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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.



Monday, February 13, 2017

Kulgam tense after 4 militants, 2 civilians, 2 soldiers died in gunfight

Gun salute, Pak flags mark militants’ funeral as thousands gather for demonstration; 18 civilians, 3 soldiers injured

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Feb 12: In the current year’s fiercest encounter in Jammu and Kashmir, four local militants, two civilians and two soldiers got killed in Kulgam —one of the politically hypersensitive zones in southern Kashmir on Sunday.

Director General of Police, Dr Shesh Pal Vaid, told STATE TIMES that the operation was launched jointly by Kulgam District Police, Rashtriya Rifles 1st battalion and CRPF 18th battalion on specific information regarding the presence of a group of militants at Nagbal Frisal in Kulgam district late on Saturday night. During the operation, a fierce encounter took place in which four terrorists of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, besides two soldiers and two civilians got killed.

IGP Kashmir, Syed Javid Mujtaba Gillani, said that three militants managed to escape from the cordoned house and others holed up in the hideout attempted to escape while directing heavy gunfire on the Police and security forces. Two soldiers, identified as Raghuvir Singh and Bandoriya Gopal Singh, got killed in the nightlong gunfight while as three more soldiers sustained injuries. IGP said that the house-owner Ashfaq Majid Rishi got killed in the cross-firing as he could not be evacuated successfully. Later, during a clash between the local demonstrators and the security forces, one more civilian, namely Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo s/o Mohammad Ibrahim Itoo of Hatigam, Srigifwara, got killed.

IGP said that an investigation had been launched into the circumstances that led to the death of the second civilian during the course of a clash. He said that 18 civilians sustained injuries during the clashes. Out of them four had been referred to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar. Doctors at SMHS said late on Sunday night that a civilian, Danish Nazir of Frisal, reported for treatment with a gunshot injury.

The militants killed in the encounter have been identified as Farooq Ahmad Bhat s/o Abdul Gani Bhat r/o Chak Dasand [initially identified as Farooq Ahmad Dar s/o Mohammad Yousuf Dar r/o Arreh], Mohammad Younis Lone s/o Ghulam Qadir Lone r/o Hawura (Hizbul Mujahideen], Mudasir Ahmad Tantray alias Aasim s/o Mohammad Akbar Tantray r/o Redwani and Vakil Ahmad Thokar s/o Mohammad Ahsan Thokar r/o Hadigam.

Officials said that two AK rifles, two pistols and one INSAS rifle, believed to be one of the weapons snatched away from Police at different places last year, were recovered from the site of the encounter.

Commander of Sector-1 of Army, Brig R. Chakravarty held a press conference to claim that the forces made every possible attempt to evacuate the house owner but failed as the militants did not listen to appeals to surrender and come out. He said that large number of people gathering around the encounter sites and clashing with the forces was continuing to be a major problem.

Sources said that one of the four militants had lately joined militancy as he had disappeared from his home on January 14th. Others had been reportedly active in Anantnag-Kulgam belt in the last two years. Younis Lone, according to Police records, stood booked in four FIRs including one murder and one attempted murder.

While the troops withdrew and carried all the four militants’ bodies to a Police post at Wanpoh, hundreds of residents of about a dozen surrounding villages gathered at the encounter site at Pandit Mohalla, Nagbal, and began clashing with Police and security forces amid anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans. During this clash, one demonstrator, Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo, sustained critical injuries and later died at a hospital.

Officials as well as the civilians from the tense Kulgam belt told STATE TIMES that thousands of people attended the four militants’ and the two civilians’ funeral prayers at different places. They were all buried in their respective residential villages. The participants waved Pakistani flags and shouted anti-India and pro-Azadi slogans. In the evening, at least two armed militants appeared at Redwani and paid gun salute to the two militants buried in the village graveyard.

There was no official announcement of curfew but residents said that nobody was being allowed to move around and it was a curfew-like situation in a vast area. While as the separatists have called for total shutdown in Kashmir on Monday, sources said that the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani was likely to extend the call for shutdown for one or two days.