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Friday, August 10, 2012

Omar Govt’s Eid gift to Dukhtaraan chief

Wanchoo murder convict, Faktoo being released next week

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 9: Muslim League leader and former chief spokesman of the dreaded militant group Jamiatul Mujahideen, Ashiq Hussain Faktoo alias Dr Qasim, who is also the Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi’s husband, is likely to be released from over 10-year-long imprisonment in jail next week.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that that the state Home Department, with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah holding the Home portfolio, was asking different wings of J&K Police to set Faktoo free before the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr on August 19th. Sources disclosed that unlike in 2010 and 2011, Government was actively considering release of over a dozen separatist political detainees and Faktoo was one among them.

Currently lodged in Srinagar Central Jail, Faktoo has served life term awarded to him by Supreme Court of India for killing noted human rights activist Hriday Nath Wanchoo. Authorities have not released him for fear of Faktoo’s potential in fomenting trouble and rejuvenating Valley’s separatist movement.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had launched a sustained campaign earlier this year for Faktoo’s release. Even as he was once shifted from Srinagar Central Jail to a Police detention centre at Humhama, indicating his release in 2010, Faktoo was returned to his imprisonment when the situation was improving after four month-long street turmoil.

Faktoo has the distinction of being J&K’s first prisoner who has completed his Ph D during the course of his detention. University of Kashmir has awarded him degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Islamic Studies.

After his Bachelor’s in Commerce in 1987, Faktoo was introduced to militancy by Mohammad Abdullah Bangroo alias Khalidul Islam, one of the top commanders of the Hizbul Mujahideen. In 1990, he was appointed Hizbul Mujahideen’s spokesman. This association didn’t last long. A few months later, he, with two others, broke away to launch the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Faktoo was made its first spokesman. He operated with pseudonym of Dr Qasim.

In October 1990, Faktoo married Syeda Aasiya Andrabi, chairperson of women’s separatist organization Dukhtran-i-Millat. In February 1993, he was arrested alongwith his wife and their child on arrival from Maharashtra at Srinagar Airport. While Aasiya Andrabi and the child, Mohammad, were released after 13 months, Faktoo was booked under PSA and later prosecuted for the killing of human rights activist H N Wanchoo. In March 1999, he was released on bail and became the first militant leader to float the idea of an indigenous separatist movement independent of Pakistan. He visited his relatives in London but was arrested on his return at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, allegedly with a huge consignment of money.

In July 2001, the TADA court in Jammu acquitted him in the Wanchoo murder case. Dr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference government fought a sustained legal battle from J&K High Court to Supreme Court of India to ensure that Faktoo was punished for his involvement in eliminating Wanchoo. Finally, in 2003, the Supreme Court held Faktoo guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Having served his term, he has not been released. However, on his petition, J-K High Court had asked the state government to consider his release. In the face of Government’s failure, Geelani had launched a campaign to seek Faktoo’s release.  

Police had claimed last year that Faktoo was among the people and militants who planned Jamiat Ahle Hadith chief Maulana Showkat’s killing in an IED blast at Maisuma, in Srinagar, on April 8th, 2011. However, SSP Srinagar Ashiq Bukhari dropped the charge against him when he personally questioned Faktoo and learned that he had no role in Maulana Showkat’s killing. It is not immediately clear whether Faktoo alias Dr Qasim, now one of the highest profile separatists in J&K, would carry out his political activity independent of Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference or join the hardline conglomerate.


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