Yasin Malik, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), championed by South Asian Islamists in the West, pleaded guilty before a Delhi court to terrorism charges on May 10. The Print reports that Malik was accused of involvement in "raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala [informal financial exchange] transactions, for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir."
According to the U.S. State Department, India's Ministry of Home Affairs declared JKLF "an unlawful organization for five years .... A ministry statement accused Malik and the JKLF of participating in the 'genocide' of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in 1989, as well as the murder of air force personnel, kidnappings, and funding terrorism."
India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), meanwhile, claims that Malik visited the "Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) camps in Muree in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and addressed the LeT cadres there." LeT is a designated terrorist organization under U.S. law, responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which over 160 people were murdered.
Despite these stated crimes, Yasin Malik and the JKLF – both of which have long served as established components of Pakistani regime and Jamaat-e-Islami violence in Kashmir – have received considerable support from Islamists in Europe and the United States.
In fact, the origins of the JKLF are Western. The first iteration of the group was reportedly created in the United Kingdom in 1977. Over the past forty-five years, it has operated not just from Kashmir, but through its chapters in Britain and North America, and in collaboration with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Just a day before Malik's guilty plea, on May 9, the North America chapter of the JKLF organized a "United Kashmir Conference" in New York, in which "all political and social organisations including Kashmiri Diaspora along with large number of local JKLF leaders and members participated in the conference."
Attendees "paid glowing tributes to the legendary Late Amanullah Khan," the JKLF founder described as the "architect of Kashmir's armed insurgency." Khan, who spent his last years in Pakistan, was frequently described by Indian law enforcement as a "most wanted fugitive," and accused by Indian prosecutors of involvement in the murder of an Indian diplomat in the British city of Birmingham.
The conference also "Demanded an early and unconditional release of incarcerated Chairman JKLF Mr. Yasin Malik and all other pro freedom leaders and innocent people of JK languishing in different Indian jails."
In a sign, once again, that violent Kashmiri Islamism is deeply intertwined with the tentacles of Islamabad and its proxies, other attendees comprised leading Pakistani and Kashmiri political outfits, including "local representatives of PML-N, PPP, PTI, JeI, JKPP, MC and JKLF."
Also present, JKLF leaders report, was Ghulam Nabi Mir, the head of the U.S. nonprofit, the World Kashmiri Awareness Forum (WKAF). WKAF's secretary general, Ghulam Nabi Fai, was charged in 2011 by American prosecutors of serving as an unregistered agent of Pakistan. Fai pled guilty, admitting to extensive contact and taking millions of dollars from Pakistan's ISI, which has a long history of involvement with terror groups and other Islamist causes.
WKAF, a registered public charity, has long been an overt supporter of Malik. In 2015, it invited him, along with jihadist leader Syed Ali Geelani, to address the "Million Man March" for Kashmir in New York.
In 2020, Fai lauded Malik as a "giant of the history of Kashmir" and a "fearless advocate of voiceless people of Kashmir."
That representatives of PTI (until recently, Pakistan's ruling party) attended the JKLF conference is particularly telling. The PTI network in the United States includes groups such as Friends of Kashmir, which works closely with the Pakistani embassy and, in January 2021, organized a protest calling for the release of Malik from Indian detention.
In 2012, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the American branch of the South Asian Islamist movement, Jamaat-e-Islami, invited Malik to address one its events over Skype, alongside leading American Islamist preachers.
More recently, Malik has also been championed by Stand With Kashmir (SWK), an American Islamist-linked organization with a history, Martha Lee writes, of "advocating for terrorists under the pretense of peaceful progressivism."
At the time of publication, there has been little public response to Malik's guilty plea from his Western supporters.
Sam Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum