Total Pageviews

Friday, March 17, 2017

PDP in power but contesting elections in worst ever conditions

Tassaduq’s entry raises PDP’s stake; Jamaat’s boycott in South Kashmir, Gujjar-Shia vote in low-turnout polling in Central Kashmir pivotal

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Mar 16: The fact that the principal opposition parties National Conference (NC) and Congress have combined and fielded their senior most leaders in the State in 1:1 arrangement in the by-elections on two important Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir valley reveals the seriousness of the interim exercise being held in two years of the general elections. Remarkably, the ruling PDP-BJP coalition in contrast has harnessed two greenhorns, both junior most in the ranks, in the election that would definitely have a bearing not only on the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 and Assembly elections of 2020 but also on the Mufti dynasty’s grip on the single largest party.

Farooq Abdullah, the State’s highest profile political leader, who lost his 35-year-long career’s first election to then PDP candidate Tariq Hamid Karra in 2014, is yet again NC’s candidate in Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal seat. With the support of Congress, he is in the fray against PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan. On Congress ticket, Khan had given a tough fight to NC’s Chief Ministerial candidate Omar Abdullah in the Assembly elections of 2014 in Beerwah. Less than a month ago, Khan shifted from Congress to the PDP. His father Sarfaraz Khan had won from Beerwah on PDP’s ticket in 2002 and later served as a Minister in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Council of Ministers.

With one difference, there is an identical contest in the South Kashmir seat, comprising Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts. While the opposition has fielded the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who has served as a Cabinet Minister twice and in the post-2002 era lost only once from his home segment of Dooru, PDP’s Mufti Tassaduq is just three-month-old in the party. Unlike Nazir Khan, he however has the distinction of being the former Chief Minister and the PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s only son.

Tassaduq was basically an accomplished cinematographer in United States of America before he shot into prominence with his Bollywood magnum opus ‘Omkara’. Hardly anybody knew him in Jammu and Kashmir until the day he attended his father’s funeral in January 2016. Being baptized into politics with his maiden election, Tassaduq would arguably hold the key to the Mufti dynasty’s influence over the party. His victory could pave his way one day to the hot seat of power but his defeat, in the most hostile ambience, could not only cause fissures in PDP but also lend superiority in the coalition to BJP that would find it easier to accomplish its political agenda in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have never before contested any election in such a hostile atmosphere but we are still hopeful that our arch rival NC has little capacity and cadre to make inroads in South Kashmir”, said a senior PDP leader, insisting to be anonymous. “Notice that Mehbooba Ji gave a crushing defeat to NC in the Assembly by-election (in Anantnag) last June”.

Ghulam Ahmad Mir, contrarily, claims that with the NC support---as also possible support from the CPM MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami---he would win “hands down” this time in South Kashmir. “They have killed and left injured most of the 90-odd people in South Kashmir in the last 8 months of turmoil. That’s fresh on everybody’s mind. They are being despised for their saffron label and being bedfellows with BJP and RSS. Besides, their government has failed on all fronts---governance, development, employment, restoration of peace. Who on earth will come out to vote for them?”, Mir asserted.

That is not the PDP’s only problem in the current situation. Factionalism seems to have touched its zenith as the family coterie in which Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s mother, maternal uncle Sartaj Madni and brother Tassaduq are the most important characters, has emerged as a parallel power centre. A number of the senior leaders have been heard whispering against Madni, Peerzada Mansoor and the all-important Works Minister Naeem Akhtar. Estranged Minister Maulvi Imran Ansari’s MLA uncle Maulvi Abid Ansari has publicly assailed Akhtar for “presiding over mischiefs” when the young Shia leader failed to get a portfolio of his choice in the recent reshuffle.

Even as the most important of the estranged leaders, Syed Altaf Bukhari, has been lately inducted back into the Cabinet and given a prestigious portfolio, MLAs Javed Mustafa Mir (Chadoura), Abdul Majid Paddar (Noorabad) and Mohammad Ashraf Mir (Sonwar) are still perceived to be upset as none of them has been brought back as Minister. Mehbooba had dropped them when she succeeded her father in April 2016. Even late Mufti’s loyal Abdul Rehman Veeri has gone into hibernation after his prestigious Works portfolio was shifted to Akhtar.

Two more of the PDP’s MLAs, namely Mohammad Khalil Bandh (Pulwama) and Abdul Rahim Rather (Kokernag) are also known to have shown little enthusiasm in mobilising their cadres after announcement of the elections.

Possessing impressive organisational capacities, Mehbooba, nevertheless, is expected to keep her flock together and make it deliver. Significantly, it remains to be seen whether she would give in to Imran Ansari’s pressure and give him a better portfolio or stand firm to keep her own prestige.

In South Kashmir, much would depend on Jamaat-e-Islami’s behaviour as its cadres this time around would not find it easy to tilt the balance in PDP’s favour as they are known to have done with 70-80% boycott and 20-30% voting in almost all elections after 1998. NC’s traditional bĂȘte noire, Jamaat, though not contesting elections after 1989, has a substantial concentration in Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts. “It will be seen as open treason this time. None of us will turn out to cast a vote”, said a senior Jamaat leader, though he disputed claims that his party had supported PDP in several elections post-1990.

In the Assembly elections of 2014, PDP had won 11 seats while as NC and Congress had bagged two each in South Kashmir. CPM retained its one-odd seat of Kulgam. NC had fared slightly better in its traditional bastion of Central Kashmir as it had retained 7 seats against equal number by PDP. PDF Chairman had retained his seat in Khansahab. Like Tarigami in South, Yasin is expected to support the NC-Congress alliance in Central Kashmir.

This time around, in Central Kashmir, the opposition is chiefly relying on a substantial committed chunk of Gujjar and Shia voters who, in defiance of the separatists’ boycott calls, have the history of turning up at polling station ahead of all. As Ansari’s Shia followers are still undecided but pretty upset, both factions of the Aghas of Budgam are known to be the NC supporters. In Kangan and Ganderbal, besides in two segments in Budgam, the Gujjar vote being mobilised by senior NC leader and MLA Kangan Mian Altaf Ahmad could be pivotal for Dr Abdullah whose mother was also Gujjar.

Even as much would depend on the actual turnout---expected to be 20-25% in Central Kashmir and 15-20% in South Kashmir---Dr Abdullah, defeated by then PDP’s Karra in 2014, has clearly better prospects in Srinagar. It is an irony that this time Karra would be campaigning for Dr Abdullah. In the thick of last year’s turmoil, he had quit PDP for what he called “brutality” of security forces. He has lately joined Congress.

PDP’s significant advantage is that this party currently is ruling the State in partnership with BJP and controlling the official machinery.



8 VCs’ appointment to be kept in abeyance

 Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Mar 16: Election Commission of India has decided not to quash the appointment of the 14 activists of PDP, BJP and Peoples Conference as Vice Chairpersons of different Public Sector Undertakings, boards and corporations even as that of the eight appointees from Central and South Kashmir would be put in abeyance on Friday.

Highly placed sources told STATE TIMES that ECI has not fully endorsed the opposition National Conference’s complaint that the orders of appointment issued after announcement of the polling schedule was directly a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. However, on a report submitted by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu, ECI has decided to put in abeyance the appointment of the eight PDP and BJP activists who are permanent residents of Central and South Kashmir.

Shantmanu is understood to have been called for a meeting on several election related issues including the NC’s complaint against appointment of the 14 ruling coalition activists as Vice Chairpersons of PSUs. On Friday, NC’s complaint would be disposed of in his presence in New Delhi.

Those who would not be allowed to hold office and function as VCs include Gulzar Ahmad (Jammu and Kashmir Industries Limited), Ataullah Samnani (J&K Minerals Limited), Parvez Ahmad (J&K State Road Transport Corporation), Nazir Ahmad Itoo (J&K Cements Limited) and Muntazir Mohiuddin (J&K Cable Car Corporation) all PDP besides Khalid Jehangir (J&K Projects Construction Corporation) and ‘Dr’ Ali Muhammad (SICOP) of BJP and Rashid Mehmood (J&K Agro Industries Development Corporation) of PC.



Farooq, Ahmad Mir to be opposition’s joint candidates in Kashmir

NC-Congress stitch alliance for Srinagar, Anantnag Lok Sabha seats; Tassaduq Mufti, Nazir Khan are PDP’s candidates

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Mar 14: With the Election Commission of India on Tuesday issuing notification for by-election in the Central Kashmir Lok Sabha seat, principal opposition parties National Conference (NC) and Congress have decided to contest jointly in order to defeat the ruling PDP candidates in both the seats of Srinagar and Anantnag.

Both the opposition parties on Tuesday held separate meetings before cobbling an alliance at a joint meeting held secretly at a private residential house in Rajbagh area of Srinagar. While as the NC team comprised General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar and former Ministers Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Sakeena Itoo and Nasir Aslam Wani, the Congress party was represented by the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, former Minister Taj Mohiuddin besides MLA Devsar Mohammad Amin Bhat and MLA Sopore Haji Abdul Rashid.

Well-placed political sources revealed to STATE TIMES that later in the afternoon, Ghulam Ahmad Mir drove straight to the NC patron Dr Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar Road residence where he held a closed-door meeting with him. It was also joined by NC’s acting president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The most significant development of the day, according to sources, was that the two parties’ top brass decided to contest the by-election jointly on both the seats. Notwithstanding the NC patron’s reluctance, it was decided that Dr Farooq Abdullah would be the two parties’ joint candidate from Srinagar while as Ghulam Ahmad Mir would be the alliance’s candidate in Anantnag.

Polling is scheduled to be held for the Central Kashmir seat, comprising 15 Assembly segments of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts, on April 9. In the South Kashmir constituency, comprising 16 Assembly segments of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts, polling would be held on April 12. The interim election has become necessary when PDP’s South Kashmir Lok Sabha member Mehbooba Mufti took over as Chief Minister following her father Mufti Mohammad’s death and the Central Kashmir Lok Sabha member Tariq Hamid Karra quit the PDP for what he called “brutality” of security forces, both in 2016.

Earlier on Tuesday, NC’s Core Group meeting was convened at Dr Abdullah’s residence. It was attended by Dr Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Abdul Rahim Rather, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Mohammad Akbar Lone, Sakeena Itoo and Khalid Najeeb Suharwardi. Only one member, namely Surjit Singh Salathia, was absent.

According to sources, Dr Abdullah expressed reluctance to contest the elections, arguing that he was now too old to run from one segment to another and was also not in the best of his health. He proposed that someone young like the party’s familiar spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu or Salman Sagar must be fielded against PDP’s green horn Nazir Ahmad Khan from Central Kashmir. However, most of the Core Group members insisted that none other than Dr Abdullah should be the party’s candidate. Their second favourite was senior leader Abdul Rahim Rather.

Leaders present in the meeting maintained that “nothing” was decided. They said that it was left to Dr Abdullah to decide whether NC should go it alone or form an alliance or seat-sharing with Congress. Selection of the candidates, as usual, was also left to Dr Abdullah. However, subsequent developments led to cobbling of an alliance between the two parties which in a coalition ruled the State from 2009 to 2014 but contested the Assembly elections of 2008 and 2014 independently.

“It was almost decided that NC’s Dr Abdullah would be the alliance’s candidate in Central Kashmir and the Congress State chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir would be the joint candidate in South Kashmir. However, an announcement could be made at a press conference in Srinagar tomorrow”, said a senior political source privy to the day’s developments. He said that J&KPCC had previously submitted a panel of three names —Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and MLA Shangus Gulzar Ahmad Wani —to the AICC high command.

Late on Monday evening, PDP’s Political Affairs Committee selected Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Tassaduq Mufti as the ruling coalition’s candidate in South Kashmir. A fresh entrant, Nazir Ahmad Khan, who lately shifted from Congress to PDP and gave a tough contest to NC’s Omar Abdullah in Beerwah segment in 2014, would be the PDP-BJP alliance’s candidate in Central Kashmir.

In the general Lok Sabha elections of 2014, PDP had contested independently and bagged all the three seats in Kashmir. Later, in the Assembly elections in 2014, PDP and NC had won 7 seats each in Central Kashmir while as an independent candidate, PDF chairman Hakeem Mohammad Yasin had been returned from Khansahab. In South Kashmir, PDP had bagged 11 seats while as NC and Congress had won 2 seats each. CPI(M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami had been returned for the fourth consecutive term from Kulgam. Even as they have yet to announce their decision, both Yasin and Tarigami are likely to support the NC-Congress candidates in the current election.



Thousands gather to disrupt Army operation in Pulwama

3 militants, civilian killed during 2 encounters; doctors certify Pulwama civilian's body had no injuries, no fractures

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, March 9: Amid intense stone pelting and pro-Pakistan slogans from unruly crowds, Police and security forces on Thursday killed two Kashmiri militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in a fierce encounter at Padgampora village in South Kashmir's hypersensitive Pulwama district even as a civilian succumbed to a gunshot injury outside the hamlet and another civilian was found dead in mysterious conditions.

A number of residents, speaking on condition of anonymity to STATE TIMES, insisted that a civilian driver Jalal-ud-din of Tahab died "after he was hit in his head with a stone or a gun by security forces". They alleged that he was the second civilian, after 18-year-old Aamir Nazir Wani of Begam Bagh, who was killed by Police and security forces after two militants were killed in an encounter at Padgampora.

Valley's separatist leadership alleged that the Police and security forces had for the first time on Thursday translated the Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat's February 16th threat into action and killed two civilians in cold blood. It called for a total shutdown in Kashmir to protest the killings on Friday.

Director General of Police Dr Shesh Pal Vaid, however, dismissed the allegation as "totally incorrect" and told STATE TIMES that it was nothing but part of propaganda to defame the Police and security forces. He, as well as DIG South Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani, maintained that the Police and security forces "despite high provocation" observed maximum restraint while conducting the operation and dealing with the hostile crowds outside. They said that the Police and security forces conducted a "completely neat and clean operation with total professionalism".

"Someone from the crowds fired on our boys and two of them had a narrow escape. With gunshot injuries, we have rushed them to hospital. Around a dozen of our men were injured in stone pelting", DGP said. "Clearly some terrorists had mixed up with the stone pelters".

DIG Pani said that head constable Khalid Hussain with gunshot injuries was rushed to Srinagar and admitted to Army's 92 Base Hospital while as SPO Manzoor Ahmad was under treatment at District Hospital Pulwama. DGP said that DH Pulwama had certified that the civilian Jalal-ud-din had no injuries on his body. He claimed that Aamir, who was among the stone pelters, had got fatally hit "by a stray bullet". "We are not responsible for their death", DGP asserted.

Medical Superintendent DH Pulwama Dr Abdul Rashid Parra corroborated DGP's statement and said: "Jalal-ud-din was brought dead. A team of about 6 doctors headed by Dr Mir Mushtaq examined his body. It had no signs of life. We performed artificial resuscitation but it didn't work. Then we conducted ECG. It was totally flat. Thereafter we conducted head-to-toe examination of the dead body. We observed that it had absolutely no external injuries including bullet or pellet injuries. We then used X-ray to check if there were any fractures or internal injuries. We found none and declared him brought dead".

Dr Parra said that the team of doctors had no means to ascertain where the civilian had died and how. "The prople in a surcharged atmosphere took away the body and did not let us conduct a detailed autopsy to ascertain the cause of death. We can do it only with the permission and request of the family concerned", Dr Parra said. He believed that the cause of death could be "most probably cardiac arrest" but maintained that the actual circumstances leading to the civilian's death could be ascertained only through a detailed investigation.

"If we have no hesitation in saying that we received 3 patients with gunshot injuries and 7 with pellet injuries, what should make us tell a lie to please anyone. We don't act under any influence, fear or intervention from any quarter. The fact is that there were absolutely no injuries or fractures ", Dr Parra said.

Earlier two local militants of LeT were killed in the fierce gunfight. DIG said that Jehangir Ganai of Koil was killed during last night but Mohammad Shafi Shergujri was eliminated in the afternoon on Thursday. He said that SSP Pulwama Mohammad Rayees Bhat got Shergujri's wife and son and they requester him through PAS of a bulletproof bunker to come out and surrender before the SSP. But even after the family made repeatedly requests, Shergujri refused to come out. Thereafter he was killed in exchange of gunfire.

Shafi Shergujri of Bandarpora was a top wanted LeT militant. NIA had carried out different raids to arrest him as he was wanted in a fidayeen attack in Udhampur. According to NIA, Shergujri had helped Pakistani militant Naveed and his associates to reach Samroli Udhampur where they carried out a fidayeen attack on a BSF convoy. Naveed was later arrested in the same area.

Shergujri's militant brother Aadil Shergujri had been killed by security forces in an encounter in Lelhaar village of Pulwama last year.

Meanwhile, one militant of Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in Bandipora in an encounter with forces, while as an army Major was injured late on Thursday.

The militant has been identified as Mushtaq Ahmad of Bandipora. He was killed when police and army laid a checkpoint outside police station Bandipora following specific inputs.

“During the checking, a militant travelling in a vehicle opened fire in which an army Major of 14 RR was injured. The militant was killed in retaliatory fire,” police said.



Centre bracing up for another turbulent summer; sending 12,000 CRPF men to Kashmir

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


Jammu, Mar 8: Perturbed over sustained threats to peace, including terror attacks and mob violence, Government of India are sending fresh deployment of 120 companies of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to Kashmir.

Sources in Union Ministry of Home Affairs told STATE TIMES that the fresh paramilitary deployment would start arriving in and taking positions mainly in the hypersensitive Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and other sensitive districts from next week.

The fresh deployments to assist the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Army in conducting counterinsurgency operations and addressing law and order issues are being briefed about revised Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and equipped with arms and ammunition. Its arsenal would hold some freshly introduced variants of tear smoke and improved shotguns which would be subjected to final testing and demonstration probably on Monday next.

Incharge DG CRPF Sudeep Lakhtakia, according to sources, would visit Srinagar on Sunday. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi would personally follow the CRPF chief early next week before the new deflectors and a new variety of tear gas is introduced to deal with the law and order problems.

Centre is said to be perturbed over the failure of the PDP-BJP coalition to restore sustainable peace in Kashmir valley even as intensity of the over four-month long turbulence after the militant Burhan Wani's death in an encounter last year has remarkably reduced. Parallel to violent demonstrations and the crowds disrupting scrores of security forces operations in the last two years, militants have regained their lost ground in many parts of Kashmir valley.

Reports available with the Centre, according to sources, indicate coordination between the separatist demonstrations, mob attacks and terror strikes in the middle of current year.

While as State government claims to be preparing for holding Panchayat elections in April, Election Commission of India is likely to take a final call with regard to holding by-election for the two Parliamentary seats of South Kashmir and Central Kashmir in the next couple of days. Requirement for security forces deployment could increase accordingly in the Valley.


Policeman, 2 militants killed in Tral encounter

Gunfight ends amid intense stone pelting and clashes

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, March 5: Twenty-hour-long joint operation by Army and Police concluded with the death of two militants of Hizbul Mujahideen and a Police constable at Haffu Nigeenpora village of Tral in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Sunday.

IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani told STATE TIMES that two militants and a constable got killed in the gunfight that began on Saturday evening and ended late on Sunday night. He identified the slain constable as Manzoor of SOG Tral who was a resident of Salamabad Uri. IGP said that Police and security forces had specific information about the presence of two militants and both of them were killed in the fierce gunbattle.

While as the local militant was identified as Aaquib Maulvi of the nearby Hayena village, his Pakistani associate was code-named as Usama. Two rifles, including an INSAS believed to have been snatched away from a CRPF personnel last year in South Kashmir, were recovered from the site of the encounter.

Officials said that three CRPF personnel and Major Rishi of RR 42 Bn sustained injuries during the encounter. They were rushed to hospital and were all reportedly out of danger.

The house of a carpenter Mohammad Ramzan, in which the militants had taken shelter, was razed to rubble with IEDs and it caught fire. IGP said that the local militant’s body was recovered but the Pakistani militants was badly charred and not yet recovered from the debris. He said that Aaquib gave a long and tough fight but was ultimately gunned down.

Sources in Tral said that Aaquib’s body was handed over to his family members late on Sunday night and his funeral rites would be conducted amid tension at his village on Monday. “Some restriction are already in place but there will be no curfew”, IGP said.

This newspaper obtained the recording of a telephonic conversation between Aaquib and his local commander Riyaz Naikoo. Aaquib is heard seeking apologies of his commander who in turn asks him to take care of Usama and make attempts to come out of the cordoned house and try to escape. Aaquib tells Naikoo that the people outside have engaged forces in intense stone pelting  and clashes and there was no chance for the duo to escape.

The audio clip confirms presence of two militants---Aaquib and Usama---inside the house. Naikoo asks him to fight valiantly and cause damage to Army while attempting to escape. The conversation seems to have occurred at the sunset on Saturday.

For the whole day on Sunday, hundreds of people gathered outside the fully cordoned and emptied village and engaged Police and the CRPF outer ring in intermittent clashes apparently helping the holed up militants to escape.

Unconfirmed reports said that there was a concealed hideout under the house which helped the two militants to remain under cover for over 24 hours.


Delhi’s premium on treason and separatism goes meteoric in BJP rule

Kashmiri separatists get top government jobs for their own children through backdoor; Ministerial cars, VVIP treatment, prize postings, PG seats at will



JAMMU, March 5: Leading national daily The Times of India has uncovered how Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir has, in its latest, appointed pro-Pakistan hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s grandson Anees-ul-Islam as Research Officer in Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) at a time when the separatist leader had enforced over four-month-long violent and turbulent shutdown in the Valley.

Suggestions of quid pro quo, apparently spread by the beleaguered BJP are wrong at its face because Mr Geelani continues to be unrelenting in keeping the Valley turbulent and shut. His audacious inspiration is wooing scores of young boys to join the terror camp, kill others and get themselves killed. Ideally, Islamabad not New Delhi should have footed the bills and added comfort to Mr Geelani’s life. That’s what the neighbouring country has been doing without break since 1990. For now, it appears that both Islamabad and New Delhi are partners in the joint venture of taking care of everybody who spits on the idea of India, throws a stone or a grenade, fires a bullet, raises a banner or shouts a slogan against India and in favour of Pakistan.

What The Times of India story has skipped is all the more shocking. The post of Research Officer at SKICC had been specially created by then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s close relative, Shahnawaz Shah, in 2003. In the autumn of 2016, Shahnawaz was elevated to the rank of Manager when at a senior level between the separatist and the pseudo-separatist mainstream leaders it was decided to appoint Geelani’s grandson as Research Officer. It was felt that the pay scale and the grade given to Mufti’s relative was not commensurate with the ‘taller’ Geelani’s relative.

Under orders of the top echelons of PDP-BJP government, Secretary Tourism was forced to upgrade Research Officer’s pay scale to the pay scale of Tehsildar, BDO, General Manager DIC and other Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) post’s pay scale of Rs 9300—Rs 34,800 with grade pay Rs 4,800. The idea is to elevate him to grade pay of Rs 6,600 (Deputy Secretary to Government) in the next few years and then induct him into Technical Quota of KAS. In the following years, he would become Deputy Commissioner, Director and then rise to the rank of Commissioner-Secretary and Principal Secretary to Government---all through backdoor.

Under the plan, MBA was fixed as essential qualification for Research Officer. It was decided that in violation of the Cabinet Order of 2010, which makes service in SKICC pensionable, Secretary Tourism would not refer the vacancy to Public Service Commission (PSC) and instead conduct the appointment clandestinely through a selection to be made by a committee of his trusted subordinates and headed by him. To cut down the number of the candidates, cut-off for shortlisting was raised to 75% marks as the candidate to be favoured had 76% marks. The “result” was completed on November 30, 2016 but neither published in any newspaper nor posted on SKICC or Tourism department’s website. All the high-merit candidates, who had performed exceptionally well in interview, including a pass-out of SKUAST Jammu who had 84% marks, were dropped and Geelani’s grandson selected.

On the same day i.e. November 30, 2016, the blue-eyed boy was called to SKICC. Senior officials facilitated his joining and greeted his family as the mission assigned to them was accomplished. Thirty-one candidates, many of them having far greater merit, kept shuttling between their homes and SKICC to learn about the “result”.

“It was on December 25 that we came to know that some Anees-ul-Islam had joined as Research Officer about a month back as we all had been kept in the dark”, said a candidate from Handwara who has 79% marks in MBA. When the dropped candidates failed to get injustice, one of them emailed a detailed complaint to ACB Srinagar of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). On February 3, he was notified by Google that his mail had failed in delivery.

If sources privy to the process are to be believed, Anees-ul-Islam’s CID verification was returned with “positive” remarks from a top office and did not, like other cases, go to the field.

The story of granting extraordinary favours and privileges to the India-bashers in J&K does neither start nor end here. Previously too, one of this hardcore separatist’s sons was sent for a Forestry training course for which only the in-service candidates were entitled. On completion of the course, then Forest Minister of Dr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference government, Peerzada Ahmad Shah made a plan to appoint the separatist leader’s son as “Assistant Director Forest Protection Force” on adhoc basis. The idea was to ostensibly engage around 155 youths, including the Minister’s own daughter, on temporary basis and subsequently regularise them against posts of Range Officers and post them as “incharge DFOs”.

Following its exposure in The Indian Express, a number of candidates raised protest and knocked at the doors of J&K High Court. Shortly after this plan failed, same blue-eyed boy and the top separatist leader’s son was inducted on a better position in Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology (SKUAST). Another top separatist leader’s brother-in-law was inducted into Technical Quota of KAS and posted on prize positions as HOD while as his senior are still six levels lower to him.

Yet another top separatist leader’s son was granted a contract for supplying computers to the Revenue Training Institute Srinagar in violation of all rules and procedures. Sometime later, his failed rivals filed a complaint that the supplier had been allotted exorbitant rates and he had supplied computers of inferior quality. State Vigilance Organisation conducted a preliminary verification and found the charges true. FIR was lodged and the supplier arrested. The case is reportedly still under investigation.

Another separatist leader’s wife enjoyed prize postings and promotions, both in NC-Congress coalition and the PDP-BJP regime.

Top bureaucrats on condition of anonymity confirm that the separatist leaders have also been getting prize postings for their relatives besides government contracts and supply orders, admissions in prestigious schools and colleges with intervention of government functionaries. At Srinagar airport, officers and security staff are seen arranging for their boarding cards, business class seats and hospitality in VIP Lounge with pride. Much has been already written about the beacon light and hooter-fitted Ministerial cars, escort Geeps and PSOs provided to the separatist leaders mostly during Vajpayee or Modi government. They even raise palatial residential and commercial constructions without even bothering to apply for a building permission.

While the poor Kashmiris remain engaged with different things from stone pelting to studies, the separatist’s children and relatively get passports on priority when their masters in Pakistan allot then a particular quota of MBBS and BDS seats in different Pakistani medical colleges every year. Government has reports that the separatists often sell these seats to different clients for anything between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 30 lakh with fear of action from the government.

The wife of a former ‘Commander-in-Chief’, who is now a separatist leader, works as Public Prosecutor. A young KAS lady officer married a commander-turned-separatist activist a few years back for the premium and glamour attached to separatism. A few years from now, she will be a Deputy Commissioner or Secretary in Home Department and thus custodian of all the State secrets.

On the pattern adopted in case of Geelani’s grandson at SKICC, Hizbul Mujahideen and United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin’s son was a few years back appointed as Manager in Entrepreneurship Development Institute that was attacked and left devastated in two fidayeen strikes last year.

Admittedly, in a democratic country like India, Geelani’s and Salahuddin’s sons cannot be punished for their relationship to the separatists and militants and they are very much entitled to everything from government jobs to prize postings. However, the process becomes fishy and scandalous when it is held clandestinely and surreptitiously and due right is brazenly denied to meritorious and poor candidates who repose faith in democracy and legitimacy of the Indian systems and institutions.

Even in the case of the latest appointment at SKICC, national security has been brazenly compromised as the VVIPs who regularly attend meetings and conferences there include Prime Minister of India, Union Home Minister and heads of security and intelligence agencies. Chief Minister and top Army, paramilitary, intelligence, security and Police officers attend Unified Headquarters meetings at SKICC.

Thus the country’s most sensitive State has been reduced to a ‘Banana Republic’ as the most meritorious and those identifying themselves with India fail to get even an inferior government job and keep shuttling between their homes and government offices till they cross their age bar. Irony is that much of this self-defeating policy has been introduced, pursued and promoted during the BJP regime. Interestingly when the party’s firebrand spokespersons are embarrassed on national television, they invariably say: “You don’t know how much of it we have withdrawn from the separatists. We can’t disclose it publicly”!


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Police fail to trap handlers of cross-LoC arms smuggling

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, March 1: Even after taking into custody the driver and recovering arms and ammunition from his truck, Police in North Kashmir have failed to trap handlers of the cross-LoC arms smuggling.

In its Tuesday issue, STATE TIMES had exclusively reported that Police had arrested a driver of cross-LoC trade and recovered arms and ammunition from his truck that had been smuggled into the Valley from PoK by a militant network.

While a senior Police official was returning from New Delhi, an officer of the rank of additional SP, according to well-placed authoritative sources, made a plan to trap the receivers of the arms and ammunition at a particular spot on Srinagar-Baramulla highway on Tuesday evening. The detained driver of truck No: JK03B-1586, namely Irshad Ahmad Mantoo of Buchpora Kulgam, communicated to the consignees to reach a particular spot to receive the Chinese pistol, some ammunition and two hand grenades, which had been smuggled into the Valley through cross-LoC trade earlier.

Even as the receivers reached close to the spot, they probably got suspicious about the Police surveillance. They diverted their vehicles and sped away in a style that Police got no chance to chase or open fire on them. Sources insist that the handlers or their authorised agents managed to escape successfully. None of the people involved in the networking of arms smuggling could be arrested or trapped in the raids carried out at several places in Kulgam area of South Kashmir.

None of the Police officers agreed to speak in confirmation or contradiction to the reports available with STATE TIMES.

Sources said that one Chinese Pistol with two magazines and 14 rounds of ammunition, four AK magazines with 120 rounds of ammunition and two Chinese hand grenades were recovered from the camouflaged cavity that had been created on the truck for the purpose of concealing the arms and ammunition smuggled in from PoK through cross-LoC trade.

Investigation is underway to find out how much of arms and ammunition had been already smuggled in by a formidable terror network and how many vehicles and drivers were involved in it. Sources said that the detained driver has spilled the beans and identified many of his contacts but Police are still investigating about their antecedents, whereabouts and hideouts. His call details and other means of communication and interaction with the arms smugglers in Kashmir and across the LoC are being scanned in detail.

While the Kashmiri drivers carry goods of the zero-tariff cross-LoC barter trade after crossing the LoC to the Trade Facilitation Centre Chakothi for onward trans-shipment to PoK, the drivers from across the LoC similarly deliver goods at TFC Salamabad, Uri. Goods as well as the drivers and their vehicles are thorough scanned manually and electronically at both TFCs, one controlled by the Pakistani customs authorities and another by the Indian customs and immigration authorities. 

Case FIR No 07/2017 under section 7/25 of Indian Arms Act and section 13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has been registered in Police Station Uri and the investigation has been assigned to a special investigation team.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Arms smuggled into Valley through cross-LoC trucks

Driver held with loaded pistol; Police launch series of raids in South Kashmir to break the terror network

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 28: Following inputs from a Central intelligence agency, Police have arrested a driver, seized from him a loaded pistol and launched a series of raids in South Kashmir after learning that militants have been smuggling in arms and ammunition through the cross-LoC trade trucks from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

Highly placed authoritative sources confirmed to STATE TIMES that Baramulla District Police on Tuesday intercepted a truck on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway and took its driver into custody for sustained interrogation. One Chinese pistol with ammunition was recovered from the truck.

A resident of Kulgam area, the driver is believed to have been engaged by a formidable militant organisation for smuggling of arms and ammunition from PoK. Sources said that the detained driver spilled the beans and exposed several of his contacts. His interrogation was still inconclusive. 

Different Police teams swung into action under supervision of DIG North Kashmir, Nitish Kumar, and IGP Kashmir, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani, for arresting the militants and their over-ground workers involved in smuggling of arms and ammunition through cross-LoC trade from Muzzafarabad.

It was not immediately clear how much of arms and ammunition had been already smuggled into the Valley and how many drivers had been engaged by the militant organisation.

Officials are baffled how the network of smugglers has succeeded to carry arms and ammunition as every single item is thoroughly scanned and checked at the Trade Facilitation Centre Salamabad, Uri, before trans-shipment to the trucks of the Kashmiri drivers. It was not immediately clear if transfer of the incharge of TFC last week was in any way linked to smuggling of the arms from across the border.

Interestingly, Police have learned that several of the militants, who were killed in encounters or arrested in the last six months, had travelled to Pakistan on valid Indian Passports rather than crossing the border with the help of conventional infiltration guides.

In 2014 and 2015 cross-LoC trade had been suspended for several weeks following recovery of narcotics from some trucks arriving in from Muzzafarabad.

The barter system of cross-LoC trade between Pakistan and Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir commenced on October 21, 2008, towards the end of a turbulent summer in Jammu and Kashmir during which Kashmiri traders called for a march to Muzzafarabad when some people in Jammu threatened to block supplies to the Valley. Previously, India and Pakistan had inaugurated cross-LoC travel through Uri in valley and Chakan-Da-Bagh in Jammu on April 7, 2005.

Currently trade through Uri (Baramulla) and Chakan-Da-Bagh (Poonch) is being handled four days a week as around 100 trucks are permitted from each side. Volume of the zero-tariff barter trade is being estimated at Rs 2000 crore from Indian side and Rs 1700 crore from Pakistani side in the last 8 years.



Friday, February 24, 2017

Maj critical; 3 soldiers, woman killed in Shopian terror strike

Army chief flies to Srinagar, CM asks two Ministers to attend wreath-laying ceremony

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 23: While a critically wounded Major is battling for life at a Military Hospital in Srinagar, three soldiers and a civilian woman got killed and five soldiers, including a Lt. Colonel, sustained injuries in the current year’s first terror strike on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday in Shopian area of South Kashmir.

Highly placed authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that a unit of Rashtriya Rifles swooped on Kungnoo village in Shopian district in the wee hours on Thursday after learning about the movement of some militants. Without getting into contact with any militant, the security forces were returning to their camp around 0200 hours when the militants in ambush near Mool Chitragam ambushed their cavalcade. A red-colour Tata Sumo vehicle suffered the brunt of the militant strike even as they targeted all the four vehicles.

Three soldiers got killed and five others, including one Lt. Colonel and one Major, were injured. The civilian driver of the Tata Sumo sustained minor injuries. All the injured were airlifted and rushed to 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar. Late on Thursday, doctors attending on the injured soldiers said that all of them, excluding Major Amardeep Singh, were stable.

Dr Anand, a neurosurgeon was flown from Command Hospital of Udhampur to Srinagar where the Army doctors were also joined by Dr Arif and Dr Yousuf of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). One of the three doctors told STATE TIMES that Major Amarjeet’s condition was “extremely critical” even as the best possible medical treatment was provided to him on time. He said that the team of three neurosurgeons removed the badly damaged parts of the brain area and carried out other surgical procedures. However, the blood pressure of the officer was not stabilising to the satisfaction of the doctors.

Three soldiers killed in the ambush were identified as Lance Naik Ghulam Mohi-ud din Rather, Sepoy Vikas Singh Gurjar and Sepoy Sreejith. While as Ghulam Mohiud-din, a local soldier, would be laid to rest in his ancestral village, bodies of two more soldiers would be despatched by a special airplane for last rites in their respective places of residence on Friday.

Sources said that 50-year-old Taja Begum w/o Ghulam Mohiuddin was hit by a stray bullet that pierced a glazed window and left her dead inside her home, close to the site of encounter.

In the evening, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Bipin Rawat flew from Delhi to Srinagar to take a review of the latest obtaining security scenario, militants’ and the peoples’ behaviour and the security forces’ coordination with Police and intelligence agencies. A major counterinsurgency operation, according to sources, was being planned to flush out militants in Shopian-Kulgam-Pulwama belt of South Kashmir.

Gen Rawat would be among the senior Army, Police and paramilitary forces officers to attend the wreath-laying ceremony of the three soldiers at headquarters 15 Corps at 0830 hours on Friday. Director General of Jammu and Police Dr Shesh Pal Vaid would be represented by IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani and other senior officers as he would not be able to fly to Srinagar and reach there at 0830 hours.

Sources revealed to this correspondent that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, on way to Saudia Arabia from New Delhi for a pilgrimage (Umrah) called Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma and asked him to communicate to two Cabinet Minister, namely Minister of Law and Rural Development Abdul Haq Khan and Minister of Agriculture Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, to attend the wreath-laying ceremony of the three soldiers at Badami Bagh cantonment on Friday morning. Both the Ministers are currently in Kashmir.

Meanwhile Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility of the attack and claimed that five soldiers were killed and several others injured in the successful ambush.

Residents said that the funeral prayers and other last rites of the woman were conducted peacefully but hours after that clashes occurred at several places between the demonstrators and security forces. They alleged that the soldiers roughed up civilians and caused extensive damage to over a dozen civilian vehicles parked on the streets.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Basharat back to office but Imran’s uncle attacks Naeem, Mansoor

Tassaduq and some officials resolve part of the portfolio crisis in PDP; Mehbooba may add some Class-3 portfolios to contrite Ministers

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 20: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s crisis managers on Monday deflated the balloon of a revolt within to some extent as Basharat Bukhari withdrew his resignation and joined as Minister of Horticulture even as the second fuming Minister, Imran Raza Ansari, went ahead with his schedule of pilgrimage in Iran and Iraq.

Mollified by CM’s brother Tassaduq Mufti and some senior Government officials who acted as interlocutors, Basharat in the morning drove to Ms Mufti’s Wazarat Road residence and held his second hour-long meeting with her. Sources privy to the development told STATE TIMES that Basharat made his last-ditch efforts to get some “face saving portfolio” but Chief Minister remained unmoved and made it clear that she would redress the grievance of the two Ministers only after the Parliamentary elections if they withdrew their resignations and accepted the portfolios assigned to them.

According to these well-placed sources, Chief Minister would consider adding some “class-3” portfolios like Culture and Hospitality & Protocol to the two Ministers later this year.

Later, Basharat drove to the Civil Secretariat and joined his duty as Minister of Horticulture. In Monday’s issue, STATE TIMES had exclusively reported that Basharat had returned to Jammu and he was likely to surrender and join as Minister of Horticulture.

Even as a number of Ms Mufti’s emissaries, including her confidantes Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra and Saadut Hussain, called on Imran Ansari, arranged his meeting with Chief Minister and urged him to withdraw his resignation on Saturday and Sunday, he is said to have emphasised that he could not go against the aspirations of his Shia followers. On Sunday, he left for Iran along with his family.

Sources in bureaucracy said that Chief Minister did not forward Ansari’s resignation for acceptance to Governor as PDP was keen not to lose him out to National Conference or Congress. For now, Imran Ansari, whose father late Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari deserted NC in 2005 and remained in PDP until his death in 2014, is the only Shia face in the principal ruling party. However, sources insist, Chief Minister has said repeatedly that she would not succumb to ‘pressure tactics’ in any circumstances.

With the attempts of reconciliation still underway, Imran’s uncle and PDP’s MLA from Zadibal, Maulvi Abid Hussain Ansari, has mounted scathing attacks on Ms Mufti’s confidantes Naeem Akhtar (Minister of R&B) and Peerzada Mansoor Hussain (Vice Chairman Khadi and Village Industries Board), holding them responsible for creating current crisis in the party.

A national daily quoted Abid to have dismissed Akhtar as “saboteur”. “I have understood that Naem sahib doesn’t work for the interest of party but is hell bent at the behest of some agency to destroy PDP to the core,” Abid is reported to have told The Economic Times and offered him challenge to contest an election against him.

“I will leave my assembly seat and leave Kashmir, if Akhtar manages to get 200 votes against me,” Abid, who represents a Shia dominated constituency, has said.

“You cannot ask an MLA to gather people when there is a function in Srinagar and prefer Naem when it comes to portfolios,” said Abid. According to him, there was anger against Akhtar within the party but only few would dare to speak openly about this as they feared retribution from the powerful Minister.

Abid is reported to have said that Akhtar had been “imposed” on the cadres. According to him, he was an MLC and had never contested any election and as such he had no constituency or public commitment. Abid has said that Akhtar should have no problem with a portfolio like Imran’s Youth Services and Sports and demanded that Akhtar’s all-important R&B portfolio be given to Imran who had to reach out to large number of people.

In an interview to Current News Service, Abid is reported to have called Mansoor “black-mailer”, “back-biter” and “BJP man” and held Akhtar “responsible for present disorder” in PDP. He is quoted to have said that the PDP would be decimated in the forthcoming Lok Sabha by-elections for which Naeem Akhtar and Mansoor Hussain would be responsible.

“I was shocked when Chief Minister appointed Mansoor as Vice Chairman of KVIB. This man in league with Naeem Akhtar sowed the seeds of animosity that led to the ouster of Altaf Bukhari, Javaid Mustafa Mir, Abdul Majeed Padder and Muhammad Ashraf Mir from the Council of Ministers. Mansoor knows the job well how to widen wedge between party legislators and workers,” CNS quoted Abid.

According to Abid, Mansoor was “an ordinary employee at SKIMS” and he had by manipulation risen to a position “where he is draining the state exchequer”. 

“Currently, he is handling KVIB and soon people will see how scams will surface there,” he reportedly said and added that Mansoor and Akhtar had brought the party “on the verge of destruction”.

“Naeem and Mansoor are calling shots in the party and it is because of them that Imran was not allocated a new portfolio. Neither of them can compete with Imran who has a great stature. These men will feel the heat when Srinagar will go for polls for the Parliamentary seat,” Abid has reportedly said.

Abid alleged that Akhtar had ruined the Department of Education and claimed that the employees celebrated his removal. “Mark my words, like employees from Education department now the contractors and the PWD employees will hit the roads and blame Akhtar for mess which he is going to create in the department,” Abid has said.

“Our Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti feels that both Naeem Akhtar and Mansoor are assets for the party, though we have repeatedly informed her about their anti-party activities. Time will soon come when she will realize and show them the door,” Abid has reportedly said.

“Akhtar spends much time with non-party men. He is always surrounded by sycophants and mostly he is busy in appeasing BJP men. Till date, he has never solved the problem of any PDP worker” he has said.

Efforts to seek reaction from Akhtar and Mansoor failed as their phones and WhatApp did not respond to calls from this newspaper.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Bukhari, Ansari meet Mehbooba; stand-off over portfolios continues

CM asks disgruntled Ministers to attend office, tells them ‘pressure tactics’ wouldn’t make her bow; Basharat Bukhari likely to surrender, returns to Jammu; Imran Ansari off to Iran on pilgrimage with family

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 19: The situation created by resignation of the two disgruntled Ministers of PDP took another dramatic turn on Sunday as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asked Syed Basharat Bukhari and Imran Raza Ansari to “immediately” attend their offices in Civil Secretariat while making it clear that their “pressure tactics” would not make her bow. After the two Ministers called on the Chief Minister separately in Srinagar, an apparently submissive Basharat Bukhari returned to Jammu but an unyielding Imran Ansari proceeded to Iran on a scheduled pilgrimage with his family.

Highly placed sources in the political establishment told STATE TIMES that after separate meetings with the emissaries, Basharat Bukhari called on the Chief Minister at her Gupkar Road residence on Sunday and discussed with her the situation created by reshuffle of portfolios immediately after the Amirakadal MLA and former Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari’s induction as the new Cabinet Minister for Education on Friday. Sources said that Ms Mufti and Mr Basharat held a closed-door meeting for about one hour.

Previously, late on Saturday night, Imran Ansari drove to Ms Mufti’s residence and remained closeted with her for about one hour.

Sources privy to the deliberations said that Ms Mufti assured both the disgruntled Ministers that she could consider their request “favourably” but not before they return to their work at Civil Secretariat and attend the official functions. She is said to have asked them both to return to their offices “immediately” and refrain from creating any crisis for her government and party at the crucial time before the Panchayat and Lok Sabha elections.

Basharat, according to sources, maintained that “a coterie of the defeated MLAs within the party” had been hatching up conspiracies against him and it had finally culminated into an “embarrassing situation” as his key portfolio was replaced by the one which, according to him, was not very important.

Even as Basharat did not name any of the “conspirators”, a whisper campaign in the estranged camp is currently mounting against Mohammad Sartaj Madni and Peerzada Mansoor Hussain who are said to have influenced reshuffle of the portfolios. Madni is Ms Mufti’s maternal uncle while as Mansoor has been her close aide since the PDP-Congress government took over in 2002. In 2014 Assembly elections, they had lost to Congress candidates in Devsar and Shangus constituencies respectively.

Ansari, according to sources, whined that a “suitable portfolio” had not been allotted to him despite “assurances” from Chief Minister. People close to him insist that Ms Mufti had decided to allocate “CAPD and another portfolio” to Ansari but when the allotment was made public, he found his old portfolio intact. Like Basharat, Imran Ansari is said to have been assured by Ms Mufti that she would redress his grievance after he resumes his work at office.

According to knowledgeable sources, initially both the disgruntled Ministers laid a condition that they would return to Civil Secretariat only after “suitable portfolios” would be assigned to them. However, after the meeting on Sunday, Basharat conveyed indications of submission. In the afternoon, he returned to Jammu in an Air India flight that also had on board Secretary Tourism Farooq Ahmad Shah.

Basharat Bukhari and Imran Ansari reached Srinagar airport separately but almost simultaneously. Along with his family, Ansari left directly for New Delhi wherefrom he is scheduled to fly to Iran for a 10-day-long pilgrimage. He would also visit some Shia shrines in Iraq.

“The stand-off is continuing. On Monday, CM is likely to take her call on the resignations. We are sure Basharat will surrender and withdraw his resignation”, said an influential Minister of PDP who asserted that any change of portfolios at this stage would make CM’s position “weak and awkward”. “It will create more problems than solve. It can open Pandora’s box. Some MLAs have already given negative reactions”, he said.

In the reshuffle on Friday, Basharat lost out his key portfolios of Relief and Rehabilitation to Abdul Rehman Veeri whose all-important portfolio of Roads and Buildings was assigned to the influential PDP leader Naeem Akhtar. Akhtar’s equally important Education portfolio was allocated to the fresh entrant Altaf Bukhari who was the only Minister inducted in the Cabinet. Altaf had impressively functioned as Minister for R&B in late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government in 2015. He was among the four Ministers — two Cabinet Ministers and two Ministers of State—of the Mufti Sayeed government who were not taken by Ms Mufti, in April 2016. On getting the “insignificant” Horticulture portfolio on Friday, Basharat was quick to tender his resignation.

PDP’s first time MLA from Pattan and a Shia leader Imran Ansari was known to be dissatisfied with his portfolios of Youth Services & Sports and Information Technology from day one. He and his supporters claim that Chief Minister had assured him “a suitable portfolio” in a possible reshuffle “in near future”.

Saturday and Sunday witnessed a flurry of activity as the coalition’s crisis managers swung into action to pacify the two disgruntled Ministers. On Friday itself, both Basharat Bukhari and Imran Ansari, flew to Srinagar on a Go-Air flight that had on board also Minister of State Asea Naqash, PDP MLC Javed Mirchal, CM’s close aide and Secretary Sports Council Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra. Chief Minister flew to Srinagar alongwith Sartaj Madni, on a scheduled programme, in the State aircraft.

On Saturday forenoon, Minister of Education Altaf Bukhari, Minister of Law & Rural Development Abdul Haq Khan, PDP MLC Yasir Rishi, PDP General Secretary Rafi Ahmad Mir and Peerzada Mansoor Hussain flew from Jammu to Srinagar on an IndiGo flight.

After a series of deliberations with Chief Minister in Srinagar, the PDP crisis managers called on both, Basharat Bukhari and Imran Ansari, separately. First of all, Sartaj Madni called on Bukhari and Ansari. Later on Saturday, Altaf Bukhari and Rafi Mir called on them jointly. Peerzada Mansoor Hussain formed the third delegation. Finally the fourth delegation comprised MLC Yasir Rishi and Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra.

It was late on Saturday night that Imran Ansari drove all the way to CM’s residence and held an hour-long meeting with her. On Sunday, Basharat Bukhari held a similar meeting with Ms Mufti at her residence. Around the same time, CM’s relative and Minister of Haj & Auqaf Syed Farooq Andrabi, PDP’s MLC Khursheed Alam and MLA Abbas Wani also landed in Srinagar. On another flight, they were followed by Minister of R&B Naeem Akhtar, PDP’s MP Nazir Ahmad Laway besides DGP Dr Shesh Pal Vaid who were all reportedly on different missions. Minister of Revenue Abdul Rehman Veeri too arrived in Srinagar by an afternoon flight.

In the last flight from Srinagar, Minister of Education Altaf Bukhari and Congress leader Sachin Pilot were the only politicians, besides Imran Ansari and his family, travelling directly to New Delhi. Last to fly in the State aircraft from Srinagar was Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.



Saturday, February 18, 2017

Basharat, Imran ‘resign’ as allocation of portfolios triggers typhoon in Mehbooba’s Govt

One Minister upset over insignificant portfolio, another Minister senses ‘conspiracy within’, writes letter to CM

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 17: Induction of the PDP heavyweight Syed Altaf Bukhari back into Cabinet after his virtual suspension for over ten months, followed by resultant reshuffle of portfolios among five Ministers on Friday, triggered a major crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as two Cabinet Ministers —Syed Basharat Bukhari and Imran Raza Ansari—tendered their resignation. Some MLAs of the PDP earlier stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony.

The Government chose to remain mute but well-placed political and bureaucratic sources maintained that Basharat sent a written and signed communication to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti complaining to her that the change of his portfolio from Revenue to Horticulture was the culmination of a "protracted conspiracy” against him within the party. He is said to have asserted that his continuation in the Council of Ministers in the current circumstances would be very difficult and he, as such, should be relieved of his responsibility as a Minister.

Sources confirmed that Basharat’s letter reached the Chief Minister and she would deal with it "as per her own wisdom and judgment".

Even as many of the politicians and bureaucrats insisted that Basharat resigned for losing out a prestigious portfolio and getting an insignificant one, participants of the swearing-in ceremony told STATE TIMES that the Minister was visibly incensed and returned in a huff as the security staff at Raj Bhawan entrance did not allow in four of his guests who did not carry any invite for the ceremony. He turned back in protest along with PDP’s Rajya Sabha member Fayaz Ahmad Mir.

Dozens of attempts to speak to Basharat failed as he did not respond to phone calls from this correspondent. His phone was found continuously “busy”. However, a television network and a Srinagar-based news agency claimed to have accessed the Minister. They reported that the Minister confirmed his resignation and having written a letter to the Chief Minister. The letter reportedly detailed a sequence of the "conspiracies" against the Minister. Basharat is PDP's MLA from Sangrama (Baramulla) in his third successive term after a stint as MLC. He was Minister of Law in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's Cabinet.

In quick succession, reports said that PDP's first term MLA from Pattan (Baramulla) and Minister of Youth Services and Sports, Information Technology and Technical Education, Imran Raza Ansari, too resigned from the Cabinet. Even as there was no official confirmation to it, Ansari’s family sources told STATE TIMES that he had tendered his resignation around 5.00 pm. However, sources in CM’s bureaucratic and security detail insisted that Ansari’s resignation had not reached to the Chief Minister till late on Friday evening.

Since his induction into the Cabinet, first by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in March 2015 and later by Ms Mufti in April 2016, Ansari is known to have been dissatisfied over allocation of an “insignificant portfolio” to him. Some political sources insist that he had been lately assured that the Chief Minister would redress his grievance and allot an important portfolio (CAPD) to him on the day of Altaf Bukhari’s induction. He was reportedly upset when the allocation of portfolios was made public on Friday. However, Ansari was not reachable for confirmation.

Significantly, a number of the PDP’s “angry and disappointed” MLAs were conspicuously absent at the swearing-in ceremony earlier. They included MLA Chadoura Javed Mustafa Mir, MLA Noorabad Abdul Majid Paddar and MLA Sonwar Mohammad Ashraf Mir who were Ministers in Mufti’s Council of Ministers but were, along with Altaf Bukhari, not taken by Mehbooba Mufti last year. Ashraf Mir was reportedly in Mumbai or Bengaluru. PDP’s Kokernag MLA Abdul Rahim Rather was also absent.

Reports said that Rather and Paddar had conveyed their "disappointment and displeasure" to Chief Minister while complaining that “all the defeated candidates” had been rehabilitated and given status of a Minister or Minister of State but the winners had been exposed to embarrassment within their respective constituencies.

The crisis in the PDP has sprouted days before Ms Mufti is leaving for Umrah in Saudi Arabia with a heavy family entourage including her mother, sister and other relatives. One of the bureaucrats of her Government returned on Friday after making necessary arrangements for the CM’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.