by Tasavur Mushtaq
It was June 20, 2014, when police in south Kashmir claimed to have achieved a major success and an equal blow to the operations of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). The joy of achieving the extraordinary feat was that in a joint operation Kulgam police, 62 Rashtriya Rifles of the army and 18 Battalion of CRPF arrested district commander of LeT, Naveed Jat alias Abu Hanzullah, a Pakistani militant, from a hideout in Sharmpora village of Kulgam.
A sigh of relief for the security establishment, Naveed, also known as Munnu and Chotu was second in command of LeT as he was operating as deputy of LeT chief, Mohammad Qasim.
Son of Mohammad HaniefJat, a resident of Sahiwala, Multan Pakistan, police recovered “one AK-47 rifle, 2 AK-47 magazines, 60 AK-47 rounds and one pouch” from his possession.
Before his arrest, Naveed was in South Kashmir operations of LeT for two years since July 7, 2012, and as per police records was involved in many killings and subversive activities of the region. Trusted man of Qasim, he was asked to conduct inquiries into the killing of the divisional commander of the LeT, Bilal Ahmad Bhat alias Bilal Lelhari, and his associate, Mudasir Sheikh, in an encounter at Reshipora (Pulwama) on June 7, 2014. Before shifting his base to the south, police said Naveed had operated in Lolab for a year. Behind the bars, Naveed shuttled between many prisons and LeT on the ground had many changes. The top leadership was wiped out with the killing of Abu Qasim, Abu Dujana, and Abu Ismail. Confident of the dent made, the police officials claimed that the militant outfit is facing a leadership crisis.
Shifted to Srinagar Central jail on court directions from Kathua, Naveed along with five other prisoners on February 6, 2018, was taken to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital for medical checkup. But before the doctor could have examined the once described “big catch”, rebels executed the “plan in progress from last four months”.
What happened at around 11:30 am when the cops were in process to get the OPD ticket, rattled the entire security set-up, shook the floor of assembly house in Jammu and set Naveed free after three years, seven months and 17 days of incarceration.
A brief shootout and the cops carrying Naveed were hit by bullets. As the blood was flowing down the tiles, the injured cops; head constable Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Karnah and Babar Ahmad, a resident of BrariAngan belt of Shangus in south Kashmir were immediately rushed to an operation theatre of the same hospital. Mushtaq had died almost on the spot, while Babar fought for an hour before succumbing to his injuries.
In between the chaos, fear, and people running for the cover, the attackers fled with their colleague Naveed on a two-wheeler leaving behind two dead policemen and a stunned security grid.
What exactly happened, nobody knows. But the witnesses say it was a swift operation and ended in less than five minutes. And by the time, the reinforcements reached the spot, Naveed had broken the handcuffs which he was wearing and as per police changed two locations to reach his erstwhile base, south Kashmir.
By the time Kashmir police chief Muneer Khan flanked by Srinagar police chief Imtiaz Parray deconstructed the entire plan in front of media, Naveed’s reunion picture with HM militant of Burhan era, Saddam Paddar had gone viral on social sites.
A militant with a fertile military brain and better skills, Naveed, police officials say may become “a headache” if not apprehended quickly.
Within a couple of days of his escape, he already has his impact on the security network. While DGP S P Vaid accepted the lapse in the security, SP Central Jail has been put under suspension. Moments after the maiden press conference on the crisis by the ADG Khan, the entire police top brass managing the valley were shifted.