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Friday, July 29, 2011

Minister manhandled at SKIMS, DM chief gets VIP treatment

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 29: Lately appointed Director of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Dr Shaukat Ali Zargar, has allegedly manhandled Minister of Animal Husbandry, Science & Technology and Information Technology, Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, alongwith his security guards and, at the same time, allotted a VIP Room to the outlawed Dukhtaraan-e-Millat Chairperson, Asiya Andrabi, at Jammu and Kashmir’s only tertiary care hospital. Attack on a Cabinet Minister by a public servant has put entire Council of Ministers in an awkward position even as a number of Ministerial colleagues are now asking Aga Ruhullah to get his dignity “restored” by Chief Minister and Speaker of Legislative Assembly.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that a number of Ministers and legislators have taken the July 26th “attack” on Aga Ruhullah seriously and they are likely to agitate the matter before Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Aga has been counseled to assert and get his dignity “restored” as acceptance of the attack mutely could encourage similar attacks by public servants on Ministers and legislators in Jammu and Kashmir. Taking action in this matter is the prerogative of Chief Minister who also happens to be the Chairman of Governing Body of SKIMS. Omar had picked up eminent gastroenterologist, Dr Shaukat Zargar, as the new Director of SKIMS three months back.

Chief Minister has been indisposed since Wednesday last and all appointments with him have been frozen. Sources said that the Ministers were also waiting for Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone, who has returned to New Delhi today from a 14-day tour of Saudi Arabia and England. Mr Lone is scheduled to reach back his office tomorrow. Aga, as a cabinet Minister and MLA, is entitled to move a privilege motion against Director SKIMS in case Government does not initiate disciplinary action and remedial measures to safeguard honour, dignity and privilege of the complainant Minister.

The first ever physical attack, if established, by a public servant---incidents like a Police official’s throwing his shoes on Chief Minister on the Independence Day last year excluded---happened at 8.30 pm on July 26th when Aga Ruhullah was attending on his ailing mother inside VIP Room at SKIMS. Eyewitnesses said that Dr Zargar and his PSO argued with the Minister and physically pushed him towards the exit when he did not clear the way for the Director’s passage.

Sources revealed that Dr Zargar was going to examine Chairperson of the outlawed Dukhtaraan-e-Millat, Asiya Andrabi, in another VIP Room adjacent to the VIP Room occupied by Aga’s mother. A PSA detainee, Asiya Andrabi, has been under treatment at the VIP Room for the last over 10 days. With complaint of backache, besides heart and chest pain, Asiya is being specially attended by a team of doctors from the departments of General Medicine and Physical Medicine. Aga’s mother, who had a neurology-related problem, has been discharged on July 27th.

“I was an attendant with my mother for two days. I had two PSOs with me but I did not allow them to enter the main entrance of the VIP Rooms. It was around 8.30 pm on July 26th that Director came in to visit a patient. His PSO ordered loudly to clear the way. Before, I could move, Director began shouting on me as to why I had not moved away. Even as it was he who had allotted one of the two VIP Rooms to my mother, I humbly introduced myself to him as Aga Ruhullah. He asked me to get away and mind my work. As I told him that I was not an employee but a Minister attending on my mother, his PSO began shouting and physically removing me. On hearing the heated exchange, a number of attendants gathered and my PSOs rushed in. They rescued me but Director’s PSO scuffled with them. In the course of scuffle, he sustained a minor injury”, Aga Ruhullah revealed to Early Times.

However, some of the eyewitnesses insisted that Director and his armed PSO pushed the Minister repeatedly towards the exit till his PSO came to his rescue. They even threatened to open fire but stopped short of the extreme action. Within minutes, SHO Soura reached the spot but the matter was resolved. Aga’s mother was discharged from the hospital next day.

SP Hazratbal, Abdul Waheed Shah, confirmed that a physical dual took place between the PSOs of Director and Minister in which Director’s PSO got injured. “SHO Soura rushed to the spot immediately after he received reports of a scuffle at the VIP Rooms of SKIMS. We did not register FIR as the parties did not insist on submitting a written complaint”, SP Hazratbal said. Other informed sources in Police, however, said that the SHO decided to remain neutral and inactive as he was under pressure from both sides to file criminal complaints on their allegations and counter-allegations.

Director SKIMS, Dr Shaukat Zargar, denied that he scuffled or physically pushed the Minister. “It was a minor incident. I was a little away, attending another patient, and heard my PSO arguing with the Minister and his PSOs. Things were resolved amicably. I did not know the Minister by face. I had only heard his name. I did not recognize him”, Dr Zargar asserted. He added: “Sometimes VIP attendants get angry. The other day only, I stopped coming in of home meals for Asiya Ji. I objected when I found six attendants in her room. Now, they too are angry with me”.

State’s youngest ever Cabinet Minister, Aga Ruhullah had joined National Conference in 2002, two years after his father Aga Syed Mehdi, a Congress leader, was killed in a powerful landmine blast, along with his driver and seven Police guards, on Srinagar-Gulmarg Road. He served as NC’s MLA of Budgam from 2002 t0 2008. In December 2009 he was returned for second term and was inducted as a Minister of his Cabinet by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in July 2009.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home Minister visits JuM chief’s home

Nasir Aslam Wani: “Deceased woman’s mother was from my village”

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 27: After years of blaming Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for being soft and sympathetic to militants, Omar Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) seems to have adopted the policy of winning the goodwill of top militant commanders in the Valley. In a significant development yesterday, Chief Minister’s confidante and Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, attended a condolence meeting at the home of “Commander-in-Chief” of Jamiatul Mujahideen, Ghulam Rasool Shah alias ‘General’ Abdullah in his home district of Kupwara.

Informed sources in Kupwara told Early Times that during his tour of Haihama area, MoS Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, paid a visit to the home of Ghulam Rasool Shah alias ‘General’ Abdullah and Ali Mohammad Shah at Mirnag hamlet in the afternoon on Wednesday. Ghulam Rasool Shah and Ali Mohammad Shah are real brothers. Ali Mohammad Shah’s wife, Ayesha Begum, had passed away last week. Sources said that Mr Wani, alongwith a number of his party activists and government officials of his subordinate departments, stayed at the Shah’s house for about 20 minutes. In the evening, Minister returned to Srinagar.

Brother of the deceased woman’s husband, Ghulam Rasool Shah alias General Abdullah, has been operating as “Commander-in-Chief” of the dreaded militant organisation Jamiatul Mujahideen (JuM) since 1995-96. He had been arrested by security forces but gave a slip to his Police guards at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar in 1997. He is reported to have crossed the LoC and established his base in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad in the same year. According to official records and other independent reports, ‘General’ Abdullah has been operating as “Commander-in-Chief” of JuM in Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and has never returned to Valley in the last 14 years. He also happens to be one of the most important functionaries of the guerrilla umbrella, United Jihad Council (UJC), next in hierarchy to only its Chairman and “Supreme Commander” of Hizbul Mujahideen, Mohammad Yousuf Shah alias Syed Salah-ud-din.

Police and security forces have conducted scores of raids on Shah’s house in search of militants. The Shahs dismantled their house and later constructed a new one in the same hamlet, nearly 8 Kms from Kupwara. Forces have allegedly picked up one of Ayesha’s sons and made him a victim of enforced disappearance over a decade ago.

MLA of Amirakadal constituency in Srinagar, Nasir Aslam Wani is originally a resident of Sogam village of Kupwara district. He happens to be the grandson of legendary politician, late Ghulam Nabi Wani Sogami, who functioned as MLA of Kupwara and Minister of Forest in then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad’s Cabinet for several years in 1950s. Nasir and his father, who passed away recently, have been living in the posh locality of Rajbagh in Srinagar since 1970s. He contested his maiden elections in 2008 and was returned from Amirakadal.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah inducted Nasir as a junior Minister in his Council of Ministers in July 2009. Already functioning as MoS of Revenue, Irrigation & PHE, Housing & Urban Development, besides few other departments, he has been lately assigned the most sensitive Home portfolio.

Mr Wani confirmed his participation in a condolence meeting at Ghulam Rasool Shah’s and Ali Mohammad Shah’s home at Mirnag, Haihama but maintained that he had no knowledge of Ghulam Rasool Shah’s being the fugitive “Commander-in-Chief” of Jamiatul Mujahideen. “I have no idea even about the background of another brother Ali Mohammad Shah. I went there simply because of the fact that the deceased woman, Ayesha, happened to be the daughter of a woman from my village Sogam. Ayesha’s mother, who has died 25 years ago, was close to my mother and others in our family at Sogam”, Mr Wani said.

Residents of Mirnag, however, refused to buy the Minister’s argument. “Nasir Sahab came here only for General Abdullah. Had he been concerned about the woman, he would have visited her when she was ill for a long time or was searching for her missing son”, said a neighbour.

A number of Kashmiri mainstream politicians have been keeping top-ranking militant commanders in good humour by way of visiting their homes on occasions of a death or wedding, shifting officials according to their choice and even distributing IAY units and Anganwari centres and allotting developmental works on their recommendations. However, none of such allegations has so far surfaced against Mr Wani.

Number of militant-friendly leaders in NC has remained the lowest. Under Dr Farooq Abdullah’s leadership, NC had taken a tough stand against militants. Nevertheless, leaders like the high profile Sharief-ud-din Shariq and late Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, who functioned as MoS Home till his assassination in September 2002, were known for their soft corner and good relations with militants. During the street turbulence of 2008, NC’s senior leader and Dr Abdullah’s brother, Dr Mustafa Kamal, had hogged headlines when he visited families of two slain militants in Palhalan, Pattan.

In recent times, longtime associate of the slain separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, has attained the profile of a militant-friendly mainstream politician. He has been functioning as independent MLA of Langate, Kupwara, since January 2009. With his several speeches in Assembly, Er Rasheed has created ripples in the state. While stressing on inclusion of Hizb chief Salah-ud-din in the dialogue process to resolve Kashmir, Er Rasheed has also attended funeral prayers of a number of militants killed in gunbattles with security forces.

Even as pro-militant tantrums have become a mark of identification for the PDP and the party’s President, Mehbooba Mufti, has been frequently accused of her “connections” with top militants like Aamir Khan, former Janata Dal leader and union MoS Home, Mohammad Maqbool Dar, had also visited residences and hideouts of top militant commanders, including that of Aamir Khan, in 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

[Posted at 0820 hours July 27th Indian Standard Time and 2250 hours July 26th New York Time]

Fai released on bail bond of $ 100,000

Will remain GPS-tethered at home, movement barred

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul27: Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) today delivered a charge sheet of his being an unregistered foreign agent on Kashmiri American lobbyist, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was, for the first time after his arrest last week, produced in a court. Judge ordered his release on submission of bail bond of $ 100,000, barred his movement out of his home and ordered further that the accused would remain tied to a Global Positioning System.

A New York-based Kashmiri American solicitor who watched the first hearing told Early Times over telephone from Alexandria, Virginia, that the charge sheet against the 62-year-old Executive Director and founder of Kashmiri American Council (KAC) held him guilty of operating as an agent of the Pakistani government agencies without registration and authorization in United States of America.  “Conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign principal without registering with the Attorney General, and to falsify, conceal, and cover up material by tricks, schemes and devices, in matters within the jurisdiction of agencies of the executive branch of the government of the United States” has been mentioned as the subject of the criminal complaint against Fai.

FBI solicitors, including Special Agent Sarah Web Linden, were present when the criminal complaint against Fai [case No: 1:11MJ558] came up for hearing in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The accused has been detained in a lock-up of the court building since his arrest by FBI on July 18th. Fai had been picked up from his home at Fairfax, not far away from Alexandria town.

FBI solicitors stressed on Fai’s continued detention in a prison with the argument that the accused had high profile international connections and he could conveniently escape the trial. The defense lawyers asserted that Fai was a permanent resident and American national and he had high stakes in staying in USA. They pointed out that even last fortnight, days before his arrest, he had kept the world of appearing before the FBI agents when they wanted him not to travel to Tajikistan to participate in a conference of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Pressing for bail, Fai’s solicitors assured the court that the accused would in no way attempt to influence any evidences and he would cooperate with the FBI, as well as the court, all through the course of trial. Thereupon, judge ordered Fai’s release on bail.

According to an order passed by the judge, Dr Fai would submit a bail bond of $ 100,000. He and his wife, Chang, would surrender their passports which would remain in custody of the court. The accused would remain confined to his house in Fairfax and he would not make any movement outside the premises excluding meetings with his lawyers with the prior permission of the court. Besides, a GPS device would remain tied to his foot to facilitate FBI to monitor his movement. Fai was likely to be released in a day after completion of formalities by his wife.

FBI solicitors strongly insisted on collateral of the forfeiture of Fai’s house with the argument that its acquisition was the result of the operation of funds illegally provided to the accused by the government agencies of Pakistan. The court, however, did not concede. Fai’s solicitors looked triumphant as bail bonds in such high profile criminal matters were normally to the tune of $ 2 to 3 million.

Proceedings continued for 45 minutes and were watched by a number of Fai’s friends, associates and relatives including his wife.


Govt ignored my repeated requests for over 4 months: CIC

‘RTI was born in J&K 7 years back but it is still not fully operational’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 26: Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Ghulam Rasool Sufi, today lamented that Government of Jammu and Kashmir was not showing seriousness in implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He expressed displeasure over the government’s inaction in making the State Information Commission (SIC) fully operational and, after months of silence, disclosed that the Government had ignored his repeated requests of appointing two commissioners for the SIC.

Breaking his silence with regard to excessive delay in appointment of the two Information Commissioners, CIC told Early Times that his repeated requests to the Government had failed to yield anything in the last over four months. Appointment of two Information Commissioners, as provided in the law, would make the SIC complete and fully functional for implementation of the RTI Act. Sufi expressed his shock and anguish over the fact that the SIC was incomplete and the RTI was not fully in operation even after seven years of its birth in the state.

According to him, it was a matter of pride for Jammu and Kashmir that this strife-ravaged state had pioneered in making the legislation on RTI in 2004 and subsequently making it equivalent of the Central law with an amendment in 2009. Even as RTI had been made stronger and more comprehensive in recent past, it was not fully in force in absence of a complete SIC, he said. Sufi revealed that after his appointment on February 9th this year and particularly in the last four months, he had been meeting the ruling as well as opposition parties and pursuing the matter of the appointment of two Information Commissioners but there had been no action from the concerned authorities.

CIC said that he would like to see the SIC fully operational with one Information Commissioner holding the office in Jammu and another in Srinagar. He said that since February this year, he had been single-handedly conducting the SIC’s business while shuttling between Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. He made yet another passionate appeal---this time through media---to the Government to accomplish the constitution of the SIC with the appointment of two Information Commissioners so as to fulfill the mandate of the Legislature “without further loss of time”.

Even as J&K had taken lead in the country in making RTI in 2004 and the law had been made stronger with two amendments in 2009 and 2011, successive governments failed to constitute the SIC for several years. For nearly two years, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah maintained that he was waiting for then Chairman of the Central Information Commission, Wajahat Habibullah, to take over as the maiden Chairman of SIC in Jammu and Kashmir. That, however, proved to be wrong as Wajahat did not accept the offer even after completing his 5-year-long tenure at the Central Information Commission. Then functioning as Chief Income Tax Commissioner for north India, a 1977 batch officer of Indian Revenue Service and a permanent resident of Srinagar,Sufi was finally appointed as the first CIC in J&K on February 9th, 2011.

Governor is by law competent to appoint CIC and two Information Commissioners on the recommendations of a selection committee comprising Chief Minister, one Cabinet Minister to be nominated by him and Leader of the Opposition/ Leader of the single largest opposition party in Legislative Assembly.

 “The Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance”, says the law.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Govt wants more prisons, more prisoners

But selection process of 73 warders takes 5 years, still incomplete

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jul 25: Notwithstanding Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s emphasis on quick and efficient delivery systems in the state government, officials directly functioning under his Home Department seem to be unmoved with regard to recruitment of warders in different jails in Jammu and Kashmir. Department of Prisons has seen five successive heads in the last five years but it has failed to complete the recruitment process of 73 warders in 59 months.

Last recruitment of Warders has taken place in 1995. With the officials reaching superannuation and no replenishment of staff coming in over the last 16 years, the number of jails as well as prisoners and detainees has remarkably grown. One of the new jails has come up in Kupwara in 2010 and the proposal of establishing another sub jail in Anantnag is in the pipeline. Cabinet is likely to sanction the creation within the current year. Department is operating and managing the jails with mass deputations of staff from J&K executive and armed Police.

It was during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led coalition government that Department of Prisons had started the process of the recruitment of staff for different jails in the state. Department had notified 73 posts of Warders, besides 29 more Class III and Class IV vacancies, vide Notification No: 539 of 2005 Dated 25-08-2005. As many as 14076 male candidates submitted papers for 63 vacancies while as the number of applications received for 10 vacancies, reserved for females, was 484 in Kashmir Division.

Even as Chief Ministers, Home Commissioners, Chief Secretaries, DGPs and IGPs, heading the Department of Prison, kept coming and going, the selection process remained wrapped in the shrouds of inaction for over four years. When the number of fresh prisoners and detainees rose to a phenomenal 5,000 in Valley alone due to last year’s street turbulence, Government began waking out of slumber. It conducted the physical test of candidates in November 2010, followed by a ‘Literacy Test’ of all candidates on 24-12-2010. Still, the selection process has not been completed and results have not been declared till date.
Inspector General of Police, Prisons, Mohammad Amin Anjum has no hesitation to accept that inordinate delay in the process of recruitment, that has already spanned over five years, was the result of the lack of initiative and accountability. “Applications of thousands of candidates had been decaying in steel trunks since these had been received in 2005. Four of my predecessor DGs, who headed the department, did not open a single of these applications. It was me who started the process last year and the physical test and literacy test conducted within two months”, Mr Anjum said.

In Kashmir valley alone, 14,560 candidates---1957 in Srinagar, Ganderbal; 2360 in Baramulla, Bandipore; 1201 in Budgam; 673 in Kupwara; 5528 in Anantnag, Kulgam; and 2841 in Pulwama, Shopian---have been waiting for the results with the hope of getting a government job since August 2005. Some of the SC/ST and OBC candidates, who were eligible upto the age of 40 years in 2005, have already crossed 45. Even if they are recruited today, their total length of service would be just 13 years.

Mr Anjum said that one of the key members of the selection committee, IGP Traffic Hemant Kumar Lohia, was currently on an official assignment in Germany. “Mr Lohia is likely to return in the first week of August. I’m hopeful that we must complete the process and declare the results within a month from now”, he asserted. Still, he expressed apprehension that preoccupation of Police officials with Independence Day (Aug 15th) could further delay the process.