Total Pageviews

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Omar slaps legal notice on Nizam, Naeem

‘Tender apology or face Rs 10 Cr damage suit’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 28: Rattled by PDP’s accusation of Rs 500 Cr kickbacks in the allotment of 690 mw Rattle Hydroelectric Power Project, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today served a legal notice on MLA Nizam-ud-din Bhat and the party’s spokesperson, Naeem Akhtar, asking them to either withdraw the charge and tender their apologies publicly or face Rs 10 Cr each damage suit in a court of law. PDP, however, is understood to be determined to fight the legal battle and prove all the allegations made by its MLAs and senior leaders at a news conference here on August 25th.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that Chief Minister discussed the legal course with a number of senior lawyers, including Advocate General, Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri, and some of his contacts in New Delhi. He finally decided to engage senior practitioner at Supreme Court of India and former Additional Solicitor General of India, Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, to file and pursue a defamation suit against the PDP legislators and leaders. Singhvi also happens to be a spokesman of the Congress party.

An official press release today said that Chief Minister sent a legal notice, settled by Dr Singhvi, on PDP’s MLA, Nizam-ud-din Bhat and the party spokesman, Naeem Akhtar, for levelling “baseless, fabricated, concocted, frivolous, false and defamatory allegations” against his person in a bid to defame him and damage his reputation. The notice calls upon the PDP leaders to publicly apologize and withdraw the allegations made against Mr Abdullah within seven days, failing which he would be constrained to initiate “appropriate legal proceedings” against them, including civil and criminal remedies.

According to the legal notice, Chief Minister would, in absence of appropriate response from the PDP leaders, file a criminal complaint under J&K Code of Criminal Procedure, 1933, obviously in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar. He would also separately file a defamation suit in J&K High Court, demanding damages worth Rs 10 Cr each from the respondents.

Asked for his comments, Bhat maintained that he had not received any legal notice from the Chief Minister. “It is the matter of our party. PDP will frame its response after we receive such a notice”, he said. Well-placed sources in the PDP, however, said that the party top brass was determined to fight the legal battle. “Mufti Sahib is in possession of concrete evidence of what our MLAs said at the press conference. We have acquired MOU and other details involving the allotment and the transaction”, a senior PDP functionary said. According to him, party had already sounded its senior leader and eminent lawyer, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, to prepare the defence. “There is no question of our withdrawing the charges or apologizing to the government”.

Legal experts pointed out that there is no history of any damages payment or punishment to a guilty even as hundreds of defamation suits have been filed against individuals in the last 60 years. They said that no punishment was on record in high profile cases involving eminent personalities like Sofi Ghulam Mohammad and Shameem Ahmed Shameem in Srinagar and Balraj Puri and Prof Chaman Lal Gupta in Jammu.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Drabu relieved, Pandey takes over as interim Chairman

Eminent banker, one among Directors, Soz’s son eying top slot in J&K Bank

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 27: Minutes after Haseeb Drabu was relieved from the prestigious position, Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey, today took over as interim Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd. Those eying the top slot now include a high-profile banker, one of the Directors on Board besides Gulf-based son of Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee President, Prof Saif-ud-din Soz.

Former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patriarch Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s discovery, Haseeb Drabu, today submitted his resignation as Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd, a day after Omar Abdullah-led government communicated to him that he was no more needed in the bank. On Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s directions, Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey, had called on Drabu yesterday and sought his resignation. Pandey, according to sources, had made it clear to Drabu that the state government would get him dismissed by way of a no-confidence resolution in an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors (BOD) if he failed to put in his papers within 24 hours.

Sources in the bank said that Drabu today tendered his resignation to BOD which was later accepted in a specially convened meeting at the Corporate Headquarters. Thereafter, BOD unanimously passed the resolution of the appointment of Mr Sudhanshu Pandey, Commissioner-Secretary Finance with J&K Government and a Director on Board, as interim Chairman of the bank. As required under rules, the resolution thus passed was lastly submitted for approval to Reserve Bank of India. With this, Pandey took over as interim Chairman.

BOD also decided to constitute a search committee in its next scheduled meeting here on August 30th for the purpose of making and submitting a panel of three names for the post of Chairman and Chief Executive of the bank to RBI. After assessing merits and qualifications of the incumbents, RBI as the competent authority can pick up the Chairman from the list or reject it.

While two of the Directors on Board, namely Rakesh Kumar Gupta and Nihal Garware were absent, all the eight others participated in today’s extraordinary meeting that lasted for 90 minutes. They included Sudhanshu Pandey, Prof Nisar Ali, Abdul Majeed Matoo, Mohammad Ibrahim Shehdad, Vikrant Kauthalya and B R Dogra besides both the Executive Directors of the bank, namely Abdul Majeed Mir and A K Mehta.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that in apprehension of a possible mischief, like creating the bogey of instability, by certain elements, the search committee to be constituted on August 30th would be asked to make and submit a panel of three names to RBI as early as possible. Today’s fall of nearly 6 percent in share value of the bank at BSE fueled such speculation, even as the bank’s fundamentals have been consistently strong since 1996. Some key functionaries of the bank, sources said, were fearing sustained demoralization of the foreign institutional investors by certain elements within and outside the bank.

With today’s dramatic development, race has begun for the top slot. According to the informed sources, a top ranking banker of national reputation, one of the Directors on Board (who is a high profile economist and administrator) besides the Gulf-based son of Prof Soz had been lobbying for the position of Chairman at J&K Bank. Prof Soz’s son, has been heading the Gulf operations of Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation for quite some time. Over a dozen other aspirants were also expected to submit their candidature to the Search Committee.

Omar getting top lawyers to sue PDP

‘They’ll soon taste consequences of unfounded accusations’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 27: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is hiring the country’s leading lawyers to file and pursue a suit of defamation against the opposition PDP MLAs who had, earlier this week, charged him with accepting bribe money of Rs 500 Crore on account of allotment of 690 mw Rattle Hydroelectric power project. Preparations are expeditiously underway to file the libel suit in Jammu & Kashmir High Court next week.

“They (PDP) had been”, Chief Minister told this correspondent, “in the habit of leveling unsubstantiated accusations from day one of my government. Last year, they did it and ate the humble pie within days. This year, we ignored a number of frivolous allegations from them. But, enough is enough. I have taken this baseless accusation of Rs 500 Crore kickbacks extremely seriously and decided to file against them a civil and criminal suit of defamation in J&K High Court”.

Chief Minister said that preparations were underway to file the libel suit against the PDP leaders, who had leveled the allegation against him at a news conference here on August 25th, in J&K High Court next week. He revealed that he was presently in touch with some of the top ranking lawyers of the country in New Delhi who would be pursuing his private lawsuit. “I am determined to put an end to their character assassination campaign as this time around they have crossed all limits. I think the best course would be to file and pursue a defamation suit. I am taking this fight to its logical conclusion at any cost”, Omar asserted. He said that all those who had leveled the “unfounded allegation” would soon taste the consequences of sullying the image of political leaders.

He claimed that there was “not an iota of truth” in the PDP leaders’ accusation as entire process of allotment of the power project, according to him, was “completely transparent and clean”. He said that even the second lowest bidder, Tata Power, had sent him a letter of appreciation while appreciating transparency and cleanliness of the process and aspiring to continuously participate in the forthcoming competitions.

Omar strongly refuted the allegation of having drawn and swindled ‘secret funds worth Rs 26 Crore” in the last few weeks. He claimed that total volume of the unaccountable funds available with J&K Chief Minister for a calendar year was not even half of what the PDP MLAs had mentioned.

Meanwhile, informed sources said, PDP top brass was also discussing Chief Minister’s threat of filing a defamation suit with a number of legal luminaries, including senior PDP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Baig is understood to have opined that a criminal suit was not maintainable in this particular case and the civil one could be comfortably contested in the court of law.

BB Vyas is Pr Secy to CM     Rajindra is almost DGP           Sahai back as IG Kashmir

Omar begins to act as CM

Khursheed, Basharat, Mehboob, Varghese, Lankar, Farooq removed from key positions; IG Security, SSP Security attached for I-Day security breach

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 26: Raising stark indications of a Cabinet reshuffle and a massive overhaul in Police and civil administration in near future, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today took bold initiatives to refurbish the image of his non-performing coalition government. While dismissing Ghulam Mohammad Saroori as a Minister of his Cabinet, Chief Minister today directed the all-powerful Chairman of Jammu &n Kashmir Bank Ltd to submit his resignation “within 24 hours”. With the search already underway for new Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Cabinet today ordered a top level reshuffle in both Police and bureaucracy. The most powerful bureaucrats and Police officials removed unceremoniously from key positions in the government included Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, Commissioner-Secretary General Administration Department Basharat Ahmed Dhar, Commissioner-Secretary PWD Mehboob Iqbal, Financial Commissioner Home Sameul Varghese, IGP Kashmir Farooq Ahmed and Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Naseema Lankar. IG and SSP of Security Wing have been attached over the infamous security breach of Independence Day at Bakhshi Memorial Sports Stadium.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that a host of developments---Congress party’s Cabinet Minister Ghulam Mohammad Saroori’s refusal to resign and some bureaucrats’ alleged contribution to the PDP press conference on Wednesday included---led Omar Abdullah to take some of the boldest decisions of his 20-month-long coalition government. Acting over a verbal communication from the Congress High Command, sources said, Chief Minister wrote a letter to Governor N N Vohra, requesting him to dismiss Saroori as a Minister of his Cabinet. Late this evening, Governor dismissed Saroori as a Cabinet Minister on Chief Minister’s recommendation.

Following the involvement of Saroori’ daughter in the lately exposed impersonation scandal at ASCOMS, Jammu, Congress High Command had asked the Minister of R&B to submit his resignation. He, however, declined to having received any such direction from the party high command and left for Saudi Arabia, alongwith his wife and the Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s brother, Ghulam Mustafa Azad, on Wednesday. His recalcitrance finally led to his dismissal today. Chief Minister retained Saroori’s portfolio with himself. Sources said that in a possible Cabinet reshuffle “within 15 days”, Chief Minister would assign R&B portfolio to a new Minister from Congress party.

In another significant development, Chief Minister sent Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey, to Corporate Headquarters of Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd and asked him to immediately get Chairman Haseeb Drabu’s resignation. Pandey, sources said, drove all the way to his assigned destination and communicated the state government’s direction to Drabu. He made it clear to Drabu that in case he failed to submit his resignation within 24 hours, Government would be constrained to call an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors to seek his dismissal. Sources said that Chief Minister desired Drabu’s resignation after having received from Reserve Bank of India a dossier of gross irregularities committed in J&K Bank in the last five years. Sources said that acquisition of real estate without genuine need, against huge kickbacks in some metros recently, was also a major factor behind the government’s decision.

According to these sources, search was already underway to find suitable replacements for Chief Secretary S S Kapur and DGP, Kuldeep Khoda.

Meanwhile, a Cabinet meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, ordered a massive reshuffle in top rungs of Police and bureaucracy. Powerful bureaucrats removed from key positions included Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Khursheed Ahmed Ganai, Commissioner-Secretary General Administration Department, Basharat Ahmed Dhar, Commissioner-Secretary PWD, Mehboob Iqbal, Financial Commissioner Home, Sameul Varghese, IGP Kashmir, Farooq Ahmed, and Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Naseema Lankar.

Ganai and Dhar were mercifully adjusted as Commissioner-Secretary Planning & Development and Power Development Department, respectively. That is exactly how Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had dealt with Iqbal Khanday, then Principal Secretary to Chief Minister. Bharat Bhushan Vyas, who has held important positions in his 20-year-long career, including Principal Secretary to Governor, Secretary Finance and Commissioner-Secretary P&D, has been appointed as the new Principal Secretary to Chief Minister. He is known for his hardwork and public relations. Vyas would be retaining the charge of Chief Executive of Economic Reconstruction Agency.

While abolishing lately created posts of Special Commissioner North Kashmir and Special IG North Kashmir, Cabinet appointed Mohammad Sayeed Khan as the new Secretary GAD while as Pankaj Saxena was sent on a Central deputation. Cabinet removed senior IAS officer, Sameul Varghese, as Financial Commissioner Home and appointed him as Chairman of Special Tribunal. Key accused in Gulmarg Land Scandal, Mehboob Iqbal has been removed as Commissioner-Secretary R&B and attached to GAD. Cabinet also removed Mrs Naseema Lankar as Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir and appointed her as Commissioner-Secretary School Education in place of G A Pir who has been appointed as the new Excise Commissioner.

Commissioner-Secretary PDD, B R Sharma, has been transferred and appointed as Commissioner-Secretary Home.

Asgar Hassan Samoon has been appointed as the new Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir.

Chairman Special Tribunal, K B Agarwal, has been transferred and appointed as the new Commissioner-Secretary R&B in place of Mehboob Iqbal.

Pardeep Gupta, Excise Commissioner, J&K has been transferred and posted as Secretary, CAPD/ Transport.

G. A. Qureshi, Vice Chairman, Jammu Development Authority has been transferred and posted as Joint Financial Commissioner (AR).

Vinod Shamra, Director ERA has been transferred and posted as Vice Chairman, Jammu Development Authority.

Cabinet also ordered a major reshuffle in top rungs of J&K Police. ADG CIG, K Rajendra Kumar, has been transferred and appointed as ADG Armed and Law & Order. He has become the most important Police official, after DGP Khoda, by his appointment as ADG Law & Order as both, IGP Kashmir and IGP Jammu, would be directly reporting to him. Rajendra has held a very successful stint as IGP Kashmir. A known counter-insurgent, Rajindra has a high profile in anti-militancy operations. He had got critically injured in a militant attack on then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s rally at Sher-e-Kashmir Park in 2007.

Terminating his year-long punishment as “OSD” at J&K House New Delhi, Government has recalled another high profile operational officer, Shiv Murari Sahai, and yet again appointed him as IGP Kashmir in place of Farooq Ahmed, who has been appointed as IG Security. IG Headquarters, Dr B Srinivas, has been transferred and appointed as IG CID. He has been replaced by Mrs D R Doley. IGP Armed, Dilbagh Singh, has been transferred and posted as Director SKPTA, Udhampur in place of Naveen Agarwal, who has been appointed as IG Railway. Arun Chowdhary has been posted as IG Technical Service, PHQ in place of Zahoor Chisti, who has been appointed as IGP Armed/ IRP Kashmir.

IG Railways, Ravinder Kotwal, has been transferred and posted as IG Armed/ IRP Jammu.SSP Pulwama, Syed Kifayat Haider, has been transferred and posted as SSP Security, Kashmir. Abdul Razak Khan, presently looking after the charge of SP Pulwama has been transferred and posted as SP Pulwama.

Sources said that Government has attached IGP Security, Ram Lubhaya, as well as SSP Security Rafeequl Hassan, over the recent security breach on I-Day at bakshi Stadium when a suspended head constable, Abdul Ahad Jan, had occupied then Home Secretary Tashi Dorjay’s chair and hurled a shoe on Chief Minister. Sources said that further investigation into the matter was still underway.

CM received Rs 500 Cr kickbacks on Rattle project, says PDP

‘Palace worth Rs 20 Cr coming up at Gupkar; secret funds worth Rs 26 Cr drawn in days’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 25: For the first time in the last 20 months of the National Conference-led coalition government, principal opposition party, PDP, today leveled serious charges of his involvement in corruption against Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his confidantes. A group of the PDP’s MLAs, headed by Nizam-ud-din Bhat, alleged that Chief Minister had taken sizeable kickbacks of Rs 500 Cr from a private company on account of allotment of Rattle power project, swindled secret funds worth Rs 26 Cr in the last few months while as the government was currently raising a palatial house worth Rs 20 Cr at his private premises on Gupkar Road.

Apparently outraged over the state-sponsored tirade, carried through paid advertisements in newspapers, PDP today launched a direct offensive on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. On the directions of the party top brass, including Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti, a group of the PDP MLAs leveled serious charges of corruption on Chief Minister at a hurriedly organized news conference. MLAs Nizam-ud-din Bhat, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Rafi Ahmed Mir, Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Abdul Haq Khan, Abdul Razaq Zawoora and Pirzada mansoor Hussain besides the party spokesperson Naeem Akhtar and Srinagar District President, Mohammad Ashraf, participated in the news conference.

While firing a salvo, Nizam-ud-din Bhat alleged that Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, had taken bribe money of Rs 500 Cr on account of allotment of Rattle Power Project from a private company in recent past. In the thick of current political turbulence and violent street demonstrations in Kashmir, Government had allotted Rs 10,000 Cr power project earlier last month. Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department and M/s GVK Development Projects Limited signed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for procurement of power on long term basis from 690 MW Ratle Hydro Electric Project.

The agreement was signed by the Principal Secretary, Power Development Department, Mr. B. R. Sharma and Chief Financial Officer of M/S GVK Development Projects Limited, Mr. Isaac George. The project would be constructed in Village Drabhashala 25 kilometers downstream of Kishtwar on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis. It would come into existence through private participation for a period of 35 years excluding 7 years of construction. The project will be reverted to the State on payment of a terminal value of Rs. 380 crore. It is expected to be completed by 2017.

Bhat further alleged that Chief Minister had drawn and swindled huge amount of Rs 26 Cr from his secret funds, allotted to him by the Union Home Ministry, in the last few months. He alleged that the state government was currently raising a palatial house valued at Rs 20 Cr on Mr Omar Abdullah’s private premises on Gupkar Road which, he asserted, was unprecedented in the state’s history. By suggestion, he raised the question as to who would own the bungalow, constructed out of the tax-payers’ money, after Mr Abdullah ceased to be the head of the government. He further alleged that priceless antiques were being clandestinely shifted from the state museum to what he called “Abdullah House” for exquisite decoration of the coming up palace.

“If Government of India reads politics in the current spate of bloodshed and does not realize need to make the Chief Minister accountable, why should it not order a transparent and credible investigation on these charges of corruption?”, Bhat asked. He claimed that Omar Abdullah’s government had failed on all fronts and the only work underway in entire Kashmir valley was the CM’s palatial bungalow. He claimed that labours and masons working on the house had been lodged as state guests at a hotel in Srinagar.

Bhat pointed out that world renowned angioplasty wizard, Dr Fayaz Shawl, had of late leveled allegation of corruption against Chief Minister and his coterie and revealed that a sum of Rs 3 Cr had been demanded from the doctor for permission to raising a heart center. Dr Shawl preferred going back to USA than paying the money allegedly demanded.

Referring to a recent newspaper report, Bhat said that four of Omar Abdullah’s senior Cabinet colleagues had acquired properties worth Crores of Rupees both in India and overseas. He desired to know why State Vigilance Organisation had not carried out any investigation even as the Government had asserted that it would be completed and made public within 10 days.

Bhat claimed that all institutions of accountability and transparency had been demolished under a “sustained plan” during the last 20 months of Omar Abdullah government. He pointed out that notwithstanding the government’s emphasis on eradication of corruption, the State Accountability Commission as well as the State Information Commission were headless and completely nonfunctional.

In its quick reaction from the state government, senior National Conference (NC) leader and Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, held a news conference at Banquet Hall here this evening. On Chief Minister’s direction, Rather dismissed all the PDP leaders’ allegations against Chief Minister as rubbish. He asserted that the government would soon initiate legal action against the PDP leaders, who had leveled “unsubstantiated allegations” as well as against a newspaper that had carried a story regarding acquisition of Rs 120 Cr worth house in Dubai to defame Ministers of the Cabinet.

Terming the allegation as “baseless, concocted and figment of imagination”, Rather asserted that the bidding process in the allotment of Rattle power project was “most transparent and open”. He said the second bidder Tata Company wass on record to have expressed satisfaction over the allotment of the power project. “The company in a letter to the Chief Minister has mentioned that the bidding process for the project has in fact been benchmark worth emulation for the allotment of hydro electric power projects in the entire country”, he said.

Reacting on the allegation of construction of Rs. 20 crore residential house by the Chief Minister, Mr. Rather said the total estimated cost of the house was only Rs 2 Crore of which Rs. 1.50 Cr had been expended so far. He said that an amount of Rs 5 crore was spent only on the renovation of Chief Minister’s House at Moulana Azad Road while Rs 26 lakhs was spent on the Nowgam Residence by the former Chief Minister of PDP.

The Minister also refuted allegation regarding taking away some of the antiques from Tosha Khana. He said that the accusation was totally false and far from truth. He said none of the antiques had been taken away from the Tosha Khana and the same, he said, could be verified at any point of time.

About involvement of corruption of a Minister as reported in a section of press, Mr. Rather said that Government had directed Vigilance Organization to investigate the matter and report. Meanwhile, he said the newspaper must come up with solid proof and evidence regarding the corruption charges it had raised.

Reacting to the charges of withdrawal of Rs. 26 crore out of CM’s Secret Fund, he said that the total amount of this fund is not even half of the alleged amount, which remains at the disposal. He said the question of withdrawing Rs. 26 crore out of this fund was thus simply ridiculous and far-fetched.

About the allegation against another Minister, Nasir Aslam Wani, regarding setting up hospital by a doctor, Rather said that the particular doctor had said that he had generalized the issue and never named Mr. Nasir. The Minister said that Nasir had already received an email from the doctor in which he had apologized for his remarks against him.

He said that it was very unfortunate that the opposition party had stooped so low that it was resorting to politicking at a time when it should have cooperated with the Government in restoring peace and stability in the State. He said it was the time for putting in collective efforts to mitigate sufferings of the people and remove them out of present uncertainty.

The Minister accused the opposition of making political capital in the prevalent situation to further its narrow political ends. He said PDP was vainly striving to destabilize the elected Government, which had been mandated by the people to rule for the full term. He said the opposition party actually aimed at facilitating Governor’s rule in the State and for the purpose it had unleashed baseless and unsubstantiated allegation campaign.

Rather said the Chief Minister would file defamation suit against the PDP to fight the baseless allegations in the court of law. He said both civil and criminal suits would be initiated to seek justice.

Govt orders CBI probe in Jammu impersonation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 23: Amid protests in Jammu against the involvement of two senior leaders of the Congress and National Conference, including a Cabinet Minister, in a matter of impersonation, in the entrance examination of a private medical college, Government today decided to assign the investigation to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Informed sources told Early Times that immediately after returning from Ajmer Sharief, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah held a meeting with his ministerial colleagues and senior government functionaries over the matter of some impostors having been allegedly hired by certain parents, including two ruling coalition politicians, for appearing fraudulently in the entrance examination of ASCOMS on behalf of their sons and daughters. As already reported, authorities had on Saturday last caught some impostors red-handed and handed them over to Police.

The impostors, all hired from outside the state, had been found taking the examination for some seats in MBBS and BDS in ASCOMS. The candidates on whose behalf these impostors had appeared in the examination fraudulently, included the daughter of a Cabinet Minister belonging to Congress party and the son of a former MLC of the National Conference.

Sources said that after a telephonic conversation with some senior leaders at AICC, Chief Minister decided to assign the investigation to CBI. Orders to this effect were expected either late tonight or in the forenoon tomorrow.

Amid shutdown, one more succumbs to injuries

Yet another militant attack on NC MLA’s house in Sopore

Early Times Report

SRINAGAR, Aug 23: While Kashmir valley observed yet another shutdown over the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call, one of the civilian protestors succumbed to injuries at a hospital today.

Reports available from different sources said that businesses and traffic remained shut and attendance in government offices was thin as the Valley observed total shutdown over Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call today. Some of the educational institutions, however, functioned in defiance of the call for shutdown. Sources said that declared and undeclared curfew also remained in force in a part of the capital city besides a couple of major townships like Sopore.

According to these reports, civilian protestors and demonstrators clashed with Police, CRPF and RAF at about eight places in the Valley. At Palhalan and Sighpora in Pattan besides Pruchoo in Pulwama, protestors violently clashed with Police and CRPF.

Sources said that a 23-year-old youth, namely Bilal Ahmed Sheik S/o Abdur Rahim Sheikh R/o Kripalgund, Singhpora, Pattan, succumbed to injuries at a Srinagar hospital. He had been rushed to Srinagar and admitted to a hospital after getting injured in a clash of protestors with Police and CRPF on Aug 14th. As many as sixty persons had already died in the current spell of violence in different incidents of firing by Police and CRPF in Kashmir valley since June 11th.

Sources said that in few days of attack on his residence, NC’s MLA from Sopore, Haji Mohammad Ashraf, was subjected to the second consecutive militant attack on his house at Dangarpora Dooru late last night. Last week, militants had struck on the same house, killing a Police guard and leaving anther injured.

Late last night militants had gunned down a mother-daughter duo at Tangmarg in Noorabad constituency of Kulgam district. It was not immediately clear as to what prompted suspected militants to eliminate the Gujjar, Mohammad Hussain Gorsi’s 40-year-old wife, Sakeena, and her 20-year-old daughter, Zareena. Last night itself, suspected militants had also gunned down yet another civilian, namely Ghulam Nabi Wani son-in-law of Ghulam Mohammad Bhat at Chakora village in Shopian. He was reportedly a junior employee of the state Social Welfare Department.

Meanwhile, official reports from Sumbal area said that two groups of people clashed violently when some people began occupying the road for performing the afternoon prayers but many others objected to it and insisted that the mass prayers be held inside the village mosque, at Safapora in Police District Ganderbal. SP Ganderbal confirmed that two to three persons sustained injuries in the group clash. He said that Police has registered a criminal case and begun investigation.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Militants kill 3 civilians in South Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 22: After a long lull, militants tonight struck in the calm Noorabad constituency of the NC leader, Sakeena Itoo, and Pulwama, killing 3 persons in firing.

Official sources said that in Nandimarg area Noorabad constituency, militants barged into the house of a Gujjar, Mohammad Hussain Gorsi, and killed his wife Shakeela,40, and daughter Zareena, 19. Nandimarg had witnessed the first and the last massacre of Kashmiri Pandits during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s tenure as Chief Minister when as many as 24 male members of the minority community were gunned down in early 2003. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and then BJP-led NDA government’s Home Minister, L K Advani, were among the senior Central leaders who had visited Nandimarg, in addition to Mufti, Omar Abdullah and others.

Officials believed the massacre as handiwork of then top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, Abu Maaz, and his group.

However, Noorabad area of Kulgam district, situated in foothills of Pir Panjal mountain range, has been normal to a great extent. No incident of stone pelting or street demonstrations has been reported from Noorabad till date.

In another incident in Chakoora village in Pulwama district, militants killed Ghulam Nabi Wani son in law of Gh Mohammad Bhat.Wani was an employee of social welfare department.

Crackdown continues in Srinagar; 17 more arrested

Clash on removing of Pak flag; 15 injured in Chhattabal firing

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 22: Even as the local cable networks today restored service of Pakistan Television broadcasts in violation of District Magistrate’s orders after two years and the state government chose to ignore it completely, Police attracted trouble over removing a Pakistani national flag. Over a dozen demonstrators sustained injuries in a fierce clash with Police at Chhattabal in the capital city which witnessed arrest of 17 more alleged stone pelters on a day of curfew and shutdown in Valley.

Official sources told Early Times that Police staged a flag march through the dense Chhatabal locality in the forenoon today. It spotted a Pakistani national flag hoisted on top of an overhead water storage tank in Chhan Mohalla, right in front of Army’s Tatoo Ground formation. While the flag was being pulled down, scores of residents gathered and engaged the Police party in a fierce clash in violation of curfew restrictions. Curfew remained in force in over half of the capital city alongside umpteenth shutdown all over the Valley in response to Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Geelani’s call.

Sources said that around a hundred people shouted pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi and anti-India slogans and subjected the Police party to intense stone pelting from different directions. Police, in retaliation, fired teargas shells and used the lately introduced Pump Actions Guns. Unconfirmed reports said that 15 civilian demonstrators sustained pallet injuries and they were rushed to nearby SMHS Hospital. Officials insisted that only six stone pelters sustained injuries.

“Police was conducting a flag march in North city when it sighted one objectionable flag. The flag was removed. Some miscreants pelted stones heavily on the police. The police conducted cane charge, used tear smoke and pump action ammunition to chase away the miscreants. Six people have got pallet injuries and were shifted to Hospital. The condition of all is reported to be out of danger. Five have got pallet injury on their legs”, an official press release said.

Authorities, however, did not object to restoration of PTV services by the local cable operators from today after a gap of over two years. In 2008, District Magistrates in the Valley had banned servicing of Pakistani government and private television channels with the argument that there was no such permission from union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which charges licence fee of Rs 13 Lakh from the properly registered foreign channel operators. Sources said that PTV services had been restored by the cable operators in downtown Srinagar and some other towns last month. These were restored in Civil Lines and uptown from today.

After nearly four weeks, Government has also withdrawn ban from operation of “Sen Television Network” which had been stopped last month for “overexposure” to the separatist street protests and speeches of hardliners.

Amid declared curfew in over half of the capital city, undeclared curfew in at least three towns and total shutdown on Geelani’s call in rest of the Valley, groups of youth clashed with Police and CRPF at several places. Over a dozen people reportedly got injured in such clashes at Alyalpora in Shopian and Pruchoo in Pulwama.

On the second consecutive day, Police conducted crackdown on alleged stone pelters in Rainawari, Maharaj Bazar, Mehjoor Nagar and Rawalpora. Of the 30 youth picked up from Nundrishi Colony, Bemina, on Saturday, police have released most of the detainees but held 9 youths under allegation of extortion of truck drivers on National Highway Bypass besides stone pelting.

SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, told Early Times that in a series of cordon-and-search operations and identification parades, Police today arrested 10 persons from downtown and 7 more from the uptown localities. He claimed that Police was in possession of foolproof evidence, including photographs and video footage, to prove that the detainees were involved in stone pelting and disruption of law and order. He said that the operation would continue.

In his immediate reaction, Mr Geelani threatened to step up the agitation in case such operations were not stopped at once. Most of other separatist leaders have also condemned detention of youth in what they called “1990-type cordon-and-search operations” and demanded immediate release of all the detainees. A number of mainstream politicians have also expressed identical views over the Police operations.

Tough action likely against stone pelters after Aug 24

Planeload of non-lethal arms reaches Srinagar; 30 held in Bemina crackdown

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 21: A planeload of non-lethal weapons, carrying DRDO-made Pump Action Guns, today reached here amid reports that state government would be dealing the street protesters firmly after conclusion of Amarnath pilgrimage on August 24th. In a significant development, Police and CRPF today conducted a crackdown in Nundrishi Colony of Bemina and arrested about 30 youth, allegedly involved in stone pelting and attacks on Police.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that the state government had requisitioned huge consignments of non-lethal weapons, including the DRDO designed and BSF-made Pump Action Guns (PAGs) and the USA-made Taser Guns for effectively dealing violent street demonstrations in Kashmir valley. As many as 60 civilian demonstrators have also died in such clashes in Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore, Pampore, Pulwama, Kulgam, Nayidkhai, Pampore, Khrew, Bijbehara, Narbal, Tral and few other towns in the Valley since June 11th. Sources said that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has directed Police, assisted by CRPF, to deal the violent crowds “effectively” with non-lethal weaponry but ensure that there was no more addition to the death toll of 60.

Sources said that fresh supply orders have been placed with a BSF facility at Tikenpur which has begun to deliver consignments. According to these sources, an IAF aircraft today reached here with huge consignments of PAGs and other non-lethal arms and weaponry. Sources said that a larger number of the USA-made Taser Guns was also being procured. Police and CRPF would be using PAGs to pump non-lethal pellets. Sophisticated pellets of Taser Guns would immobilize the human target with high voltage shocks. It costs more than Rs 100,000 in the international market.

According to these sources, J&K Police would be getting substantial backup support from CRPF as more than 40 companies would be available after winding up of the annual Amarnath Pilgrimage on Aug 24th. Sources said that tough action against stone pelters was being ordered immediately after Aug 24th.Those picked up during demonstrations and attacks on Police and security forces would be booked under different criminal laws including PSA and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

As part of a fresh exercise, Police and CRPF today carried out a crackdown on Nunrishi Colony in Bemina outskirts of Srinagar and got as many as 30 youth arrested under allegations of attacking Police, forces and civilian traffic in the name of “protests” and enforcement of shutdown. Sources said that there was considerable resistance to the Police action but the authorities carried out the operation without yielding to pressures. Residents later put up a strong demonstration with the allegation that innocent people with no involvement in demonstrations and stone pelting had been arrested. They alleged that a Police officer roughed up women and removed dupatta of a middle-aged woman. The operation was conducted amid tight enforcement of curfew in Bemina as well as entire downtown Srinagar and uptown localities of Maisuma and Abi Guzar.

Curfew remained in force in Sopore, Bijbehara and a couple of other towns. Rest of the Valley reeled under near-total shutdown called by separatist hardliner, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Hurriyat (G) chief has relaxed shutdown on Tuesday next and asked the Kashmiris to observe total shutdown, without exception of essential services, as per a calendar released by the conglomerate.

Reports said that two Police personnel sustained injuries when violent crowds attacked them at Sheikhpora on Srinagar-Budgam Road. Srinagar-Airport Road also remained disturbed due to a demonstration at Humhama for some time. Reports said that in the south Kashmir township of Shopoian, crowds attacked DC’s office and other public properties. One of the Police constables working with Crime Branch of Kashmir was captured and beaten up to hilt. Routine clashes and demonstrations were reported from over 20 other places in the Valley today. It was after several days that nobody died in clashes with Police or CRPF.