The stone-pelting protesters that attacked polling stations in Kashmir during April 9 byelections were no flash mobs but part of a coordinated attack planned by Pakistani spy agency ISI and their overground operatives in the Valley, sources in the military intelligence told Mail Today.
The polling registered lowest-ever voter turnout in the history of Jammu & Kashmir which also left eight civilian dead and over 100 security personnel injured. Radio intercepts with the Army establish that the violent disruption of electoral exercise was initiated from across the border, the sources said.
"The Pakistani ISI and various Pakistan-backed terrorist groups had directed their network of over-ground workers to ensure that the electioneering process for Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency and Anantnag assembly seat were disrupted to showcase their capability to calibrate insurgency here," the sources said.
ISI MASTERMINDED THE CHAOS?
Military intelligence officers pointed out that separatist groups such as Hurriyat Conference have been calling for boycott of elections since early 1990s but this time the focus was on physical disruption and not boycott. "And they have been successful in doing so as less than eight per cent people voted in the Lok Sabha election in Srinagar while the Assembly poll had to be postponed till May 25," the officers admitted.
"We heard the chatter between ISI operatives and the terrorist leadership operating in the Valley. However, the messages were later spread by word of mouth to the local youth. Apparently, the network placed its faith on local stone-pelters to protest overtly who also threatened the workers of mainstream parties," the officers said.
EVIDENCE NAILS PAK'S ROLE
Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Rashid Bhatt alias Moosa, the successor of slain terrorist Burhan Wani, issued warnings in localities to ensure that no one stepped out to vote, the sources said. According to Army estimates, there are 140-150 active terrorists of three main jihadi outfits, including Lashkar-e-Toiba with around 60 terrorists, a significant number of which belong to Pakistan, followed by the Hizbul with 40-50 operatives and the rest with Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Sources said PDP workers in Pulwama district were beaten up publicly by separatists to deter others from voting. At least two fresh videos have surfaced in the Valley in which a worker of the ruling PDP and a trader apologised for being associated with the mainstream party and were made to chant anti-India slogans at gunpoint.
In one of the videos, PDP worker Wali Mohammad Bhat said he should be forgiven for his past mistakes.
An AK-47 rifle can be seen held by a person off the camera. "I announce my disassociation from the party and urge people not to be associated with it," said a visibly scared Bhat who was made to shout anti-India slogans by the gun-toting men not visible in the frame.
In the second video, a trade union leader, Bashir Ahmad Wani, said he would dissociate from all democratic activities. Wani also chanted anti-India slogans under duress. On polling day in Srinagar, mobs took to streets at different places across the Lok Sabha constituency. "The mobs even set ablaze a polling station and attempted to set afire two others which created an atmosphere of fear among the locals who did not take the risk of coming out to vote," the sources said.