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Friday, September 3, 2010

Geelani calls for social boycott to pro-India leaders

Hurriyat Chairman conquers NC’s fortress, dares Farooq to address a gathering at Lalchowk

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 3: Separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani today conquered National Conference’s historic bastion of Pathar Masjid as he addressed a religious congregation and called for “total social boycott” to all mainstream political leaders, including Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s party. He asked Dr Farooq Abdullah to stop delivering rhetorical speeches in the Indian Parliament and dared him to address a gathering at Lalchowk.

Losing out its traditional politico-religious bastions to the separatists, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) was conspicuously missing at almost all the major Jumatul Vida congregations on occasion of the holy month’s last Friday today. Omar Abdullah, and few of his party colleagues had to be content with performing their afternoon prayers at Sayeed Sahib shrine, at a stone’s throw from the Chief Minister’s Gupkar Road residence.

The yesteryears’ star attraction at Hazratbal, Omar Abdullah, however, made it a point to facilitate passage of devout Muslims in droves to all of the Valley’s shrines and mosques. While Geelani had declared Friday “open for usual business”, Chief Minister made the authorities to completely withdraw curfew from all sensitive localities. Credible reports said that more than 50,000 Muslims participated in the Friday prayers at Hazratbal. Though none of the NC’s prominent leaders was visible at Hazratbal, Hurriyat and other separatist groups too did not succeed in their marking their presence at the revered shrine and mosque.

Miles away, Geelani surfaced dramatically at Pathar Masjid in the capital city interior to participate in the Jumatul Vida prayers and deliver an address on the current political upheaval. Pathar Masjid is situated beside Mujahid Manzil that, for decades, served as Sheikh Abdullah’s seat of power and NC’s headquarters. Mujahid Manzil has been under the control of paramilitary forces ever since militancy erupted in the Valley in 1989-90.

Once working as an office clerk under late Maulana Masoodi’s patronage at Mujahid Manzil, Geelani today used the same place to denigrate Sheikh Abdullah as a ‘traitor’ and criminal of the Kashmiri nation. As soon as he spotted enthusiastic crowds shouting slogans in his favour, Geelani cautioned them against “worship of individuals”. He asserted that this worship of the Kashmiris in Sheikh Abdullah’s praise had “destroyed our Kashmir”. “Sheikh Abdullah took the people of Kashmir far granted and brought the state under the control and occupation of the Indian Army, that has been mercilessly killing the Kashmir since 1947”, Geelani said.

A Jamaat-e-Islami ideologue for decades, Geelani asserted that all of the pro-India leaders and politicians had been misleading the Kashmiris with their seemingly pro-Azadi posturing. “If anybody of them is sincere”, he said, “he should immediately resign, become penitent and join our freedom struggle”. Turning tough, Geelani called upon the Kashmiris to observe “total social boycott” to all the pro-Indian politicians and stay away from them all political, religious and social gatherings”. His call was reminiscent of Sheikh Abdullah’s call of “social boycott” to all workers and leaders of the Congress party in early 1970s when the plebiscite patriarch spearheaded a separatist movement before assuming power in 1975 and Geelani was among five Jamaat leaders who were declared as MLAs in the elections fraudulently conducted by the Congress.

Taking strong exception to Dr Abdullah’s speech in the Rajya Sabha, in which the NC patriarch declared J&K as an integral part of India, Geelani challenged him to make a similar speech at Lalchowk. He claimed that NC and other pro-Indian outfits had been uprooted in Kashmir. He claimed that the “freedom struggle” had successfully passed on to a new generation. He asked the youth to maintain high degree of discipline and not to use violent methods in carrying out programmes under his “Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement”. “India is completely frustrated and has been conspiring to label this peaceful movement as directionless anarchy. Be vigilant and don’t give India any chance to give us a bad name”, he asked the youth.

At another historic fortress of the ruling NC---Chrar-e-Sharief--- everybody, including the influential Minister of Finance Abdul Rahim Rather, who has been continuously representing the constituency since 1977, was absent. A huge gathering of devout Muslims participated in the Friday prayers at the mausoleum of 14th century Rishi saint, Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani. While the mainstream leaders were absent, JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik, surfaced at the congregation. He also delivered a speech on Azadi.

The largest gathering of Jumatul Vida was as usual at Jamia Masjid where Chairman of the so-called moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, participated in the prayers. In his ceremonial sermon, Mirwaiz claimed that current turbulence had “shaken India” which, according to him, was now groping in the dark in search of stability. He invited Malik and Geelani to the Eid congregation at Eidgah next Friday and asserted that a unified separatist leadership alone could force New Delhi to shun its rigidity.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

CBI DIG’s kin gets windfall from Director DD

Private producer died under stress after Masoodi refused to return him ‘advance commission’ of Rs 20 Lakh

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 1: Nobody knows whether it is a fact or fiction. But, in an attempt to impress his subordinate officials and private producers with his strong political and bureaucratic clout, Director of Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, has been telling everybody around that two kindhearted Kashmiris got him off the hook in two software scandals investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2009 and 2010. He has been proudly mentioning the names of the Union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and an IPS officer, Javed Mujtaba Gilani. Gilani has maintained high reputation and integrity all through his career in J&K cadre since 1995. He is currently on Central deputation and posted as a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in the CBI at New Delhi.

DIG’s brother, Riyaz Gilani, has been working as a private producer with DDK Srinagar with a footing of his own. Like hundreds of fellow producers, Riyaz suffered a slump in his business in the last three years. Immediately after CBI registered case FIR No: 02/A/2009/CBI/Sgr against Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi and others, Riyaz began delivering scores of tapes at the DD official’s chambers. While Srinagar-based establishment of the CBI launched investigation into Rs 5 Crore morning show scandal, Masoodi clandestinely allotted hundreds of music and fiction programmes to the DIG’s brother.

In the next few months, two of Masoodi’s subordinate officials---Producer of the controversial breakfast show “Subhai Subhai”,Ghulam Hassan Dar, and his assistant, Bashir Ahmed Mir---are framed but the key accused, Rafeeq Masoodi, gets a clean chit from the CBI. He has been privately as well as publicly expressing his gratitude to Azad and the Kashmiri DIG in the CBI. If he is to be believed, he is in near future being exonerated by the CBI also in Producer Kausar Parveen’s scandals in the Music Section of DDK Srinagar.

It remains a matter of investigation whether the DIG really influenced the investigation into Masoodi’s favour or the IPS officer’s brother settled things with the DD official of his own. But, records at DDK Srinagar indicate a remarkable upswing in the favours showered on Riyaz Gilani since the day CBI launched its investigation.

Insiders revealed to Early Times that as many as 80 music programmes of in-house category, allotted to Riyaz Gilani in the name of a number of his relatives, have been telecast by DDK Srinagar. Even as seniormost producers like Zamir Ashai and Bashir Dada are subjected to the humiliation of shuttling from one table to another for petty packages of 10-episode, payment has been generously released to almost all the programmes acquired from Gilani. Entire job of pleasing Gilani has been confidentially entrusted to Deputy Director Shami Shayir.

While Masoodi has been pleading bankruptcy of his station to seniormost private producers, claiming that there were no funds available, Riyaz Gilani was asked to shoot and complete the production of 26-episode Urdu fiction serial “Aur Dard Badhta Gaya”. Masoodi appointed Deputy Director, Shami Shayir, as the Producer for the serial. Budget of Rs 70,000 was approved by Masoodi for each episode of the drama serial. Shooting was clandestinely completed in the turbulent month of July. Since last month, Riyaz Gilani’s production has been on the air on “war footing basis”. It runs in the evening on weekends.

Insiders revealed with evidence that this kind of a “special arrangement” was restricted to few of Dr Masoodi’s benefactors as also his exceptional favourites like the young singing sensation, Shazia Bashir, who has been clandestinely allotted another windfall of 39 episodes at an exorbitant budget. This all, much to the chagrin of jobless private producers like Zamir and Dada who have given their blood and sweat to DD in the worst of times in Kashmir for over 30 years.

Sources revealed that through the DDK Producer, Ghulam Hassan Dar, Masoodi had roped in a group of six private producers in the beginning of 2009. As reported in yesterday’s edition of this newspaper, as many as 9,591 segments were procured clandestinely at the rate of Rs 5,000 per segment from these private producers. On a written complaint, CBI conducted a raid and seized all the 1914 tapes. Huge amounts of money were drawn in the first installment but the senior DDK official grabbed the lion’s share with an assurance of releasing more than Rs 2 Crore to the beneficiary private producers.

Rs 20 Lakh were thus extorted from just one private producer, namely Syed Gulzar Rizvi of Dadina, Budgam. When Rizvi felt that no more payments were likely to be released after registration of the FIR and seizure of the tapes by the CBI, be began demanding the “advance commission” back. In addition to scores of SMSs, more than 100 calls were found to have exchanged between the DDK official and the poor private producer in just two months of December 2009 and January 2010. The money was never returned to him.

Under tremendous stress, 38-year-old post-graduate in Journalism and Mass Communication, Rizvi died at his home during the night intervening February 8th and 9th, 2010.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Azad’s man in DD discredits CBI in J&K

Director DDK Srinagar, Rafeeq Masoodi, exonerated under pressure from Minister, DIG

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 31: Credibility of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Jammu & Kashmir has suffered a great deal as the country’s premier investigation agency is understood to have surreptitiously exonerated a senior Doordarshan official who was the prime accused in Srinagar Doordarshan Kendra’s morning show scandal last year. If the official is to be believed, Union Minister of Health and former J&K Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, besides a Kashmiri DIG, presently on deputation with CBI, have influenced the agency only to protect the accused involved in Rs 5 Crore software acquisition scam.

While conducting two raids on DDK Srinagar on 18-05-2009 and 10-06-2009, CBI had registered case FIR No: 02/A/2009/CBI/Sgr against Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, two more DD officials associated with the acquisition, namely Ghulam Hassan Dar and Bashir Ahmed Mir, besides six private producers, namely Syed Gulzar Rizvi, Javed Ahmed Shah, G M Magami, Altaf Marazi, Ashfaq Marazi and Irfan Marazi.

Since the CBI had filed the FIR and conducted the raids in high media glare, it has not closed the investigation as a ‘matter not admitted’. Even after questioning over two hundred people and finding that a group of six private producers, all enjoying intimate relations with Dr Masoodi, had floated more than 40 fake banners to swindle the funds allotted for the morning show ‘Subhai Subhai’, CBI has filed chargesheet just against the two junior officials of DDK Srinagar. Their colleagues now call them as “scapegoats”.

CBI had started the investigation after a series of raids on DDK Srinagar on May 18th and June 10th in 2009. It had found and seized 1914 tapes, containing as many as 9,591 segments, purportedly acquired from the group of six private producers for the 5-days-a-week breakfast show. Surprisingly, in the DDK Srinagar records, there was no entry of the tapes deposited in the Producer Ghulam Hassan Dar’s office. Dar instantly revealed to CBI that he had received and dumped the tapes on specific verbal and written orders of Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Masoodi.

During the course of the investigation, Dr Masoodi’s involvement was established with foolproof evidence and corroboration from scores of witnesses, including Dar and almost all the private producers interrogated. Procured at the rate of Rs 5,000 per segment from a particular group of the private producers, in total violation of the codal procudure and without any public notification, the consignment involved payment claim of Rs 4.80 Crore as against the annual budget of Rs 1.50 Crore for the programme. Process of the payment was clandestinely underway when CBI acted on written complaints and launched the investigation.

According to sources, CBI learned during the investigation that six blue-eyed boys of Dr Rafeeq Masoodi had floated at least 43 fake banners and firms with fake bank accounts on the advice of Director DDK Srinagar. While an amount of over Rs 1.00 Crore was found to have been withdrawn against the acquisition and deposited in the accounts of the people, who claimed they had no knowledge of the transactions, a number of the account holders remained untraced. Masoodi was found to have extorted “advance commission” of more than Rs 40 Lakhs from the beneficiaries.

On March 8th this year, Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, C M Jatua informed the Rajya Sabha that the CBI was probing into the allegation of malpractices by Director of Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, in bulk purchase of tapes. In a written reply, he said that a complaint had been received against Dr Masoodi alleging that he purchased tapes in bulk containing 9591 segments of programme “Subhai Subhai” from private produces to “obtain maximum amount of illegal gratification.” Jatua stated that the investigation report was “awaited” from the CBI.

However, in days of the Minister’s statement on the floor of the House, the CBI team was influenced by highly placed men in the Union capital. Under this intervention, the key accused have been let off and just two of his junior officials held guilty. This inspite of the fact that Dr Masoodi happened to be the approving authority and his written orders had been seized alongwith the tapes.

Enjoying intimate relationship with Mr Azad and his family for the last two decades, Masoodi was neither shifted nor suspended. Unlike other such accused officials in DD and other Government of India establishments, he was not either arrested or detained for a day for sustained questioning. Browbeating his subordinate officials and private producers with his clout, Masoodi has himself identified his saviours as Ghulam Nabi Azad and a Kashmiri IPS officer posted as DIG in CBI in New Delhi.

Dr Masoodi, according to insiders, has revealed that he had to compensate the IPS officer by allotting an in-house drama serial to his brother, Riyaz Gilani, in recent past.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Mushtaq Uri being pushed as Chairman J&K Bank, Basharat Dhar as VC
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 30: National Conference-led coalition government has decided to recommend a former Executive Director, Mushtaq Uri, as the next Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Bank Ltd within days of Haseeb Drabu’s unceremonious dismissal. Commissioner-Secretary of Power Development Department (PDD), Basharat Ahmed Dhar, is being appointed as Vice Chancellor of Islamic University of Science & Technology (IUST), Awantipore, in place of Prof Sidiq Wahid whose three-year term has expired in September 2008.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Mushtaq Ahmed alias Mushtaq Uri, who retired two years ago as Executive Director, was the NC patriarch Dr Farooq Abdullah’s choice, understandably influenced by his old trusted colleagues---Rajya Sabha Member, Mohammad Shafi Uri, and Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather. Reversing the earlier suggestion of the Board of Directors to constitute a search committee, interim Chairman and Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey, straightaway proposed a panel of three names in today’s BOD meeting at Corporate Headquarters of J&K Bank.

Informed sources said that Mushtaq’s name was on the top of the list. Inclusion of two weaker candidates, Mrs Tanvir Jehan and G A Pir, on serial numbers two and three was clear indication of the Government having decided to appoint Mushtaq as Drabu’s successor in J&K Bank. Senior officers of Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS), Jehan and Pir are currently holding the rank of Secretary to Government. While Secretary School Education, Pir was transferred and appointed as Excise Commissioner on August 26th last, Jehan has been functioning as Secretary Higher Education since earlier this year. Neither of these ‘covering candidates’ has a high profile or financial background to merit consideration by Reserve Bank of India.

All the eight Directors on Board were present in today’s meeting. They included interim Chairman of J&K Bank and Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey, Abdul Majeed Matoo, Mohammad Ibrahim Shehdad, Prof Nisar Ali, Rakesh Kumar Gupta, B R Dogra, Vikrant Kauthalya and Nihal Garware besides both the Executive Directors, namely Abdul Majeed Mir and A K Mehta. Sources said that none of the 10 Directors on Board, including interim Chairman, raised any objection to what could be interpreted by a many quarters as an arbitrary method of imposing the Government’s nominees on the autonomous financial institution. By virtue of its 53.17% stake, Government of Jammu & Kashmir is enjoying monopoly in all decisions of the bank.

Even as another BOD meeting is scheduled to happen on Tuesday, sources said that Pandey would submit the panel of three names to Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, through the proper channel of Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, tomorrow. After getting the state government’s mandatory approval, J&K Bank would forward the proposal for ultimate consideration and sanction to the appointment of the new incumbent to RBI.

According to these sources, Dr Abdullah, alongwith his much marginalized coterie, was calling the shots in the fresh political appointments. Senior NC leaders like Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan and Speaker of Legislative Assembly, Mohammad Akbar Lone, were reportedly playing key role in the fresh developments that dramatically initiated with a closed-door meeting of the NC’s Core Group here last week. Sources said that Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, was very much in the loop, though holding a low-key profile. “Politicians have the peoples’ mandate. How long can agencies’ men rule this state?”, was a big question at the NC’s Core Group meeting, according to sources.

Sources revealed that as a part of the fresh political appointments, new Vice Chancellors were shortly being appointed for IUST Awantipore and Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Rajouri. Even as Prof Sidiq Wahid’s three-year term had expired in September 2008 and a duly appointed search committee, headed by Mehmood-ur-Rehman, had recommended a panel of four names, Government has failed to appoint VC for IUST in the last two years. Chief Minister (Head of the Government and the Muslim Auqaf) is the appointing authority. In absence of a decision from the Chief Minister’s office, Prof Wahid has been acting as VC at IUST without authority since September 2008.

Sources revealed that the state government had, of late, managed to remove the name of the top panelist, Prof Nisar Ali, and inserted the name of Commissioner-Secretary PDD, Basharat Ahmed Dhar, in the Mehmood-ur-Rehman led search committee report. This is being viewed as a clear indication of the Government’s choice having zeroed in on the senior bureaucrat Basharat Ahmed Dhar, retiring from service next year. Earlier, Basharat was understood to be lobbying for a membership in the State Public Service Commission. Sources said that the new VC for BGSB University would be a choice of the ruling coalition partner, Congress. Fresh process of search was now underway for VCs of both the universities.

Meanwhile, sources added, that today’s BOD meeting at J&K Bank accorded approval to the draft MOU to be executed between the state government’s Department of Labour and Employment and the J&K Bank for the purpose of providing financial support, including Seed Capital, to the trainee entrepreneurs being recommended by EDI under Sher-e-Kashmir Employment & Welfare Scheme for Youth (SKEWPY). The BOD also approved Financial Inclusion Plan (FIP) to provide employment to over 6,000 youth in almost all the villages of the state. Some of the huge credit proposals were sanctioned but at least five of these proposals, including one in power sector, were categorically rejected.

In a significant development, BOD did not approve minutes of a previous meeting whereby Chairman’s monthly salary had been raised from Rs 3.10 Lakhs to Rs 4.50 Lakh. Prevailing upon half-a-dozen Directors on Board, Drabu had hiked his own salary from Rs 37 Lakh a year to Rs 54 Lakh a year last month. When the minutes of the previous meeting came up for confirmation today, a number of the Directors objected to the hike with the argument was Chairmen and MDs of most of the Indian natioanlised banks were drawing just around Rs 1.20 Lakh a month.

DD Director treats RTI applications with contempt

Applicants bribed to silence; Jammu lawyer moving CIC

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 30: Director of Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, has introduced an imaginative mechanism to subvert the process of seeking information under Right To Information (RTI) Act. None of the applicants till date has been provided any information whenever anybody made an attempt to know how DDK Srinagar had been spending its annual budget of around Rs 15 Crore. Insiders insist that almost all the applicants have been obliged with allotment of programmes so as to prevent them from approaching the higher authorities.

Prominent advocate of Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Sheikh Shakil Ahmed, is till date the first and the last applicant who has decided to approach the appellate forum at Directorate General of Doordarshan and the Central Information Commission. On March 19, 2010, Advocate Shakil had filed an application under the central RTI Act with Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Masoodi, and sought information regarding the programmes purportedly produced by seven particular producers, namely Sudesh Bakshi, Kousar Parveen, Syed Zeeshan Fazil, Rashid Javed, Haleema Parveen, Shammi Shayir and Mufti Riyaz.

Advocate Shakil had filed the application after allegations were galore that Director, DDK Srinagar, Dr Masoodi, had swindled funds worth Crores of Rupees in league with seven particular producers. Public Information Officer (PIO), Shabir Mujahid, was bound by the law to provide the information requisitioned within 28 days.

“I had filed the application under RTI on March 19th, 2010. The information should have been provided to me by or before April 15th, 2010. When there was no response from DDK Srinagar, I sent a reminder through a telegram. In May, I received a letter, dated April 22, 2010, from PIO and Deputy Director of DDK Srinagar, Shabir Mujahid, who assured me to provide the information in the next few days and sought time of two more weeks. Thereafter, there has been absolutely no response from DDK Srinagar. I have sent a number of reminders through telegrams to Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Rafeeq Masoodi, and PIO, Shabir Mujahid. They have not bothered to reply in the last 166 days. Now I am moving the appellate authority at Directorate General of Doordarshan as well as the Central Information Commission, headed by Mr Wajahat Habibullah”, Advocate Shakil told Early Times. He revealed that some of Masoodi’s “touts” had meanwhile attempted to bribe me like a number of RTI applicants in the past. “I made it clear to them that my application was in the interest of the people and there was no question of my withdrawing the same”, Shakil added. He claimed that the DD authorities did not bother to even respond to his reminders, including the telegrams dated 3-5-2010 and 31-5-2010.

Through his reliable sources, Shakil claimed to have learned that a group of seven particular producers, working under Director Rafeeq Masoodi’s instructions, had drawn huge amounts of money on account of producing programmes that had never been made. Months after Shakil filed the application, CBI conducted a raid on the office and residence of one of the seven producers, namely Kausar Parveen, and Administrative Officer, Noor Mohammad Qazi, and recovered a huge quantity of incriminating documents, including pass books, checque books and ATM cards of over 20 fake account holders in whose name money had been fraudulently drawn from DDK Srinagar.

CBI is currently investigating the scam but Director DDK Srinagar, Dr Masoodi, has been publicly telling officials and private producers that the Union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and a Kashmiri Police officer, posted as DIG in CBI at New Delhi, had issued “necessary instructions” to the investigators in Srinagar that neither he nor the producer, Kausar Parveen, should be arrested or held guilty in any matter.

Efforts to reach Dr Masoodi for his comments failed as his cell phone was continuously switched off, nobody responded from his residence numbers and his office maintained that he was “out”.