Security agencies red flag Imran Khan's 1,600 scholarship plan for Kashmiris

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Indian security agencies have red-flagged Imran Khan government’s plan to offer scholarships to 1,600 Kashmiri students to take up professional courses in Pakistan and occupied territories, people familiar with the development told Hindustan Times on Thursday.

Security officials said the scholarship offer was part of a larger plan by Pakistan’s deep state to radicalise young Kashmiris, incite them against India and create a large pool of sympathisers to its cause who could be tapped at a later date.

“There have also been some instances where young Kashmiris crossed the border via Wagah-Attari border post to study and returned through the Line of Control, as terrorists,” a senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan had first announced the 1,600 scheme to a panel of its National Assembly earlier this year. Islamabad has been offering scholarships targeted at Kashmiri students for years but these were mostly on a much smaller scale.

Kashmir police estimates about 150 Kashmiris are enrolled in medical and engineering courses in Pakistan and occupied territories.

Police officers said the applicants mostly need a recommendation from separatist groups such as the Hurriyat or terror group Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin-led United Jihad Council based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Muzaffarabad.

Like the one that was recovered from the residence of Hurriyat leader Nayeem Khan. In one document seized by the National Investigation Agency, according to a report on its 2018 charge sheet, Nayeem Khan recommends admission for a student in “a standard medical college” because “her family has remained committed to the freedom struggle through thick and thin”.

The NIA, which was investigating a terror funding case, had then underlined that many of the students proceeding to Pakistan on student visas “were either relatives of ex-militants or relatives of families of active militants who had indulged in various anti-national activities and had migrated to Pakistan or they were known to Hurriyat leaders”.

A senior security official in Delhi said Kashmiri students who rushed to take up scholarships in PoK colleges had suffered the most because the degrees they picked up weren’t recognised in India.

Hadiya Chisti may be an exception.

She had enrolled for medicine at Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Medical College in PoK’s Mirpur in 2012. When she completed her course and asked the Medical Council of India for clearance to sit for the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, she was told that her college in PoK was part of Indian territory but wasn’t recognised.

Since India’s higher education regulators had not issued any advisory that cautioned students against travel to PoK to study, the Jammu and Kashmir high court asked the government to make an exception for her in view of the “peculiar facts” of her case.

Higher education regulators such as AICTE, UGC and MCI had started issuing advisories declaring that they would not recognise degrees conferred by institutions located in PoK after Hadiya Chisti’s request.

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