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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.