Infiltration of third-party goods, channeling funds and arms for terrorists, clandestine trade of drugs and pumping fake currencies were among some compelling reasons, which left India with no other option but to suspend the Line of Control (LoC) trade with Pakistan, said sources in Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday.
“LoC trade across Chakkan-Da-Bagh and Salamabad was intended to be a confidence-building measure for the population living in remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir and living across LoC in PoJK and J-K. However, third parties manipulated the trade and misused the facility for trading goods being produced from outside Jammu and Kashmir,” said sources.
“For example, the almonds produced in California, US, were finding their way through LoC trade involving a large transport network spread in many countries. It was defeating the positive purpose with which the LoC trade had been initiated,” sources said.
According to sources, channeling of funds and arms for terror outfits through LoC was another serious reason, which forced the MHA to suspend LoC trade.
“The charge-sheeting of businessman Zahoo Ahmed Watali, who was president of LoC traders association, established the fact that how money was being channelised to terrorists, separatists and subversive elements in the Valley,” sources said.
It is worth mentioning that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has already attached his property worth crores. Further investigations are still on.
National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also decoded the modus operandi of dubious hawala transactions for terror financing. “The inimical elements on Pakistan side identify a suitable Pakistani trader firm and hand over the money that is to be transferred to anti-national elements and terrorist outfits on the Indian side,” they said.
“Pakistani trader under invoices the products like California almonds to the extent of money received by him. On receipt of the consignment, the trader on the Indian side sells California almonds at the prevailing market price and makes an extra and undue profit to the extent of under-invoicing. Extra money so generated is handed over by the trader to anti-national elements and terrorist organisations in the Valley to fuel anti-India operations,” sources said.
It has also been revealed that a significant number of trading concerns engaging in cross LoC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organisations, especially Hizbul Mujahideen.
Sources said that some Indian nationals who have crossed over to Pakistan and joined militant organisations have opened trading firms in Pakistan. As a result, many trading firms under the control of militant organisations are doing LoC trade with Indian trade firms that are being operated by their own relatives in the Indian side.
MHA sources said that cross LoC trade was also being used as a regular channel of funneling of drugs such as cocaine, brown sugar and heroin into the Valley adversely impacting the youth, thereby converting many of them into addicts of such life-threatening drugs. Very recently, 66.5 kg of heroin was seized from a Valley-based consignee and the drugs came through the LoC trade.
Sources added that cross LoC trade was also being exploited for periodically smuggling arms and ammunition into the Valley. Numerous seizures have been made of pistols, grenades, spares, and ammunition. Recently a large cache of arms that was concealed in a consignment of bananas was seized from across LoC driver from Kulgam in the Valley.
Pumping of fake currency notes was another area of concern, which forced the MHA to stop cross LoC trade. In different consignments passing through LoC trade, Rs 57 lakh, Rs 20 lakh, Rs 15 lakh, and Rs 7.5 lakh of fake currency notes have also been seized and over a dozen of people have been arrested, sources said.
“In the light of such a large-scale misuse and loopholes being exploited for illegal and anti-national activities, the Government of India has been compelled to suspend the LoC trade. The Centre will revisit the issue of resuming LoC trade after stricter measures and systems are put in place to address these issues,” sources said.
“New measures are expected to restore the benefit of LoC trade to local population only, rather than allowing terrorist organisations and unscrupulous traders based far away from these trading points to siphon off the benefits and fuel instability in the Valley,” they said.
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday issued orders to suspend the LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir with effect from April 19. “This action has been taken as the Government of India has been receiving reports that the cross LoC trade routes are being misused by the Pakistan based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics, and fake currency, etc,” MHA had said in an official statement
It may be recalled that the LoC trade is meant to facilitate the exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. The trade is allowed through two trade facilitation centres located at Salamabad, Uri, district Baramulla, and Chakkan-da-Bagh, district Poonch. The trade takes place four days a week. The trade is based on the barter system and zero duty basis.