Hindustan Times – Humsafar Express runs too fast on debut, leaves 23 chasing from Jalandhar to Ludhiana

Humsafar Express
From Jammu Tawi in Jammu & Kashmir
to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh

The luxury Express reached Jalandhar Cantonment station at 8.40 am, an hour ahead of schedule, and left after a five-minute halt. It was scheduled to reach Ludhiana at 10.55am but it gathered even more time and reached at 9.28am after a 43-minute dash.

Amarpal Singh

Hindustan Times, Ludhiana, 1 July 2017. You’ve most likely heard of trains being late. You may also have heard of people reaching late for their train.

Here’s something rather rare. On its first regular run on Friday, the Humsafar Express (Jammu Tawi J&K – Tirupati AP) was running faster by an hour and more against it scheduled time, which meant that 23 people in Jalandhar missed it. In fact, the train reached Ludhiana, around 60 km ahead, even before its scheduled timing for Jalandhar!

The luxury Express reached Jalandhar Cantonment station at 8.40 am, an hour ahead of schedule, and left after a five-minute halt. It was scheduled to reach Ludhiana at 10.55am but, it gathered even more time, and reached at 9.28am after a 43-minute dash. This was 87 minutes, nearly an hour and a half, ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, 23 people were left stranded in Jalandhar as the train had come and gone. It was then kept waiting for these passengers at Ludhiana, who were brought there in another train (Paschim Express) on the route, said divisional traffic manager SP Bhatia. The train departed from Ludhiana at its schedule time (11am).

Railway officials who did not want to be named said that the timetable was not updated in the system since it was the first run. Another senior official said the mismanagement was “properly dealt with”. “We took care that passengers should not face any inconvenience. The timetable was updated later,” he said.

Meanwhile, when Humsafar Express halted at platform 1 at Ludhiana ahead of its schedule, other trains (Amrapali Express and Amritsar-New Delhi Inter-City) that were to arrive at the platform were halted at another one.

Dawn – ‘Trump-Modi nexus’ could spell disaster for regional peace: AJK president

Tariq Naqash

Muzaffarabad, 27 June 2017. Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan in a statement on Tuesday warned that a “Trump-Modi nexus” could spell disaster to regional peace.

The statement follows a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to which the US State Department had designated Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and slapped sanctions on him, a move slammed by the Foreign Office today as ‘completely unjustified’.

Both leaders had called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, a statement from the White House said.

Sardar Khan, who retired from the foreign service of Pakistan as a career diplomat, claimed that the US had always deceived Pakistan and its latest decision was yet another example of it.

“The US has never acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices despite the latter’s being a frontline state in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Khan questioned the justification of the US decision, claiming that the Hizbul Mujahideen had been struggling solely for freedom of India-held Kashmir (IHK), and was neither linked to any terrorist group nor had resorted to any action outside IHK.

“In fact, it’s the Indian army committing terrorism in occupied Kashmir. Ignoring the genocide of Kashmiris by Indian army and declaring freedom fighters as terrorists is a criminal departure from international humanitarian and democratic norms by the US,” he claimed.

Kashmiris protest US move

Hundreds of people from different walks of life staged a rally in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to condemn the US administration’s decision of designating Salahuddin a terrorist.

Demonstrators started the rally from Muzaffarabad’s famous Burhan Wani Chowk, named after a Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was killed by Indian forces in IHK last year.

Just in front of them, a large Indian tricolour flag was also placed on the ground with two young children standing on it.

Amid loud anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, it was later torched by the demonstrators.

Representatives of separatist groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they termed a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.

Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a former AJK minister, claimed it was the weak foreign policy of the PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged the Trump administration to take this step during Modi’s visit.

“If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in the Foreign Office to lodge a protest over this unfair decision,” he said, addressing the federal government.

Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.

“All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one,” he said.

PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.

The Hindu – Dutch accused stymies efforts at justice for murdered British tourist

Doctors term De Wit mentally unwell; lawyers say he is manipulating judiciary

Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar, 10 June 2017. The trial in the 2013 murder of 25-year-old British tourist Sarah Groves, has been stalled once again with lawyers and doctors divided on the condition of the accused, Richard De Wit from the Netherlands.

De Wit, 47, has been accused of stabbing Sarah Groves over 40 times on the intervening night of April 5- 6 in 2013 in a houseboat belonging to her boyfriend, Saeed Ahmad Shoda.

After 93 scheduled hearing the case remains inconclusive.

A team of psychiatrists, who examined De Wit on April 12 and April 15, 2013 were convinced that he was mentally unstable. The medical records, accessed by The Hindu, diagnose him with “paranoid schizophrenia with substance misuse”, “delusional disorder with substance misuse” or paranoid personality with substance misuse.

“The diagnosis is provisional and needs to be confirmed by corroborative history (from Netherlands),” the doctors said.

Courts misled

However, legal experts disagree and contend that De Wit is an extremely clever criminal who is exploiting the system to his advantage.

“De Wit is playing with the court. Many lawyers have failed to earn his confidence all these years. He bothers judges in the court. He is so particular about every detail, especially money matters. He is extraordinarily clever. He knows what he is doing,” lawyer Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, amicus curiae in the case, told The Hindu.

In his latest instance of refusal to cooperate with the courts, De Wit last week began a hunger strike and has stopped taking medicine for his psychiatric condition, seeking immediate hospitalisation at the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital in Srinagar.

Chequered past

According to the statement recorded by doctors after the murder, De Wit was married to a Thai woman with whom he had two children “but was unemployed and on disability benefits”. He was allegedly a member of a right-wing party in the Netherlands and elected as a councillor and served as such for three years.

“He first ran away to Switzerland then to Kenya, where he started a relationship with a Kenyan national, who after five weeks claimed that she was pregnant. But Mr Richard said he could not father a child as he was being poisoned by the Dutch government for quite some time, which had rendered him impotent,” the report said.

He later left for Tanzania and then travelled to Malawi, Mozambique, Harare, Dubai and Nepal before reaching Srinagar. His passport corroborates this time line.

Apparently delusional, he told doctors that the Dutch government “continues to monitor and follow him and engage spies from his friends and relatives to keep a watch”.

On the fourth day of his Srinagar stay, De Wit met the victim Sarah Groves for the first time on the New Beauty houseboat. “He believed she might have been a part of plot and the Dutch government might have hired her to keep an eye on him. He admitted using cannabis and heroine during the stay,” the report says.

He also insisted that he “would not be given a fair trial in his country” and would be “sentenced even if proved not guilty”.

The Dutch government has denied following him.

An online campaign for justice for the victim, run her family and friends has called into question the whole.

After the hearing on Thursday, with De Wit’s latest obstruction, the family wrote: “…there have been many occasions when the trial has been called into question and could have totally collapsed. Many times, we have said ‘Can it possibly reach a safe conclusion?’.

Along the way there have been many factors that made us think that way, Richard de Wit’s physical and mental health being one of them. Current indications, once again, must call the trial into question in its current form. The consequences for us as a family of the trial collapsing are very serious indeed.”

The Hindu – Man in Pakistan custody came under the Anti-Terrorism Squad scanner in 2003

He went missing in 2006 and later that year crossed the border, say police

Rupanwita Bhattacharjee

Mumbai, 22 May 2017. Nabi Ahmed Sheikh, the Mumbai native who has been arrested in Pakistan for allegedly staying in the country with invalid documents, was under the scanner of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2003 and crossed the Jammu border to enter Pakistan three years later, senior officers confirmed to The Hindu on Monday.

Sheikh, a native of Jogeshwari in Mumbai, was arrested in Islamabad on May 19 after a routine screening at a checkpost revealed that he did not have a valid visa and other documents to enter Pakistan.

A highly placed source said, “Sheikh was last seen in Mumbai in early 2006 and later crossed the Jammu border to go to Pakistan. We have had multiple confirmations of this fact.”

To Dubai, for a job

Sources said Sheikh left his residence telling his family that he was going to Dubai for a job opportunity. His brother was accompanying him to the Mumbai airport the day he left but Sheikh made him to get off the cab on the way and was never heard from since then. Shortly thereafter, investigating agencies learned that he had entered Pakistan through the Jammu border.

ATS officers said he first came under the scanner of multiple investigative agencies in 2002-2003, when the December 2002 Ghatkopar blasts were being investigated.

“A group of young men from Jogeshwari (east) were picked up for inquiries at the time in connection with the blasts in Mumbai for their affiliations to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was ultimately found to be behind the blasts.

The interrogation of these men had revealed Sheikh as a suspect and he had been under the scanner since then,” an ATS officer said.

Residents of Sheikh’s locality in Jogeshwari, too, said they had not seen him for years together. Iqbal Ahmed Sheikh, who grew up with Sheikh, or ‘Taj’ as he was called in the area, said, “He was very obedient as a child but he suddenly changed in his late teens.

I started hearing he was involved in illegal activities and his family was shunned by everyone. Nobody wanted to marry his sister, who is well educated and a professor. His father left them years earlier and his mother and siblings, too, moved out later.”

Mehroon Sheikh, another neighbour, said, “Taj used to help his father in his embroidery business. We used to have good relations with his family till they left the area.”

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad has spoken to Pakistan’s Foreign Office twice since the arrest of Sheikh Nabi came to light. The Sources told The Hindu that the High Commission contacted the foreign office on Sunday and Monday to share details of the person arrested and requested consular access to him so they can ascertain his identity.

Pakistan police had arrested a man they said was Indian national Sheikh Nabi over incomplete travel documents. Nabi was arrested from the F-8 sector in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad and booked under the Foreigner’s Act 1946 and then sent to 14-days of judicial custody.Meanwhile Ministry of External Affairs has refused to comment.

With inputs from Mubashar Zaidi