Zargar (52), is originally from Srinagar. He was among the three terrorists released by India in exchange for the hostages in the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 in 1999.
Who is Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar?
Born in Nowhatta area of Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley, Zargar was among the first batch of young Kashmiris who crossed over to Pakistan for terrorist training, and came back to wage war against the Indian state.
In 1988, Zargar joined the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), and was considered to be close to its then chief Ashfaq Majeed Wani. In August that year, he crossed over to Pakistan through Trehgam with the help of Zahoor Sheikh, an Anantnag-based activist of the Secessionist People’s League, and received training at a camp organized by the JKLF.
He went back to Pakistan for a second round of training during May 1989, and returned through Uri.
After Wani’s death, Zargar fell out with JKLF’s new chief Yasin Malik, and floated his own outfit, the Al Umar Mujahideen (AuM).
What kind of terrorist activities was he involved in?
Following his return, Zargar engaged in various terrorist activities in the Valley as part of the JKLF. The most high-profile of them was the December 1989 kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. The Indian government was forced to release several jailed terrorists in exchange for Rubaiya’s release at the time.
According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Zargar is reported to have executed several attacks on security forces personnel and high ranking Kashmir officials, and carried out a series of murders of Kashmiri Pandits.
Zargar is responsible for over 40 murders, and was a key figure in the terrorist ascendancy in downtown Srinagar. As security forces cracked down on his network, many of his associates were killed in the early 90s, and Zargar himself was arrested in 1992.
Apart from attacks on civilians and security forces, Zargar, according to SATP, also indulged in extortion and used his “influence” to intervene in local business and property disputes in Srinagar. At least seven abductions for ransom are attributed to him. In one instance, Zargar reportedly ordered a ban on the use of Maruti vehicles in Srinagar in order to help a Srinagar businessman who held the dealership for a rival motor company.
On the eve of Legislative Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir during September-October 2002, the ISI reportedly appointed Zargar as the ‘chief coordinator’ to carry out attacks on candidates and political parties.
What happened after his release from jail?
Zargar was among the three terrorists released by the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in December 1999 in exchange for the hostages on IC 814 that five Pakistan-based terrorists had hijacked.
The other two terrorists who were released were Masood Azhar, who went on to find the Jaish-e-Mohammed soon afterward, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was later convicted of the kidnapping and murder of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. .
After he was handed over to the Taliban on the tarmac in Kandahar, Zargar got back to Pakistan and is understood to have set up his base in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He revived the AuM, drawing recruits from Kashmir, and also grew closer to Masood Azhar’s JeM. AuM, however, remained largely dormant for several years, and its activities have been noticed again only relatively recently.
What has Zargar been up to of late?
AuM began figuring on the radar of agencies prominently after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016. Since then, the outfit has claimed responsibility of many terrorist attacks on security forces in the Valley.
In 2016, alleged AuM operatives attacked an Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) convoy in Srinagar, killing one jawan and injuring several others. Similar attacks followed in subsequent years. In 2019, two terrorists suspected to be from AuM attacked a Road Opening Party of the CRPF in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, leading to the deaths of five personnel.
According to security agencies, Zargar has been actively coordinating with JeM operatives to launch attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. The Ministry of Home Affairs Notification designating him as a terrorist said, “Zargar has been running an incessant campaign from Pakistan to fuel terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir… Zargar is a threat to peace, not only to India, but across the world, with his contacts and proximity to radical terrorist groups like the Al-Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed. “
What changes as a result of Zargar’s designation as a terrorist under UAPA?
The designation of individuals as terrorists is in keeping with international norms and laws. The United Nations designates individuals as terrorists, and the United States Department of State has a list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The government has earlier said this would help clamp down on the financial resources and assets of terrorist individuals even if they are not associated with an organization, or if they dissolve a banned organization and float another with a different name and form.
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