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Friday, September 4, 2015

Four Pak militants, soldier killed in Handwara encounter

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Sep 3: Four militants, claimed to be the Pakistani cadres of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, as also a soldier, have got killed in the overnight operation of Police and security forces in Vilgam area of Handwara in northern Kashmir on Thursday.

Deputy Inspector General of Police for North Kashmir, Gareeb Das, told STATE TIMES that a group of four Pakistani militants of LeT was ambushed and wiped out by Police and security forces when it was on way to Socahlwari village in Hafruda forest area of Vilgam, Handwara. He said that the operation was launched by Army, CRPF and SOG Handwara after receiving specific information about the group’s movement to a hideout in Sochalwari village on Thursday evening.

DIG said that heavy exchange of gunfire took place between the militants and the security forces on the banks of a stream. One soldier of Special Force (9 Para), identified as Mohan Nath Goswami, was critically wounded. He was evacuated but later died at hospital. “During the search on Friday morning, troops spotted and seized bodies of four heavily armed militants, along with a quantity of arms and ammunition including four AK rifles”, DIG said. He asserted that it was a group of the LeT militants operating in Hafruda forest cover.

Defence sources said that Army used Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) to track the group’s movement. “It was completely wiped out with surgical precision even as we lost one of our para commandos and three more soldiers sustained injuries”, said an officer.

With Thursday’s operation, Police and security forces have neutralised as many as 10 militants in the last 9 days in northern Kashmir. On August 26, a group of four Pakistani militants of LeT was intercepted in Bijhama area of Uri. One militant died in the encounter but four militants managed to escape. They were continuously tracked till they fell in the Army trap in Hamam Markot area of Rafiabad. Three more of the group were killed in the second encounter and one more, who later identified himself as Sajad of Punjab, Pakistan, was captured alive.

Chief Judicial Magisterial of Sopore today remanded Sajad to Police custody till September 10.

On September 2, one local militant of Lashkar-e-Islam, identified as Riyaz Ahmad Mir, was killed in an encounter with Police and security forces at Ladoora in Rafiabad area.

In the third successive operation on September 3, Police and security forces claimed to have killed four Pakistani cadres of LeT, while losing one soldier.   


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lashkar-e-Islam militant, soldier killed in Sopore encounter

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Sep 2: One of the prominent militants of Lashkar-e-Islam, Hizbul Mujahideen’s breakaway faction that spread terror with a chain of attacks on the people associated with mobile telephone operations in Kashmir earlier this year, besides a soldier died in a daylong gunfight in Sopore area of northern Kashmir on Wednesday.

Deputy Inspector General of Police for North Kashmir, Gareeb Das, told STATE TIMES that the LeI terror Riyaz Ahmad Mir alias Gosha, a resident of Brat Kalan neighbourhood of Sopore, got killed when troops of Rashtriya Rifles 32 Bn, CRPF and Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir Police brought down his hideout at the house of one Ghulam-ud-din Ganai at Ladoora with IEDs , 5 Km from Sopore. He said that earlier in the day, two soldiers of Rashtriya Rifles sustained injuries. One of them succumbed to injuries at hospital.

DIG said that according to the specific information there were one to two militants present at the hideout when SOG and Army launched the cordon-and-search operation in the morning. “There were inputs about the possible presence of the top wanted LeI terror Imtiyaz Kandoo. But, we are not sure whether he gave the forces a slip and escaped or was not hiding there when Police and security forces swooped on the hideout”, DIG said. He said that three AK-47 rifles and a quantity of other arms and ammunition was recovered from the debris the destroyed hideout.
Official sources here insisted that the operation was launched on the source information of SOG Srinagar. As soon one soldier entered the hideout, the lonely militant fired a burst of AK-47 rifle. Critically wounded, the soldier was evacuated and rushed to hospital where he succumbed to injuries.

Residents of the area claimed that Riyaz alias Rizwan was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen and he was not part of the breakaway group formed by the rebel Qayoom Najar. However, DIG Gareeb Das disclosed that the slain militant had been spotted more than once lately in the company of LeI guerrillas Imtiyaz Kandoo, Meraj Halwai, Adil Mir and others of the group. At least once recently, he had been spotted with the LeI head Qayoom Najar. He said that Riyaz was wanted in the assassination of a Sarpanch and the murder of five others associated with mobile telephone operations. Before his shifting to LeI, Riyaz was active as a militant with Hizbul Mujahideen.

According to the Police records, Riyaz, along Mehraj Halwai and Adil Mir, shot dead Bomai Sarpanch Ghulam Mohammad Bhat at Bomai on December 20, 2014. FIR No: 93/2014 under section 302 RPCand 7/27 Indian Arms Act was lodged in police station Bomai. He was allegedly involved in causing a grenade blast in Dangerpora orchards in which three civilians got killed. FIR No: 167/2014 dated 12-10-2014 stood registered against him and others.
Riyaz, 32, was allegedly involved in grenade attack on police and Army at Kupwara crossing. On 21-02 -2014, he killed one civilian Waseem Malla s/o Mehrajuddin Malla r/o Bagh I Islam. FIR no 25/2014 under section 302 RPC, 7/27 Indian Arms Acount Act dated 21-02-2014 stands registered in Tarzoo Police Station. On May 25, Riyaz Riyaz Was allegedly involved in the assassination of Mohammad Rafiq r/o Pohrupeth Handwara resulting in registration of case FIR no 103/2015 under section 302 and 307 RPC and 7/27 Indian Arms Act against him at Sopore. Slain guerrilla was also involved.

He was also allegedly involved in terrorising landlords of mobile towers resulting in registration of FIR No: 100/2015 u/s 7/27, 506 RPC with Police Station Sopore. On August 26, Riyaz and Adil Mir allegedly killed a mobile phone operator Ghulam Hassan of Dooru, Sopore. FIR No: 105/ 2015 u/s 302 RPC and 7/27 Indian Arms Act stand registered with Police Station Sopore.

 Riyaz was also allegedly involved in killing of one Hurriyat activist Sheikh Altaf-ur-Rehman of Iqbal Nagar, Sopore bus stand, on June 9, 2015. FIR no 115/2015 dated 09-06-2015 stands registered with  Police Station Sopore.  He was also allegedly involved in the killing of one Hurriyat activist Khursheed Ahmed Bhat s/o Gh Nabi Bhat r/o Bomai Sopore outside his home on 9-06-2015. FIR no 36/2015 dated 12 -06- 2015 stands registered with Police Station Bomai. 
He was involved in the killing of one former militant Mehrajuddin Dar s/o Mohammad Ahsan Dar r/o Badambagh Sopore on 14 -06-2015.  He was also involved in the killing of former militant Aijaz Ahmad Reshi s/o Ab Rahim Reshi s/o Mundji sopore on 15-06-2015.

Encounter in Handwara
Meanwhile, late on Wednesday night, another gunbattle started between militants and security forces at Socahlwari, in Vilgam area of Handwara Police district. One militant and one soldier died. Another soldier injured.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Govt, PDP mute to reports of Mufti's 'health problem'

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 31: Even as the social media, including a section of the regular media, remained abuzz with reports of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s "health problem" on Monday, the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the State government chose to remain mute spectators.

Reports suggesting imminent possibility of change of guard in the State government in the wake of Mufti's diagnosis at a Mumbai hospital were neither contradicted nor confirmed by the government and the ruling party functionaries. Government’s designated spokesperson and Minister of Education Naeem Akhtar did not respond to phone calls. His cellphone was switched off for several hours.

Directorate of Information did not make mention or clarification with regard to the reports going viral on social media and being picked up by a section of the conventional media. In around a dozen of its news bulletins issued on Monday, there was no reference to the speculations that had every potential of creating uncertainty in the government functioning and delivery.

It was reported explicitly by some agencies that suffering from a serious ailment, Mufti had begun efforts to install his daughter Mehbooba, who is currently Lok Sabha member from South Kashmir, as his successor and Chief Minister.

Even Chief Minister's Political Analyst Waheed-ur-Rehman Para did not respond to phone calls from STATE TIMES. In a Tweet, Chief Minister's Advisor Prof. Amitabh Mattoo said that he had met Mr Mufti three days back and found him physically and mentally fit.

PDP spokesperson Dr Mehboob Beg maintained that he had no knowledge of this development as he was for the whole day busy with the fourth-day remembrance ceremony of his elder sister who passed away at her home in Los Angeles, USA, last week.

General Secretary Nizam-ud-din Bhat insisted that PDP did not feel any need to respond to “rumours”. According to him, there were currently no efforts afoot to install Ms Mufti as Chief Minister.

On the sidelines of her major district level public meeting at Baramulla, Mehbooba Mufti told journalists that her father was in good health. "Didn't you people notice that he delivered a speech for half-an-hour on 15th August? Did you find any trouble with him? We cannot help, if people speculate", she asserted without categorically refuting reports of her father's health problem. She claimed that Mufti had gone to see his son in Bangalore via Delhi and Mumbai. "He is back in Delhi now and will return to Srinagar tomorrow", Mehbooba said, while scuttling further queries and diverting to other issues.

Off the record, at least two the PDP leaders said that Chief Minister had been diagnosed with a malignant health problem in USA and currently he had undergone check-up at a specialised treatment hospital in Mumbai.


Sources revealed to STATE TIMES that a couple of days before his departure to Mumbai via Delhi, Mufti drove all the way to his estranged brother-in-law Sartaj Madni's home and motivated him over playing a visible and active role in the party. Madni was known to be upset over being dropped when Mufti recommended nominees and distributed tickets for vacant seats in Legislative Council. Madni was earlier tipped to be elected or nominated as a member and subsequently to be elected as Chairman of the Upper House. In the last three months, he lived in total oblivion.

Sources said that Mufti was accompanied to Madni's home near Wanpooh village by his wife Gulshan besides both the daughters, Mehbooba and Rubaiya. Next day, Madni called on Mufti at his Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar. Thereafter, he resumed his political activity in his Devsar constituency where he lost in the last year's Assembly elections to the Congress candidate Mohammad Amin Bhat.



"Rumours about Mufti Sb's ill health are rife. I hope they are wrong & pray to Allah for his long life & good health. Allah shafa bakshay".


"@abdullah_omar. Met Mufti Sahib three days ago. Mentally alert and physically no sign of any serious ailment".


"@amitabhmattoo that's very good to hear. Hopefully your tweet will put an end to rumours & uncertainty".

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Iqbal Khandey was 'pushed to the wall' in Mufti's government

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 30: Breaking a jinx, ebullient and egoistic Mohammad Iqbal Khandey with his induction into IAS in 1978 became an icon for thousands of aspirants of the green channel of bureaucracy in Jammu and Kashmir. The enfant terrible---from a distant village of Kokernag hogged headlines in 1985 when, on one afternoon, he was snubbed by Chief Minister Ghulam Mohammad Shah for coming to the Civil Secretariat in blue jeans. Within minutes, Shah made General Administration Department issue a circular banning Western outfits for government officials. It stopped short of giving out a dress code.

Until the end of his 37-year-long career, controversies---as also tragedies----followed Mr Khanday like a shadow. His marriage to the judge Kaneez Fatima knit him into the State’s most influential bureaucratic network which he represented by default for over three decades. 

His firsts----from cracking the IAS as a Kashmiri Muslim boy from a pastoral background to his landing in jail as Principal Secretary in the infamous Srinagar Sex Scandal that finally failed in the court when the witnesses turned hostile and CBI chose not to file an appeal----are innumerable. He boldly faced situations and survived potentially killer ailments his subordinates like Azad Lone didn't. Destiny, nevertheless, left him bereft of his only son, at the young age of 26. Sajid, according to the family friends, was a promising lawyer. Daughter Sehar had a brief tryst with PDP which fielded her as a candidate in the Assembly elections of 2008.

Few would have expected a Chief Minister like Omar Abdullah to reinstate Khandey into the mainstream of bureaucracy. One fine morning, Omar got him back to the Civil Secretariat as Principal Secretary Agriculture Production. Minister of Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir was widely perceived to be the man behind Khandey’s rehabilitation, and after Madhav Lal's shifting to Delhi, as Chief Secretary.

Again, speculations were rife with change of guard in bureaucracy when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed returned to power in March this year. However, contrary to a many speculations, Mufti retained both the top choices of his political bete noire Omar Abdullah---Chief Secretary Khandey as well as Principal Secretary Bharat Bhushan Vyas.

Khandey's resignation last week didn't come out of blue. Like Mufti’s old creation, Justice (retd) Ali Mohammad Mir's quitting on a protest note towards the end of his term as Chairman State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), Khanday stepped down three months ahead of his reaching superannuation. As Mir lamented that Mufti had ignored all of his recommendations against the security forces personnel involved in human rights abuse, Khandey made it public that he had been reduced "to the level of a stenographer".

Earlier, Mr Riyaz Jan quit within weeks of his appointment as Advocate General by the Mufti government. He too complained of "interference" into his working and alleged that Advocate General's office was sought to be reduced to a joke.

Jan's replacement by the young advocate Jehangir Iqbal Ganai by the Mufti government was the first embarrassment for Khandey. PDP high ups insist that when Ganai's order of appointment was issued, he and his father (former Secretary of Legislative Assembly) Iqbal Ganai were closeted with Chief Secretary. But, next day, Khanday was heard telling his bureaucratic colleagues that he had learned about Ganai's appointment through newspapers. "Jehangir is my relative. I would have at least greeted him on his appointment", a sulking Khandey told a colleague.

Khandey, according to well-placed political and bureaucratic sources, had "serious reservations" over the nominees submitted by Chief Minister Mufti to Raj Bhawan for appointment as Chairman and Members of the State Public Service Commission (PSC). It was only when Governor Narendra Nath Vohra returned the list that Mufti got eliminated all the nominees sponsored by at least three Ministers. However, Khandey's resentment was not fully addressed as Mufti resisted even the Governor’s pressure who acknowledged Lateef-uz-Zamaan Deva's integrity but wanted a senior officer of the rank of Financial Commissioner/Chief Secretary to head the constitutional body. Deva was just a junior Secretary rank official.

Mufti put his foot down for just two nominees----Deva and academic Mushtaq Wani, whose lawyer brother Mumtaz Wani lives and practises in Virginia near Washington DC and is known to have been Mufti’s host on two occasions, each time for around a month. The Wanis, people in America insist, have grown as family friends with the Muftis. All others of the first list were replaced. It was months later that Cabinet's post facto sanction was sought merely as a formality for Advocate General's and the PSC incumbents' appointment.

Significantly, Governor did not administer oath of office and secrecy to Mr Deva and this constitutional ritual was left to the Chief Minister.

For around three months prior to Chief Secretary’s resignation, a section of bureaucrats and Ministers laboured hard to make Mufti believe that Khandey had his personal ambition for the post of Chairman PSC. It was pointed out that he had prevailed upon Omar Abdullah to leave the appointment of members and Chairman of PSC to the "next government" towards the beginning of Assembly elections last year. On that point of time, Omar had recommended Khursheed Ganai (1982 batch IAS and FC Industries) as Chairman PSC. Some of the bureaucrats and politicians made out that with deferment after deferment and by way of submitting only the deficient proposals to Raj Bhawan, Khandey wanted to keep the top job reserved for himself till his retirement in November 2015.

On one occasion, Governor wanted Omar to recommend only the Chairman but Khandey, as many believe, played the saboteur. This is believed to have strained relationships between Khandey and the top contender Ganai who, otherwise, were close relatives.

Khandey is believed to have also resented transfer and appointment of over a dozen officers and bureaucrats recommended by politicians. As Mufti failed to protect Khandey’s proposals, which were drastically changed in three Cabinet meetings, he also refused to oblige Chief Secretary in recommending bureaucrats like Mohammad Ashraf Bukhari (Commissioner Secretary Agriculture Production) as members of PSC and Chairpersons of certain undertakings. Bukhari is due to retire in March 2016.

Paradoxically, Farooq Abdullah's most disliked bureaucrat Iqbal Khandey, who was picked up by Mufti as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister in 2002, is unceremoniously out in Mufti's second term.