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Saturday, July 23, 2011

NC, PDP begin political war over Kulgam ‘rape’

CID probing Mufti’s 20-minute “secret tour” to Aharbal on July 20; Mehbooba, Sakeena face hostile crowds at Manzgam

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 23: A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Kulgam Police and district administration has begun investigation into the alleged gang-rape of a young married woman with the medical examination of the complainant and submission of her vaginal swab to Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). Principal ruling and opposition parties in the Valley, National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have simultaneously entered into a political tug-of-war amid surfacing of reports that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had paid a “secret visit” to residential locality of the complainant a day before she came forward with allegation of abduction and rape against Army on July 21st.

DIG South Kashmir, Shafqat Watali, and SP Kulgam, Mubassir Lateefi, are camping at the National Conference leader and Minister of Social Welfare Sakeena Itoo’s residential village of Damhal Hanjipora in Kulgam district since Thursday last when a 24-year-old woman, Ruqaya W/o Abdul Lateef Bhatti of Gujjardar hamlet, near Manzgam, complained to Police that she had been abducted, wrongfully confined and raped by two soldiers of the Indian army. Police and Tehsildar have recorded her statement, with certain contradictions of facts by her, and filed an FIR of abduction, wrongful confinement and rape.

DIG has constituted SIT, comprising Additional SP of Kulgam Mohammad Shafi Mir, Dy SP of SOG Kulgam Zulfikar Choudhary, Prosecuting Officer Mohammad Rafi and Assistant Commissioner Revenue Tassaduq Hussain. SP Kulgam, Mubassir Lateefi, who is supervising the investigation, told Early Times that immediately after getting the complainant’s statement recorded and her physical examination and collection of vaginal swab by a team of doctors, the woman was taken all the way to Chhiranbal pastures, in the steep Pir Panjal foothills, on Friday. According to him, Chhiranbal is around 10 Kms from Ruqaya’s residential village. She identified a dhok in which she was allegedly raped by two soldiers, both wearing Army uniform and carrying radio sets. He refused to share details.

However, other sources associated with the investigation, revealed that Police failed to find any circumstantial evidence of the alleged crime. A nearby dhok, which was allegedly used by the duo for making tea, was also found without any evidence of recent human presence, remnants of food or utensils. These sources said that an Army patrol was believed to have been in movement on July 20th but nearest camps of RR 62 Bn and RR 09 Bn, at Nihama and Damhal Hanjipora respectively, were at least 20 kilometres from the alleged site of occurrence. Total absence of mobile telecommunication signals in the hilly terrain was another problem as, like many cases in the last 9 years, it could have proved useful in identification of the criminals and their movement.

As already reported, a lady doctor, who examined the complainant’s body and genital organs, has certified that Ruqaya had no marks of torture, violence or resistance on her body. Vaginal swabs of the married woman, containing dead spermatozoa of 72 hours, have been sent by CMO Kulgam to FSL in Srinagar. SIT sources said that after availability of the genetic analysis, all suspects would be subjected to DNA fingerprinting. This process would determine whether the sperms belonged to the woman’s husband or anyone else. SIT is also looking for a civilian, identified as Shabir, whose name had figured during initial complaints but was later withdrawn.

“Unlike Shopian, the alleged victim is very much alive and we are hopeful to crack every mystery after FSL report and DNA”, DIG Watali said. He too declined to share details with the plea that it could hamper the investigation.

Police and civil administration are now relieved that yesterday’s violence has failed to spread to other areas. A mob had torched official vehicle of Tehsildar as also a civilian’s motorcycle after Friday prayers yesterday even as PDP President camped at Manzam and she refused to leave until Ruqaya was “returned to her family”. She relented only after she was convinced that Ruqayya had led a Police party to the spot and would return only in the evening.

In the morning today, NC’s MLA of the area and Minister of Social Welfare, Sakeena Itoo, visited the complainant’s home at Gujjardar, 2 miles from Manzam, residential village of PDP’s former MLA of the area and former Minister Abdul Aziz Zargar. She interacted with the family members and assured them that a fair and transparent investigation would be conducted and the guilty would be punished by Omar Abdullah-led coalition government.

PDP sources claimed that Sakeena was booed and heckled by hostile crowds who asked her to return and make statements only after the culprits were identified and arrested by her Police. “It’s completely false. Fact is that Mehbooba Mufti was heckled and attacked by a hostile mob yesterday. She took shelter in Mr Zargar’s house and moved out under Police protection later”, Sakeena claimed.

Here in the capital city, top-ranking authoritative sources revealed to this newspaper that CID was investigating as to why PDP patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had “secretly” visited Aharbal and stayed there for just 20 minutes for a brief meeting with some residents. Tourist attraction of Aharbal is situated just two miles from the complainant woman’s village. According to reports available with the government, Mufti had, as per his schedule, addressed a public meeting at Shopian on July 21 and thereafter made an unscheduled visit to Aharbal.

The lady came forward with her complaint on July 21 when Mufti was addressing a public meeting at Kulgam and Chief Minister, alongwith Sakeena and most of NC’s south Kashmir-based leaders, was addressing a rally at Kaimoh village in Kulgam district.



Fai attempted to buy Clinton’s support to Kashmir cause for $ 500,000

KAC chief an ordinary ‘political history sheeter’ in J&K, not a single FIR registered against him anywhere in state or country

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 23: State Department’s coordinator of our programme, Cynthia Wilson, who was officially described as English Language Officer, had fixed our evening at a theatre in Washington D.C. Watching a stage show was part of our programme. Getting late at Luray Caverns, we had earlier in the day canceled the evening schedule when she called me on Fai’s phone. On our request, she booked another show which we finally enjoyed at the conclusion of our multi-state programme at a theatre at Times Square in New York City.

We were relieved due to cancellation of the show that gave us an opportunity to have a protracted interaction with Dr Fai at his office. Fai was impressed with our schedules that included meetings with senior officials on 6th floor of the State Department---Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had her office on 7th floor---,Chairman of United Nations Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York City, Congressmen at the Capitol Hill, besides celebrated thinktanks, including Michael Krepon, Stephen Cohen and Ambassador McDonald.

We observed that he was extraordinarily impressed with our prospective meeting with Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, whose name was perhaps Senator Lugar. The meeting at Senate was, however, attended by the Chairman’s aide, Lisa Curtis, who had earlier met me and some of my colleagues in Srinagar when she worked at the US Embassy in New Delhi. We learned from Fai that Chairman of this particular committee in the Senate, who conducts Congressional hearings on sensitive foreign relations and policy issues, was more important on certain occasions than the Secretary of State.

One of the most interesting revelations that came from our host was about none other than former President Bill Clinton. Giving a description of his diplomatic operations, which are now most significant in view of the FBI charge of unauthorized foreign funding of the US election campaigns, Fai said that political corruption in USA was worse than in India and Pakistan.

Said he: “During the previous Presidential election campaign, Bill Clinton’s PR men contacted me to convey that the President would have a lunch or dinner with us (Kashmiri Americans). It was the best of news for me for over two decades. As I looked on my guest incredulously before confirmation, he was quick to unfold the condition. He wanted me to contribute USD 500,000 to Clinton’s campaign. I took it as a golden opportunity for the Kashmiris and thought that our Azadi was around the corner. After a great deal of labour, I could raise a maximum to $ 60,000. As I communicated to Clinton’s PR man, he tersely rejected it and fixed the President’s appointment with a more paying group”.

Even as most of our group, including me, had strong suspicions of Fai getting his finances from Pakistan, he maintained that Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora in Arab countries, Europe and USA was taking care of the KAC budget. FBI charge now says that even the lists of guest speakers and audiences in the high profile international Kashmir Conferences of Fai’s KAC had been coming in from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. These were all virulently anti-Indian assemblies which were attended by pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi intellectuals including journalists, academics and government officials without any questioning from the agencies in Srinagar/Jammu and New Delhi. Latest of the series took place in Muzaffarabad in the end of May 2011.

On the day of Fai’s arrest by CBI earlier this week, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, issued a boisterous statement in Srinagar to claim that Government had “enough material and criminal cases pending” against the fugitive KAC chief. Three days of inquiries by Early Times discovered that there was just an ordinary “political history sheet” in Budgam district besides an unimplemented PSA warrant of year 1980 in Srinagar district against Fai.

 “There is not a single FIR against him at any Police Station in Jammu and Kashmir or elsewhere in the country”, a top-ranking Police official said with confidence. In other words, New Delhi’s latest “persona non-grata and agent provocateur”, Fai would have become a Police-guarded separatist leader, with the additional privilege of a bullet-proof car from the government, had he decided to return to Kashmir even after 30 years of worldwide anti-Indian campaign. Staying in the post-9/11 USA has led him to imprisonment of five years, if the charges against him were proved in Alexandria district court in Virginia by the FBI.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


Fai’s arrest a setback for Kashmiri separatist movement

Irony: Anti-Indians are secure in India, insecure in America

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 21: At the end of the picnic at Luray Caverns, our host of the day, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, treated us with a tea at his splendid office, one block from the White House. It was now the turn of politics. He wanted to know what the Kashmiris had gained and lost in the 16-year-long armed struggle against India. All four of my colleagues made brief interventions but all of them insisted me only to make the key presentation.

Since none of us appeared to be carrying anybody’s brief, I had no option but to be honest in my expression. I explained how an essentially political struggle of a major chunk of population in Kashmir valley had been turned into a goldmine of vested interest for a variety of pressure groups---mainstream and separatist politicians, government employees, bar and media, armed forces, security and intelligence agencies and unscrupulous guerrilla commanders. I explained how arrogance and flagrant intolerance of criticism from genuine intelligentsia had led to phenomenal loss of faith in the individuals as well as institutions across the Valley.

With an encore from my colleagues, I also narrated the potentially dangerous consequences of this phase of anarchy and cautioned Dr Fai that elopement of (till then) over 2000 Kashmiri Muslim girls---unmarried as well as married, young as well as old, poor as well as opulent, illiterate as well as educated---with outsiders, including hundreds of south Indian soldiers, could soon blow into a major catastrophe. Our radical leaders and militants would not allow us to utter a single word on this situation until those days.

What I revealed to Dr Fai in August 2005 came straight, later, from the mouth of our secessionist icons like Asiya Andrabi and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, albeit putting entire blame on India and her “illegitimate occupation of Kashmir”. Now retired, Chief Justice of J&K High Court, Bashir Ahmed Kirmani, encapsulated last week at a literary gathering in Handwara what I had told Dr Fai at his Washington D.C. office six years ago. Let it be on record that I essentially do not hold Justice Kirmani’s figures---25,000 women in prostitution in Srinagar alone, consumption of 25,000 bottles of liquor a day et al---credible in absence of an empirical survey.

Each of us was stunned on Fai’s revelation. He said that everybody from Kashmir had been invariably giving a rosy picture of the “freedom struggle” but JKLF Chairman, Yasin Malik, was one-odd person in the separatist camp who had told him in detail, in a recent meeting in USA, that the armed conflict had dismantled the Kashmiris’ centuries-old value system and the society was threatening to explode into the mess of promiscuity, permissiveness and social crime.

During the conversation Fai revealed to me that notwithstanding his heavily busy schedules, he had been reading the headlines of my stories and occasionally the whole body. It was the time to complain why none of our group---Mohammad Saleem Pandit of Times of India, Prabodh Jamwal of Kashmir Times, Bashir Manzar of Kashmir Images, Khursheed Wani of The Pioneer and myself---had been ever invited in the regularly held annual and biannual Kashmir Conference organized by Fai’s Kashmiri American Council (KAC) in USA and other countries.

“Left to me, I would have invited you alone”, he quipped and pleaded that his guest-lists were being made and finalized “by other people”. He described the meeting with our group as “rare and genuine” as, for a change, it was the only group of his guests not sponsored by him or his Pakistan-backed KAC. The fact of our being the guests of the Department of State of the United States of America, on the prestigious International Leadership Program, gave us unlimited confidence of calling a spade a spade. Even after the extensive meeting in Washington D.C, Dr Fai never invited any of us to speak on the Kashmir problem.

Fai’s high profile international conferences on Kashmir, that have been a regular feature of his activity since 1990, are threatening to end for ever with his arrest by FBI on Tuesday. Not only until our visit to USA in 2005 but also until July 19th, 2011, meeting with Fai was a privilege for the Kashmiris. Four months before our visit, then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had met Fai and attempted to clinch a ceasefire between militants and security forces through him in USA. It was reported in detail in the vernacular Srinagar weekly ‘Chattan’. Mufti’s Minister for Tourism, Dilawar Mir, met Shameema Shawl, wife of Fai’s close associate and head of his Kashmir Centre in London, around the same time.

During our meeting with Fai, we learned that the KAC Executive Director had played a key role in Hizbul Mujahideen’s ceasefire with the Indian security forces in July 2000. For the first time to media, Fai revealed that journalist R.K.Mishra was the pointman in the ceasefire initiative on behalf of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA government in New Delhi. Our colleague, Khursheed Wani, sought Fai’s permission to use this piece of information in media. He granted immediately.

“As decided between us in Track-2, I was continuously in touch with Syed Salah-ud-din (head of United Jihad Council and Supreme Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen) in Islamabad. Mishra and Vajpayee did their best but they proved helpless before a radical lobby of bureaucrats and politicians in Delhi. Salah-ud-din and his militants were ready to tread ten steps but Delhi didn’t demonstrate any sincerity. Their last demand was that a third country---Egypt in this case---should stand as guarantee or at least make a supportive statement for face saving of the Kashmiri militants. Suddenly, some BJP Ministers made the hackneyed statement of J&K being an integral part of India. That immediately provoked Salah-ud-din to withdraw the ceasefire within 10 days of its announcement by Commander Abdul Majeed Dar”, Fai revealed.

[To be continued]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Fai’s arrest a setback for Kashmiri separatist movement

Irony: Anti-Indians are secure in India, insecure in America

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 20: As we returned from the day one of our busy schedules in Washington D.C and wanted a siesta for a while in our rooms at Hotel Topaz, close to DuPont Circle, I found the telephone in the room continuously blinking red. It contained a recorded message in Kashmiri: “Assalamu Alaikum. I am your neighbour in Budgam, Ghulam Nabi Fai. As I learned that five journalists from Jammu and Kashmir, including you, are here on the State Department’s International Leadership Programme, I came all the way running to see you. Due to my bad luck, you were all away till I waited for over an hour. Whenever you get this message, please call on my numbers……”

That was the voice of someone whose write-ups in Urdu I regularly read in Daily Aftab when I was a student of 6th or 7th standard. His articles published in the name of Fay Budgami or Ghulam Nabi Fay Budgami. Years later, I heard all of my Jamaat-e-Islami friends and teachers call him Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai. He lived five miles from my village but the people in the countryside would love to call it “neighbourhood”. Fai permanently disappeared around 1980.

One of his brothers-in-law, working in Crime Branch of J&K Police, later revealed to me how he and his elderly mother-in-law had gone to meet Fai in Delhi, escaping the hawkish eyes of then DGP Manmohan Khajuria. Fai, who had secretly landed in Delhi, arranged his relatives’ Hajj pilgrimage but refused to return and live with his wife. I failed to understand all. Twenty-one years later, in August 2005, Fai wanted to see me and my colleagues in Washington D.C where he has settled with his second wife, Chang, a Chinese national.

The meeting with Fai did not materialize for next three or four days as our schedules taxed our nerves. He didn’t give up. “We have a Gulmarg here. Let us enjoy your first holiday there”, he said on telephone and extorted our confirmation.

During our 100-mile drive to the word-famous caves of Luray Caverns, we discovered in Fai someone none of us had imagined. He had got around a dozen of CDs which, we thought, would contain Maulana Masood Azhar’s fiery sermons on Jihad. When he played, it was none other than our own displaced singer, Deepali Watal. None of us had listened to her full repertoire of romantic songs in Kashmir.

Dr Fai spent around a thousand dollars on our picnic---lunch, coffee, and later that night a dinner. All through the day, he did not utter a single word of politics on the Kashmir conflict.

On our return in D.C, Fai showed us how hundreds of homeless Americans had been putting up by night in a spacious park outside the White House. He revealed that George W Bush Jr failed to get them evicted even after invoking ‘security reasons’. At the end, Fai carried us all to his plush office, just one block from the White House. Cigarette smoking, he said, was completely banned in Federal Buildings---structures in close vicinity of White House. Ambassador Yousuf Buch, an octogenarian Kashmiri who served with Pakistani President and later in the UN, according to our host, was the only individual who had violated the ban---at Fai’s office---without being penalized by the authorities.

(To be continued……)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Now, a Transfer Bazar in Irrigation & PHE

In reshuffle of 25 Executive Engineers, 17 shifted in violation of transfer policy

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 19: Close on the heels of a dubious reshuffle of nearly 1,000 promoted and other school teachers in the Department of School Education, as many as 17 Executive Engineers have been shifted prematurely in the portfolio of a Minister who enjoys the distinction of being an author of Omar Abdullah government’s transfer policy. Shifting of officials before completion of the tenure of two years on one particular posting, if not on specific health grounds or complaint basis, is known to be the outcome of corruption.

Without contesting harrowing details of the corruption industry, as reported in Early Times last week, Government has withdrawn the abeyance orders of nearly a thousand teachers and got all the dubiously issued orders implemented by officiating Commissioner Secretary of School Education and officiating Director of School Education. According to CID reports available with the government, transactions of over Rs 1.5 Cr had taken place as hundreds of officials did openly purchase their choice postings.

An identical exercise has now surfaced in the department of Irrigation, Flood Control and Public Health Engineering where a Commissioner Secretary issued orders of a massive reshuffle of Executive Engineers before proceeding on 5-day-long leave on July 15th. Now close to his superannuation, Commissioner Secretary Irrigation and PHE, Mehboob Iqbal, issued promotion orders of 32 Assistant Executive Engineers (AEEs) and resultant posting of 57 Executive Engineers.

Issued in dubious circumstances, Order No: 258-PW (hyd) of 2011 Dated 15-7-2011, was selectively provided to one particular newspaper but not delivered in any of the concerned offices for the next three days. Even as today itself, Ministry of Irrigation and PHE received a letter from General Administration Department (GAD), asking for names of the officials involved in corruption-related matters and details of the departmental action, if any, taken against them, at least two of the tainted engineers were given sensitive postings on July 15th.

Government has sanctioned prosecution of Executive Engineer, Shafat Qadeemi, on account of his involvement in embezzlement of public money in LAWWDA. In the July 15th order, same official has been shifted from one prize posting (Master Plan Division Srinagar) to another prize posting (Water Works Division Srinagar). Similarly, another tainted official, namely Vinod Kumar Sharma, has been appointed as Executive Engineer of PHE Division Shopian. Government had earlier sanctioned Sharma’s prosecution on account of his involvement in corruption-related matters when he functioned as AEE in PHE Division Nowshera.

Then Executive Engineer of PHE Division Nowshera, Mr Badyal, has been already elevated to the rank of Chief Engineer. Before the GAD issued orders of his prosecution, Badyal remained posted on a “non sensitive posting” (Chief Engineer in Designs Directorate). Sometime back, he has been shifted to the prize posting of CE in Rawi Tawi Irrigation Complex (RTIC).

In the July 15th order, Executive Engineer Irrigation Division Pampore, Manu Krewal, has been posted as Executive Engineer of Irrigation Division Kupwara, inspite of the fact that Cabinet has not yet created a division in Kupwara. Recommendations of creation of Irrigation Division Kupwara have been pending with the government for nearly a year now. Government is now considering to convert the post of Officer on Special Duty (OSD) with CE Irrigation Kashmir into Executive Engineer Irrigation Division Kupwara. However, necessary action has not been taken yet. Interestingly, one of the promoted AEEs has also been sent to fill up the vanishing post of OSD.

As many as 17 of the 25 Executive Engineers in the July 15th order are those who have not completed two years of the tenure as fixed by a Cabinet sub committee in which Minister incharge Irrigation and PHE, Taj Mohiuddin, was the most vociferous member. According to highly placed government sources, Taj had laid maximum stress on the point that no official be shifted before completion of two years of tenure, until there were “compelling reasons” like specific complaints of incompetence, non-performance and corruption or health grounds.

None of these grounds have been behind the transfer of the 17 Executive Engineers shifted prematurely, some of them with frequent intervals of six to eight months. These include Shafaq Qadeemi, VK Sahwny, Fida Farooqi, Amlok Singh, OP Atri, Bodhraj (second consecutive premature transfer), Abdul Lateef Choudhary (who is retiring on July 31st) and Naresh Kumar. Another Executive Engineer, namely Imtiyaz Ahmed Dar, has also been shifted prematurely twice in the last two years but not touched on July 15th.

Interestingly, prime divisions like City Drainage Division Srinagar and PHE Division Nowshera, have been left vacant for blue-eyed boys but a number of Executive Engineers have been attached without any explanation of reason.

Insiders insist that a Kupwara-based contractor, Majnoon Mir, retired Chief Engineer Farooq Ahmed Wani and incumbent Commissioner Secretary Mehboob Iqbal have played key role in arranging July 15th reshuffle of Executive Engineers in Irrigation and PHE Division across Jammu and Kashmir. However, none of them could be reached for comment.

An identical reshuffle of Executive Engineers in R&B last year, conducted by Mr Mehboob Iqbal, had eventually led to ouster of then Minister incharge Works Ghulam Mohammad Saroori. However, such apprehensions are not existing any more in the coalition government where Ministers and bureaucrats are enjoying complete freedom in violating transfer and all other policies.