Aafaq Ullah: ‘The Slain Militant Who Handled Hizb’s Virtual Campaign’

Mohammad Raafi

SRINAGAR

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Aafaq Ullah’s funeral. (Photos: Bilal Bahadur/KL)

Aafaq Ullah, one of the two Hizb militants killed yesterday in an encounter at Pulwama, was the one who helped Naseer Pandith, a police constable posted at house of Minister for R&B Altaf Bukhari, to flee with two Rifles, said his close relative, one among the thousands turned up for his funeral at his native village Karimabad on Tuesday.

Aafaq Ullah joined militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen in March this year and was active since then with Hizb’s Divisional Commander, Burhan Wani, the relative said.

Holding a Masters degree in Computer Science, Aafaq belonged to the family of a police head constable, Abdul Rashid Bhat.

Hailing from a sleepy Karimabad village of district Pulwama in south Kashmir, Aafaq is being recalled as a very modest person who would spend most of his time in religious activities. “He would visit youth at their homes and ask them to offer prayers in mosque. He was influenced by Tableegi Jamaat,” said Aafaq’s brother, Kifayat.

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Earlier this year, Aafaq appeared in a number of videos and photographs that went viral on social networking sites. He was seen with Hizbs’ poster boy, Burhan Wani and others, posing in fatigues somewhere in the jungle. It is said that Aafaq being a computer learned person was handling Hizb’s virtual media campaign. “He would create proxies to hide location of the Hizb group while posting pictures and videos online,” said his friend.

But before he could kick-start Hizb’s media blitzkrieg, a 26-year-old Aafaq Ullah left home on March 27 this year only to return as “martyr” seven months later. Being a diligent student of computer science, Aafaq, said his brother, was influenced by Salahuddin Ayubi, the celebrated Muslim commander who conquered Jerusalem.

Since childhood, said his friend, Aafaq would read Salahuddin’s biographies. Over the period of time, he had gathered every material on the Muslim ruler. “He would often refer to his (Salahuddin’s) quotes and instances during our usual conversations,” his friend said.

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Aafaq wasn’t ready to compromise, said his brother, Kifayat. “He wouldn’t compromise, even when his father scolded him, time and again.”

His father, Abdul Rashid, a head constable, said his slain son would repeatedly express his resentment over his police job. Sniffing his son’s intentions, the father had tried to change his mind by striking some conversations, but would get a recurring reply from Aafaq, “I am satisfied with whatever I am doing.” The father also remembers how Aafaq would confront and tell him, “You do your job and let me do my job.”

On October 26 this year, Aafaq’s seven month stint with Hizb came to an end when he along with other Hizb militant Abdul Mannan Dar of Shopian was caught in an ambush with the joint party of SOG and army. He was shot by a bullet in his right eye during a fierce gunfight. Before hit by bullet, his friends said, it was Aafaq who pulled the trigger and killed the Army JCO.

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A day after his killing, thousands turned up for his funeral. Amid tearful eyes and slogans, “Aafaq, your blood will bring revolution,” he was laid to rest.

By evening, Hizb’s chief spokesperson Hizbul Mujhadeen Burhan-u-deen told the local news gathering agency that the duo’s killing is a big loss for the organization and vowed that those responsible for the killing of these militants will face music in coming days.

Aafaq was the part of Kashmir’s fourth generation, believed to have more conviction than their predecessors of nineties. The same conviction, said his brother, made Aafaq to give up his lavish life and venture into woods “to seek justice”.

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