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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mercy Corps Program Director deported to USA

All foreign NGOs put under security scanner in J&K on MHA’s notice

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 11: Kashmir Program Director of the American non-profit organisation, Mercy Corps, Usman Rahim, has been deported to USA after working on different projects in coordination with the state and the central governments for nearly eight years. With this dramatic development, authorities have put all the foreign NGOs under a high security scanner.

According to authoritative sources, customs and immigration authorities on Indira Gandhi International Airport stopped 42-year-old Usman Rahim who was returning to New Delhi in a flight from Dubai on March 9th. With an entry on his American Passport, Mr Usman was sent back to USA via Dubai. If these highly placed official sources are to be believed, the immigration authorities recorded on Mr Usman’s passport that his activities in India had been “not consistent with the visa granted to him” from time to time.

Usman’s wife, Nafeesa, who is a British national, has been left alone in Srinagar. Sources said that nobody from the government asked her either to leave the country or stay back in Srinagar. Efforts to contact her for comments failed.

A senior Police official of the rank of IGP confirmed to Early Times that Mr Usman has been “sent back” from IGI Airport on March 9th. “That has been done by the Government of India and they have not shared any details or reasons of his deportation with us”, said the Police official. He believed that authorities in the Central government would not have sent Usman Rahim back until there were compelling reasons or adverse information about his activities. He maintained that the American national had never figured in any negative list of J&K Government while working for a Portland-based NGO in the Valley in the last nearly eight years.

Yet another official, associated with security, revealed that immediately after Usman Rahim’s deportation, all the foreign NGOs operating in J&K, including the foreign nationals staying in the state for more than three years, had been put under surveillance on the notice of union Ministry of Home Affairs. He said that reports were being verified which suggested that Usman was deported after a Central intelligence agency observed that a number of foreigners, particularly Americans, working with different NGOs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, had visited Kashmir and stayed with Usman.

This is for the first time that a foreign NGO operator has been sent back and prevented physically from proceeding to Kashmir. More significant has been complete silence on the deportation of the American national by both, Government of India as well as the American Embassy in New Delhi. Interestingly, Mr Usman has been viewed as “persona non grata” after eight years of his continuous working in Kashmir. His projects in agriculture, environment and employment sector have been promoted by the state and the central governments over the years. It was Usman Rahim who got American singer Terra Noami to Srinagar two years back and organized a mega concert for her with facilitation of the state government at SKICC. She also picturized a couple of songs on global warming and ecology at Gulmarg and other places.

Usman had first appeared in Srinagar during the post-earthquake relief operations in 2005. In the last seven years, his NGO Mercy Corps worked extensively in rural areas, including border areas. According to well-placed official sources, he had remained continuously in touch with the state as well as the Central governments and had established an extensive network of unemployed youth. He worked prominently to promote Omar Abdullah government’s flagship employment programme, SKEWPY, in coordination with Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI).

According to these sources, Usman had “over a hundred times” met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, a number of his Cabinet Ministers, including Abdul Rahim Rather, Nasir Aslam Wani and Ghulam Hassan Mir, Governor N N Vohra, a number of officials of the union Ministry of Home Affairs, including two Home Secretaries and Joint Secretary (J&K) Mr K Skandan. Unconfirmed reports insisted that he had also met union Home Minister P Chidambaram. In Srinagar, he was known for his intimate liaison with senior Government officials including top Police officials, civil society groups and mediapersons.

Prior to his joining Mercy Corps and operating developmental programmes in Kashmir, Usman had remained closely associated in USA with the JKLF Chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, who reportedly got him into contact with businessman Mansoor Ijaz. It was Usman who introduced Malik in different wings of UN as also several Universities and thinktanks in USA over a decade ago. However, during his staying in Valley, he had apparently distanced himself from Malik and other separatist leaders.

Even as the grapevine of Usman’s figuring as a “CIA agent” has been thickening in Srinagar with every passing day, authorities as well as Mercy Corps have remained tightlipped over his deportation.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Law of jungle prevails in Sagar’s Law Department

PSC selects Law Secretary’s low-merit son as PLO; selection in a sealed cover

Early Times Report

JAMMU, Apr 7: With the firm belief that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah does neither read nor respect Early Times, his audacious establishment is understood to have selected Law Secretary’s son as a Public Law Officer (PLO) despite revelation of a scandal in this newspaper in April last year. A section of bureaucracy, involving officials of Law Department and Public Service Commission (PSC), are said to have played key role in the whole operation of nepotism.

Knowledgeable sources revealed to Early Times that without getting disturbed by revelation of a scandal in this newspaper on 15-04-2011, PSC authorities went ahead and manipulated the selection of Law Secretary Ghulam Hassan Tantray’s son as PLO. Despite clinching evidences of manipulation, Suhail Hassan Tantray was interviewed on 16-4-2011 and placed among the candidates selected for appointment as Assistant Legal Remembrancer/ Public Law Officer. According to these sources, the selection has not been notified and the same was in a sealed cover due to litigation between some candidates and the PSC.

“Despite his low merit, Law Secretary’s son has been selected and the selection would be notified as and when stay order expired”, said a source. He claimed that the officials of Law Department and PSC, who were brazenly conducting the operation of appointing Law Secretary’s son, had been immensely encouraged by one of Chief Minister’s Tweets. CM had questioned Early Times’ credibility in the Tweet when some of his followers had drawn his attention to the selection of low merit candidates as exposed exclusively in this newspaper in March 2011. CM remained stiff even as J&K High Court later terminated the selection of Veterinary Assistant Surgeons completely. PSC even went in appeal to DB but was defeated by the petitioner candidates. PSC has now started fresh process of selection of assistant veterinary surgeons.

As reported in this daily last year, PSC had allegedly lowered the cut-off marks in a manner that Law Secretary’s son, who stood below the cut-off, was called for interview and considered for appointment. Two of the female candidates from Valley had alleged that their names were removed from the merit shortlist for not genuine reasons.

While pushing through the process of appointing Law Secretary’s son, officials of Law Department functioning under Mr Ali Mohammad Sagar created another example of nepotism when Suhail Hassan Tantray was also appointed as the Government’s standing council as many as two times in three years.

Not satisfied with that, junior Tantray also appeared in the competition when Law Department referred some posts of Assistant Draftsman (Translation) to PSC and the process of selection began last year.

While inordinately delaying Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) meeting and sitting over the elevation of Legal Assistants, Law Secretary also referred certain direct quota posts of Legal Assistants, in the highest non-gazeted pay scale of Rs 9300- Rs 34800 with Grade Pay of Rs 4250, to State Subordinate Services Recruitment Board last year. Sources said that an officer of the rank of Additional Secretary, currently posted on deputation with State Human Rights Commission, was assigned the responsibility of selecting the Law Secretary’s son. Sources identified the officer as Tariq Ahmad Banday and said that it was not possible for the subordinate to turn down the desire of his controlling officer.

When SSRB notification came out on March 19th, 2012, Law Secretary’s son, Suhail Hassan Tantray, was among the 10 candidates selected as Legal Assistant in Open Merit category. He was asked by Law Department to join in the office of Director Litigation in Srinagar.

Let there be a Tweet, if not an inquiry or action, honourable Chief Minister in this rank nepotism in Mr Sagar’s Law Department. For sure, it would be: “bureaucrats’ wards can also have merit to get selected. they can’t suffer for their relation to their fathers!”.