24 Years Later, Papa Kishtwari’s Death Concludes Srinagar Man’s Campaign

Zahoor Ahmad holding poster of Papa Kishtawari in Srinagar Press Enclave.

A struggle-hardened campaigner from Srinagar—whose father became one of the victims of the former renegade chief Papa Kishtwari—is now looking forward to live rest of his life in peace after his family’s ‘tormentor’ passed away.

WITH tears in his eyes and smile on his parched face, 50-year old Zahoor Ahmad Mir walked inside Srinagar’s Press Enclave on Thursday afternoon to announce an uncanny closure of his two-decade-old campaign.

After losing his lawyer Baber Qadri to assassins this past September, Zahoor ‘got rid of his tormentor’ to cardiac arrest on Thursday.

Zahoor said his father, Ali Mohammad Mir, a contractor from Nishat area of Srinagar city, was killed by Ghulam Muhammad Lone alias Papa Kishtwari in 1996. His body was not returned till date, he added.

Kishtwari, the onetime dreaded Ikhwan commander operating from saffron town Pampore, his stronghold back in nineties, was facing a trial in series of killings and was currently lodged in Srinagar’s Central Jail.

He died in a Srinagar hospital on Thursday.

“He died under trial, not before killing over 236 innocent people,” Zahoor told Kashmir Observer.

“I was fighting against him alone for the last two decades and it really hurts that he wasn’t punished for the heinous crimes he committed despite all the evidences against him.”

In Srinagar’s Press Enclave, Zahoor thanked police for “at least for detaining the killer”, who would’ve otherwise killed more people as a free man, the son of the slain contractor said.

Back in 1996, Zahoor said, Kishtwari had sent his armed guard, Muhammad Maqbool Sheikh, to his father.

“Sheikh demanded Rs 5000 from my father and threatened him of dire consequences if he failed to pay,” Zahoor, the witness, said. “My father refused to follow the diktat. But a few days later, Sheikh again approached him and demanded Rs 3 lakhs.”

On June 26, 1996, Zahoor said, his father went to Srinagar and never returned. The family filed a police complaint on June 29 and also met Kishtwari who demanded Rs 3 lakh for the contractor’s release.

“We could only arrange Rs 1.5 lakh,” he said. “Despite giving him half of the ransom money, that merciless murderer didn’t release my father. After a few days one of Kishtwari’s guards told me that the Kishtwari had killed my father on June 26 itself and had thrown his body into Jhelum.”

Papa Kishtwari with his bodygaurds

A “watchman turned war-criminal”, Zahoor said, Kishtwari was known for murder, torture and extortion.

Before becoming a renegade ringleader, he was a junior paramilitary officer. He had reportedly joined Al-Jihad militant outfit and was arrested in 1993. After coming out of his 21-month-long imprisonment, he joined the counter-insurgent group, Ikhwan, a pack of former rebels turned counterinsurgents.

“In Pampore, people had to seek Kishtwari’s permission before celebrating any religious festival after evening,” Zahoor said. “Late night marriages were out of question and unheard of in the town during his reign. It’s believed he killed at least 150 civilians alone in this Safron township.”

After unleashing a reign of terror and losing many of his group members to insurgent strikes back in early 2000, Papa was arrested in 2006.

In 2007, more than a decade after his father’s murder, Zahoor said, an FIR was registered in the case.

An FIR vide number 16/2007 under section 302,364,342,120-B RPC stands registered in Police Station Nishat against the two accused Ghulam Rasool Ganaie and Khurshid Ahmed Ganaie for “kidnapping and murdering” Zahoor’s father.

“Kishtwari applied for bail many times but my late lawyer Babar Qadri had made the case strong against him,” Zahoor said.

“But after Babar’s killing, I lost all the hopes because I was fighting for years and they say justice delayed is justice denied, but Allah’s Durbar never disappoints you. I will now spend the rest of my life peacefully as the ‘murderer’ is dead.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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