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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

SRINAGAR, November 22, 2012

Kashmir doesn’t shut for Kasab

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: For 50-year-old Hafizullah Bazaz, whose Bazaz Cloth House on Aalikadal bridge makes a brisk business, Maharashtra has suddenly become important. But, not for the fidayeen terror Ajmal Amir Kasab’s early morning execution at Pune’s Yarawada Jail. Mr Bazaz, who lives at Narwara and runs a shop at Aalikadal, both in the deep interior of downtown Srinagar, is concerned over the way Shiv Sena cadres have bludgeoned into submission Mumbai’s Shaheen Dhada over her controversial Facebook post.
Mr Bazaz has had a detailed and comparative reading of how 21-year-old Ms Shaheen has been forced to delete her post, which was perceived to be “offensive” to the Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thakeray. “What about the people who ransacked the hospital of Shaheen’s uncle and sent threats to the family?” Mr Bazaz retorts when asked for his reaction to Kasab’s hanging to death.

“We the Kashmiris have got nothing to do with Kasab’s execution”, says he “as we are all convinced he has been eliminated for his involvement in an act of brazen terror”. “We can not identify ourselves with Kasab and his terrorism for ours is a political movement, a struggle for freedom”, adds Mr Bazaz, an ardent supporter of the Hurriyat chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “Why should we call or observe shutdown on Kasab’s hanging?”

Mr Bazaz refuses to buy the Omar Abdullah government’s theory that the traders in Valley were “too much bitten” by two three-month-long street strikes in 2008 and 2010. He vehemently defends each of 1600-odd days of shutdown the Kashmiri militants and separatist leaders have enforced in the last 22 years of armed strife. “We have given sacrifices and we’ll continue (to give more in future) if our hartal is for Kashmir’s freedom. We have, in fact, developed an addiction for a shutdown”.

Mr Bazaz, nevertheless, has a big question for all those celebrating credibility of the Indian system of the administration of justice. Asks he: “Advaniji and his men brought down Babri Masjid years before Kasab struck on Mumbai. Who of them has been punished? All those responsible for Malegaon and Makka Masjid are Scot free. Even in Kashmir, hundreds of Ajmal Kasabs are roaming freely”.
Like the bustling marketplaces at Aalikadal, almost all shops and business establishments in the capital city, as also in all other parts of Kashmir valley, operated without an iota of tension or disturbance on Wednesday.

Eminent businessman and former President of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Shakeel Qallandar, echoed Mr Bazaz. “We shut businesses for a cause. Why should we mourn death of someone who was a dreaded terrorist and committed carnage?” asked he. Mr Qallandar, however, cautioned that the situation would be different and Kashmir would “burn” if Afzal Guru was hanged to death. “India”, he said “did justice to Kasab. But, Afzal Guru did not participate in the firing on Parliament”. He alleged that justice had been “bungled” in Guru’s case only to placate some zealots.

Hurriyat and all other separatist groups, who have had passion of making suo moto statements on each and every ‘newsy’ development, remained tightlipped.Both, Hyderpora and Rajourikadal, seats of the two factions of the Hurriyat---Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq---were calm all through the chilly hours of the day of Kasab’s execution. From Nowhatta’s Shaheed Muntazar Chowk to Bohrikadal Chowk on Nallah Maar Road The Hindu found just two shops shut---both for reasons not linked to Kasab’s death.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari admitted that the authorities were “extremely tense” over the potential of disturbance the separatists could create over a Pakistani militant’s execution by the Indian jail authorities. “Immediately after learning about it in the morning, we sounded a red alert”, Mr Bukhari disclosed. However, through an extensive tour of so-called “Chhotta Pakistan”, this correspondent did not find any columns of Police or Central Reserve Police Force that usually dot every street in Srinagar on the days of tension.

Keywords: Ajmal Kasab hanging, 26/11 terror case, Mumbai terror attack case


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Separatists, clergy target two J&K High Court judgments

20 November 2012 , By Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR: For the first time in over two decades, separatist groups and a section of the clergy in Kashmir have joined hands, and roped in fragments of the intelligentsia, in their attempt to reverse two recent judgments of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
One, delivered by Justice Hasnain Masoodi, puts unprecedented tabs on a Muslim husband’s right to arbitrarily terminate a marriage. Another, by Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir, interprets life imprisonment as the convict’s lifelong detention in jail.
Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH), a religious organisation headed by separatist leader Maulana Showkat Shah until his killing at a mosque here in April 2011, has taken the lead in dismissing Mr. Justice Masoodi’s judgment on talaaq as “an unacceptable interference in the matters of the religion of Islam.”
On November 4, the JAH organised a meeting of different religious groups and intellectuals to discuss the import of the judgment and to assert that the ruling would meet a tough resistance if it was not withdrawn forthwith. Critics of the judgment included a number of leading lawyers, clerics and separatist politicians.
A former High Court judge Bashir Ahmad Kirmani and some prominent legal practitioners, however, prevailed upon the forum with their argument that an anarchical reaction would not serve any purpose. They went in appeal to the same judge.
Mr. Justice Masoodi decreed that both partners of a marital union had equal rights in Islam, and the husband’s competence of pronouncing divorce was not arbitrary, unqualified or absolute. His ruling came in a civil suit, in which a divorcee had challenged her husband’s manner of separation and sought maintenance as a matter of right. However, contesting her petition, the husband argued that he had divorced her and was not under any obligation to pay her alimony.
The judge details the Shariah and Quranic injunctions to find support for the ruling that “husband cannot have unrestricted or unqualified power to pronounce talaaq.”
In its immediate reaction, the JAH said non-theological courts of a democratic set-up had no competence to adjudicate matters defined in the Quran and Hadith. “If this judgment is accepted today, the man-made courts would be judgmental tomorrow on all other religious matters of the Muslims. This has never been acceptable to Muslims in the past, nor would ever be in future,” it said in a statement.
With many of the Valley’s clerics, politicians and civil society members dragging Mr. Justice Masoodi’s judgment to a public discourse, Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and constituents of his secessionist umbrella have started targeting Mr. Justice Mir over his November 16 interpretation of imprisonment for life. Dismissing Muslim League chief Ashiq Hussain Faktoo’s petition, the judge ruled that life imprisonment meant lifelong detention until the state used its prerogative of reducing the term.
In their frontal attacks on the judge, some separatist leaders made uncharitable remarks, including allegations of “working under political influence.”
Dr. Faktoo is not the only separatist leader affected by this judgment. As many as 19 people, including the author of Mr. Geelani’s biography, Dr. Mohammad Shafi Shariati, a former Professor of Persian at the University of Kashmir who later became a top functionary of the radical militant group Jamiatul Mujahideen, are serving life terms. Their families and organisations have been awaiting their release on their completing 14 years of imprisonment. Mr. Justice Mir’s ruling has virtually sealed their fate.
Advocate-General Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri; senior advocate Zaffar Ahmad Shah; the former judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and Chief Justice of Odisha High Court, Bilal Nazki; and the former Law Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, said invariably that a public discussion on court judgments was a “legal, constitutional and democratic right” of every member of the society. However, Mr. Qadiri, Mr. Shah and Mr. Baig told The Hindu that the best way of seeking remedy was the forum established under law and the Constitution.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Failing to secure key ideologue’s release in court, secessionists hit the streets


SRINAGAR: Having lost a long-running legal battle to secure the release of high-profile ideologue Ashiq Hussain Faktoo in Jammu and Kashmir High Court last week, radical secessionists in Kashmir have turned to the streets seeking their leader's release.
Large parts of the Kashmir valley shut down on Monday in response to calls from Syed Ali Shah Geelani's faction of the Hurriyat Conference and the Muslim League--a party led by another key secessionist leader who is in prison, Massrat Alam Bhat.
Earlier a top-ranking commander of the Islamist guerrilla outfit Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JM), Mr Faktoo has been serving life imprisonment awarded to him by Supreme Court on account of his involvement in the assassination of a noted human rights activist Hridhay Nath Wanchoo. Mr Wanchoo was kidnapped by the JM militants and his bullet-riddled body was later recovered in a locality in close vicinity of then J&K Police headquarters in December 1992.
After Mr Geelani, Dr Faktoo’s profile remains unmatched among the separatist leaders for a variety of reasons. Husband of the equally prominent separatist activist and Dukhtaraan-e-Millat (DM) chief, Syeda Asiya Andrabi, Dr Faktoo enjoys the distinction of being the only Kashmiri militant who has completed Ph D during his 13-year-long continued detention. Dr Faktoo, as also Chairman of so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has been awarded Doctorate of Philosophy by the Department of Islamic Studies of the University of Kashmir in the last two years.
During his detention, Mr Faktoo has joined as head of Muslim League. His deputy, Massarat Alam, played arguably the most important role in the street agitation over Amarnath land row in Kashmir in the year 2008.
Legal battle:
Earlier this year, Dr Faktoo had made a representation to the state government, seeking termination of his detention with the argument that life imprisonment meant imprisonment for 14 years. His application was also based on the fact that the Srinagar Central Jail authorities had appreciated his conduct and behaviour, including his voluntary assignment of teaching IGNOU distance education courses to a number of jail-mates.
However, the state Home Department dismissed Dr Faktoo’s representation on the ground that the precedent of reducing the term of imprisonment was by no means binding on the government. Subsequently, his counsel and former head of High Court Bar Association, Mian Abdul Qayoom, who himself represented HCBA as a Hurriyat constituent for about ten years, challenged dismissal of Mr Faktoo’s application in High Court.
In his November 16 judgment, Mr Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir dismissed Dr Faktoo’s petition, ruling that the life imprisonment meant ‘imprisonment for entire life’. Justice Mir referred to a number of Supreme Court rulings, including Swamy Shradananda vs State of Karnataka, AIR 2008 SC 3040, and decreed that “punishment of imprisonment for life handed down by the Court means a sentence of imprisonment for the convict for the rest of his life”.
Mr Geelani came out with the first reaction from Hurriyat as he publicly attributed motives to Justice Mir’s judgment and dismissed it as an extension of “political vendetta”. Calling for a protest shutdown, he threatened to launch an agitation if Mr Faktoo was not released from jail.
“In 2009 the Chief Minster had said that he will look into the case and do justice accordingly. But recently in an interview with the Hindustan Times, Mr Abdullah said that he wanted to see Dr Qasim in jail for whole life. It directly shows that the decision has been given at the behest of the Chief Minster,” Geelani said addressing a press conference at his residence on Saturday last. He alleged that the courts in this state and the country were not “free from the influence of occupation”.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I hereby express my gratitude to all the friends who greeted me through Facebook, Twitter, email, telephone, SMS or chat or called on me with their greetings and good wishes over my joining as Jammu and Kashmir Bureau Chief of ‘The Hindu’ in the last three days. On a far bigger platform now---one of India’s largest read, top influential and the highest circulation dailies that has 17 editions and 35 printing centres spread all over the country with print order of over 20 Lakh copies and the global internet readership of over 50 Lakhs---I will continue to report and analyze developments in J&K State with utmost sincerity, objectivity and professional excellence; and, also without any fear or favour from/for any quarter howsoever powerful.

Being fully conscious of The Hindu’s credibility and its image of being India’s “only serious and non-partisan daily” and consequently the “only news study source” for this country’s policymakers and millions of the participants of all country-level competitive examinations, I will do my best to report issues concerning J&K and its residents in a completely professional and non-partisan form so as to make The Hindu a reliable news source not only for one Crore residents of J&K State but also for millions of its readers all over India and across the globe.

Ahmed Ali Fayaz
J&K Bureau Chief
The Hindu 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

MHA weighing option of providing arms to Panchs in J&K

‘Govt made us a media showcase, provoked militant attacks on us’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Nov 5: Even as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today ruled out providing security to 33,000 Panchs and Sarpanchs, Government of India is currently weighing the option of providing firearms to members of the Panchayati Raj Institutions in certain “hyper sensitive” districts in Kashmir valley besides some border areas in Jammu division.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Government of India had taken “extremely seriously” United Jihad Council (UJC) supremo and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin’s recent threat that Panchs and Sarpanchs would continue to become target of militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. With the discussion being underway between the State and the Central governments, a host of options was being considered to pre-empt and counter the threat. Notwithstanding the security being a state subject, this burning issue, according to sources, had “wider range and ramifications” and could not be settled in absence of coordination between Srinagar and New Delhi.

Sources said it was for the first time since the Panchayat elections were held in J&K in April 2011 that the government was seriously considering the option of providing firearms to the vulnerable Panchayat members in certain “hyper sensitive areas”. While the option of providing weapons was under consideration for over two hundred Panchs and Sarpanchs in Pulwama, Shopian, Baramulla and Kupwara districts, North Block was reportedly toying with the idea of turning some Panchayats in Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu division in some sort of Village Defence Committees (VDCs).

Sources said that Government of Jammu and Kashmir had not shown reasonable receptivity to the option of providing arms and ammunition to Panchs and Sarpanchs and turning the Panchayats into ‘VDCs’, but, at the same time, it had not submitted any other practicable solution that could make the much threatened Panchayat members feel secure.

Significantly, army has made it unambiguously clear that providing security to Panchayat functionaries was essentially the responsibility of the state government and Police. It could, at best, be asked to provide general area security by increasing patrolling in certain areas of its operation.

Sources said that the demand of providing arms and ammunition had come from the terrorized Panchs and Sarpanchs as a section of them was continuously stressing on the authorities from Srinagar to New Delhi to either provide them PSOs and house-guards or the firearms alongwith an amount of Rs 5000 each as ‘honorarium’.

According to these sources, authorities had learned from some credible intelligence inputs that terrorizing Panchs and Sarpanchs was high on the agenda of UJC constituents after the former Indian Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna’s speech in a recent UN session. Militants have taken umbrage over the statements of the Indian leaders---particularly UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, S M Krishna and Dr Farooq Abdullah---wherein they have sought to play up the high- turnout Panchayat elections in J&K as a “referendum again Pakistan and terrorism”.

According to authoritative sources, it was on the written complaint of a number of Panchs and Sarpanchs in Kupwara district that an editor of a local media group was arrested last week on the charge of publishing “fake resignations” of Panchs and Sarpanchs only to create a wave of fear among the Panchayat members in Valley. The applicants are said to have claimed that they had neither submitted their resignations nor approached any of the local newspapers for such kind of paid advertisements. Sources said that the matter was under investigation as the detained editor had counter-claimed that the Panchs and Sarpanchs had requested his media group to publish their resignations.

With the concern among the government functionaries growing with regard to safety and security of Panchayat members, a representative organisation of Panchs and Sarpanchs today reiterated demand of making them secure.  The All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) threatened to stage a protest dharna outside the Prime Minister’s residence in New Delhi if the state government did not take up measures to ensure the security of Panchs and Sarpanchs.

“The state government is non-serious towards security and empowerment of Panchayat members. We implore Chief Minister and Home Minister of India to provide security to those Panchs and Sarpanchs who are facing security threat”, said Imtiyaz Afzal Beigh, Provincial President AJKPC during a press conference at Hotel Lala Rukh here. He sought to make it clear that the organisation was seeking protection only to those who felt threatened and not to all the 33,000 Panchs and Sarpanchs the authorities were referring to.

Reacting to UJC chief Syed Salahuddin’s diktat seeking resignation of all Panchs and Sarpanchs, he said: “We are not anybody’s agents and don’t belong to any political party. They should ask the political leaders like MLAs and MLCs to resign first”. He asserted that UJC would gain nothing by killing 33000 ordinary representatives of the people of J&K.

The AJKPC Provincial President said that the organisation had already furnished a list of the Panchs and Parpanchs who were facing security threat to the state Director General of Police

Lambasting the state government for failing to respond to the deadline of 24 hours set by the organizations for providing security to them, spokesperson of the AJKPC, Gh Hassan Punzoo, said several Panchayat members had resigned as a fallout of the government callousness. “When Panchs and Sarpanchs are resigning, we don’t understand what the government is waiting for”, he asked.

Reiterating the demands for empowerment of Panchayat members by implementing provisions of the 73rd amendment, he urged the Government to fix wages to Panchs and Sarpanches. Mr Punzoo demanded security to the apex body members of the AJKPC on first priority. He accused the government of making the Panchayat members vulnerable by turning them into a media showcase and thus provoking militant attacks on them. According to him, political rivalry too could have been a factor in some of the attacks on Panchs and Sarpanchs.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Bar leaders, JAH denounce HC judgment on Talaaq

Speakers at JAH seminar want enforcement of Shariat laws through society

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Nov 4: A day-long conference, organized by Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH), to deliberate upon a Jammu & Kashmir High Court judgment on a husband’s competence to pronounce Talaaq, today concluded with the resolution that non-religious judiciary should not adjudicate on religious matters of the Muslims.

After discussing the judgment, delivered by Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi last week in a divorcee Bilquees Naseem’s writ petition against her husband, a congregations of Valley’s clerics and jurists maintained that the courts of non-religious set up had no authority to issue verdict on the “purely religious matters like Talaaq’. It, however, decided to constitute a panel of experts to thoroughly study the judgment in the light of Quran and Hadith before being categorically judgmental over the burning issue.

Sources said that the seminar titled “Is intervention tolerable against the teachings of Qur’an and Ahadees?” was attended by a number of clergymen, legal experts, jurists and academicians. Prominent religious and political leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani were absent but one of the former’s representatives participated in the conclave.

In his keynote address, former High Court Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom suggested establishment of a joint board for taking such decisions and to observe them. He said that local committees should be established to enforce religious decisions through social influence. Quite a number of other participants agreed with Mr Qayoom’s suggestion.

The conference decided to establish a team comprising Ullemas, Muftis, judges, and law experts to examine the recent judgment about divorce in the light of Qur’an and Ahadees and to report accordingly.

HCBA President Advocate Zaffar Qureshi said that he couldn’t have made his opinion on the judgment. He described it as “contrary to the teachings of Qur’an”. He said that the Supreme Court had never given its verdict on such crucial religious matters but the state High Court had “unfortunately” ventured into a domain not within its jurisdiction and competence. Reports said that the participants resolved to put up sustained efforts to get this practice stopped.

JAH political head, Ghulam Qadir Lone, said that Muslims needed to be united on the ground and Ullema’s should teach the people about the teachings of Islam. He said that this is time to act in practice and to establish the joint board is indeed a good step.

JAH Secretary General, Abdur Rehman Bhat, said that all decisions involving personal life of Muslims should be based on the Islam. “Court has no authority to decide these cases contrary to the provisions of Qur’an and Ahadees”, said Bhat. “If it happens, consequences are bound to appear”, Bhat added.


Geelani, Mirwaiz not to attend JAH seminar on Talaaq judgment

Hurriyat head appeals scholars, clerics to study court verdict

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Nov 3: Even as top functionaries of the Islamic Shariat Court were reportedly undecided, neither of two heads of the separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference---Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq---would be participating in Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH) sponsored conference on the J&K High Court’s recent judgment on Talaaq (divorce) here on Sunday.

According to informed sources, JAH has invited over a hundred clergymen, separatist politicians, academicians and intellectuals in day-long deliberations on the Jammu & Kashmir High Court judge Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi’s recent judgment on Talaaq. The conference would begin at JAH’s headquarters at Barbarshah tomorrow at 11.00 a.m. Sources said that representatives of all schools of thought in the religion of Islam have been invited by e-mail, telephone and written letters.

It was not immediately clear as to how many of the invitees would make it to the conference but JAH functionaries were expecting a “fairly large gathering”. As regards the participation of Sadar Mufti, who has been heading a traditional Shariat Court for decades, sources said that Mufti Azam Mohammad Bashiruddin was undecided. However, the participation of his representative, most likely his successor son, was not completely ruled out by this evening.

Sources said that the capital city’s most important cleric-politician and Chairman of Hurriyat’s moderate faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, too would not attend the conference. However, he is understood to have asked his Secretary (Religious Affairs), Mohammad Sayeed-ur-Rehman Shams, to represent his political out, Awami Action Committee, and the religious organisation, Anjuman-e-Nusratul Islam. Mirwaiz Umar’s aide, Shahidul Islam, confirmed to Early Times that Mr Shams would be participating in the JAH conference on behalf of the organisation.

Sources said that Chairman of Hurriyat’s hardline faction, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who happens to be an eminent Islamic scholar, would not participate in the JAH conference. “We have not considered about participation in this conference till tonight”, Geelani’s aide Ayaz Akbar said.
Earlier today, Mr Akbar said in a statement that Geelani had urged Muslim scholars and clerics to thoroughly study the recent court verdict with regard to pronouncement of Talaaq.

Geelani, according to the statement, observed that the courts under the influence of non-religious administration and influence, were in no way acceptable to Ummah. “These verdicts are no more authentic as long as they serve a non-Islamic set up as there is every apprehension that these judgments could develop misunderstanding and misconceptions vis-à-vis the Shariat laws”, said the statement

“We find that in Islamic Sharia law of inheritance and divorce has been explained with clear detail but it needs a great vision and particular knowledge and competence with power of judgment to reach an acceptable conclusion”, he said quoting Geelani. According to Geelani, a person with ordinary and little knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence and Sunnah could forward and submit his personal opinion but it was very difficult to reach a decision by such individuals.

“Mr Geelani said that in absence of Islamic administration it is very complicated process to understand it in full, until and unless there is an established government administering the law pertaining to day to day needs of a man, and the whole life as per code of conduct provided by Islam. Mr Geelani reproducing his view point said that even an Islamic scholar cannot justify with ease, his verdicts in absence of Islamic Sharia and Islamic administrative set up. He urged Islamic scholars to come forward with their views so that doubts and misgivings produced are rectified without any damage, or giving rise to more suspicion”, Mr Akbar said in the statement.

As already reported, in a 23-page judgment delivered last week, Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi had decreed that both partners of marital union had equal rights in Islam and the husband’s competence of pronouncing divorce was not arbitrary, unqualified or absolute. The judgment has been delivered in a case in which the wife had initially come up with an application in the trial court seeking maintenance. However, the husband had resisted the application on the grounds that he had divorced her and was not under any obligation to pay maintenance allowance.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

JAH dismisses HC ruling on Talaaq as ‘interference in religion’

All religious groups’ conference called on Nov 4th to devise resistance plan

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Nov 2: Prominent religious organisation Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH) has dismissed a Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge’s ruling on divorce (Talaaq) as “interference in the religion of Islam” and decided to put up resistance to adjudication of religious matters by the judiciary. A conference of different religious bodies has been urgently called in Srinagar on November 4th to devise a plan of sustained resistance.

In a 23-page judgment delivered last week, Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi had decreed that both partners of marital union had equal rights in Islam and the husband’s competence of pronouncing divorce was not arbitrary, unqualified or absolute. The judgment has been delivered in a case in which the wife had initially come up with an application in the trial court seeking maintenance. However, the husband had resisted the application on the grounds that he had divorced her and was not under any obligation to pay maintenance allowance.

JAH today held a threadbare discussion on the body, interpretations and consequences of the High Court judgment. According to a statement released to media this evening, JAH viewed the judgment on Talaaq as “completely unacceptable” calling it “direct interference in the religious matters (of Islam”. It asserted that the judgment was pregnant with “extremely dangerous consequences for the religion of Islam”.

The JAH statement added that the High Court judgment was infringement of Muslim Personal Law under which followers of the faith of Islam had every right to live as per their religious dogmas and practice. It claimed that the judicial courts set up under the non-theocratic set up had no jurisdiction or competence to adjudicate and interpret matters defined in Quran and Hadith. “If this judgment is accepted today, the man-made courts would be tomorrow judgmental on all other religious matters of the Muslims. This has never been acceptable to Muslims in the past nor would ever be in future”, added the JAH statement, unprecedented after Shah Bano judgment controversy in India.

According to the press release, JAH was inviting “all religious and social organisations, intellectual community, jurists and legal experts besides prominent religious leaders” to deliberate on the judgment and its consequences in a conference here on November 4th. The conference would devise a collective strategy to resist the judgment on divorce.

Informed sources added that efforts were underway to get on board all the religious leaders including heads of both factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference. However, there were strong speculations that Chairman of so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat had certain reservations including the one that Mr Justice Masoodi happens to be the uncle of his spouse. Even the participation of the Chairman of Hurriyat’s “hardline” faction, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, as well as that of Sadr Mufti, Mufti Bashiruddin, and his successor son, was said to be uncertain for varied reasons.

Confrontation between the clergy and judiciary in Kashmir over the husband’s competence of Talaaq would be watched with interest as the judge himself belongs to a scholarly background and a respected family. Bar-at-Law from the prestigious Harvard University in USA, Mr Justice Masoodi is known as an authority on Islamic jurisprudence. “This is not going to be a debate on a judge’s profile or qualification. The question is whether or not the courts of a non-religious set up could adjudicate such matters and issue decrees”, a JAH activist observed.

The judgment goes extensively into details of the Shariah law and Quranic injunctions on the subject to find support for its view that “husband cannot have unrestricted or unqualified power to pronounce the Talaaq.” It lays special emphasis on going into the fundamental sources of Shariah law to understand the concept of marriage in Islam, the rights of the parties to the marriage contract and the mode and manner the contract is dissolved.

“Though Islam visualizes a situation where a marriage may run into rough weather for reasons beyond control of the parties to the marriage contract, and provides for a mechanism to end or dissolve the relationship in such case, yet the device of divorce is to be used as the last option when the marital relations have irretrievably broken down”, it reads.

It maintains that in Islam divorce by husband may take three forms: Talaaq-e-Ahsan—single pronouncement of divorce made during a Tuhr (period between menstruations) followed by abstinence from physical relationship for the period of Iddat; Talaaq-e-Hasan—three pronouncements of divorce made during successive Tuhrs, without any physical relationship during any of the three; and, Talaaq-e-Bidhi—three pronouncements of divorce made during a single Tuhr either in one sentence or in three sentences or in any other form like in writing, indicating intention of the husband to irrevocably dissolve the marriage.

The judgment calls the Talaaq-e-Bidhi as most despised and discouraged form and Talaaq-e-Ahsan as the most approved form of divorce.

Maintaining that Talaaq-e-Ahsan is the “only form of divorce that finds approval of Quran,” it says this is the approved form of divorce as it leaves room for reconciliation. Quoting several verses from the Quran on the subject, the judgment reads: “Quran obviously places certain restrictions on the power of husband to pronounce divorce.”

It reads: “There is no scope for disagreement with the legal proposition that as Quran and Sunna refer to Talaaq-e-Ahsan, restrictions placed on use of said device, as laid down in Chapter 65 verse 1 and 2 and elsewhere in Quran and Sunna have reference to Talaaq-e-Ahsan. However, there is no reason to conclude that the said restrictions, applicable to the most approved form of divorce, should not be applicable to the most despised and discouraged form of Talaaq i.e. Talaaq-e-Bidhi. On the other hand, restrictions warrant strict enforcement in case of Talaaq-e-Bidhi.

According to this judgment, a husband was bound to prove that “effort was made by the representatives of husband and wife to intervene, settle disputes and disagreements between the parties and that such effort for reasons not attributable to the husband did not bear any fruit; that he had a valid reason and genuine cause to pronounce divorce on his wife; that Talaaq was pronounced in presence of two witnesses endued with justice; and that Talaaq was pronounced during the period of Tuhr (between two menstrual cycles) without indulging in sexual intercourse with the divorcee during said Tuhr.”

“It is only after the husband pleads and proves all the above ingredients that divorce- Talaaq- would operate and marriage between the parties would stand dissolved so as to enable husband to escape obligations under the marriage contract, including one to maintain his wife,” it rules.

“Islam does not give preference to either of the parties to a marriage. The message in Chapter 30 Verse 21 is not gender specific. It does not address a Muslim man or Muslim woman. It does not say that Almighty Allah created for a man, woman as his spouse or vice-versa. It, on the other hand, addresses both men and women saying that He created spouses and it is a sign of His mercy. This clearly indicates that a man and woman are equal partners in a marriage”, reads the judgment.

It adds: “Again Quran uses expression ‘Zawj’ for both husband and wife. It means either of the pair. Wherever Quran makes mention of ideal partners in a marriage, it refers to them as ‘Zawj’ and not husband or wife. This again makes it clear that husband and wife in Islam are equal partners and have equal status.”

“Islam does not prefer or encourage a particular pattern of life for a married couple. It gives them complete freedom to decide on life pattern and assign roles as long as such patterns or roles are not in conflict with fundamental principles of Islam. The husband and wife, at the time the marriage is contracted, must be competent to enter into a contract. The contract is to be based on mutual consent i.e. offer and acceptance. This further reinforces the proposition that a man and women have equal rights, equal role and equal power while contracting marriage.”

Again, it reads: “In Islam husband and wife protect each other. Quran calls them garments for each other. The verse is to indicate the level of proximity or intimacy between the spouses. Here again Quran does not make any difference between wife and husband.”


Friday, November 2, 2012

Geelani denies ‘macadam statement’, sticks to his guns on Amarnath

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Nov 1: Separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has dismissed Omar Abdullah government’s media campaign over Amarnath Yatra track as an attempt to “distract attention from the real issue”. While asserting that he had never claimed ‘macadamization of Amarnath track’, Geelani has however reiterated his demand of reducing the number of pilgrims and period of the annual Hindu pilgrimage.

According to a statement issued today from headquarters of Geelani-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference, neither the conglomerate nor its head had ever claimed that the track to the holy Cave was being widened and macadamized. Spokesperson of the separatist alliance claimed that the state government’s sponsored aerial inspection of the track by a select group of journalists on Wednesday was “just an attempt to distract attention from the real issue”. He added: “Hurriyat (G) has never alleged black-topping of the yatra track. It has never claimed that structures were being raised over there”, the spokesman asserted.

“After a detailed survey in upstream Pahalgam, Hurriyat (G) had said that building material was being dumped on the track at large scale by the Shrine Board. It had simply expressed apprehensions that attempts could be made in future to utilize these dumps for widening and macadamizing the road in a phased manner”, the spokesman said. He asserted that Hurriyat (G) was continuously firm and resolute on its four demands made in 2008---immediate dissolution of Shrine Board, shifting the entire gamut of the pilgrimage and shrine management to the local Pandits, reducing the number of pilgrims and curtailment to the yatra period.

The spokesman said that macadam or no macadam could be considered only after the Government responded to Hurriyat’s charter of demands. It needed to be clarified whether the government taken Hurriyat’s demands seriously or it was taking Delhi’s diktats with its eyes shut, said the spokesman. He alleged that the establishment was misleading the masses through the unwarranted refrain of “no-macadam” which was not Hurriyat’s fundamental demand. He claimed that the Hurriyat’s concerns and demands were based on apprehensions of scientists and ecological experts who believed that existing duration and rush of the pilgrims, coupled with constructions, could have a dangerously negative impact on the Valley’s environment. Even the sources of water could dry up completely, he said.

In a press conference on October 18th, Geelani had threatened to launch a mass agitation after Eid-ul-Azha (October 27th) if the state government did not stop widening and macadamizing the pilgrimage track from Pahalgam to the holy cave. From Chief Minister to IGP Kashmir, several government functionaries have contradicted Geelani’s statement and claimed that there were no such plans on cards. On October 31st, Government sponsored an aerial survey of select mediapersons by a helicopter and provided evidence that no construction work was underway. However, the trip was restricted to only Baltal area and no sorties manoeuvered to Pahalgam-Cave track.

In his October 18th press conference, Geelani had warned that the fresh anti-Shrine Board agitation would be “far bigger than that of 2008 and 2010”. At the same news conference, Geelani had claimed that fresh efforts of raising “Amarnath Nagar” were underway. According to him, Governor was implementing the plan by directly taking dictation from New Delhi and the state government had been rendered completely helpless. He had claimed that huge quantities of construction material had been already dumped on Pahalgam upstream as the Shrine Board, according to him, had started widening and macadamizing the road to the Cave.

“Shrine Board has arranged special permission for vehicles as truckloads of material are reaching from Rajasthan with the direction to authorities that none of these vehicles be subjected to checking”, Geelani had told mediapersons. According to him, the road from Pahalgam to the holy Cave was being widened and macadamized under orders of Supreme Court and Omar Abdullah’s government had not deployed any of its attorneys in defence. Geelani had claimed that Hurriyat was not against the pilgrimage but it was putting up resistance “only because this pilgrimage is being used as a tool to sustain and strengthen the Indian political aggression (on Jammu and Kashmir)”. He had also mentioned conservation of ecology and wildlife as another reason.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Silver Star CCTV found shut since evening of Oct 18

Pak ultra Qasim identified among 4 in LeT’s Sajjad group

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 30: Much to its surprise, Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police has observed that CCTV system at Silver Star had been switched off 22 hours before the suspected militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba raided the three-star hotel on the National Highway Bypass in Srinagar outskirts on October 19th.

Two young civilians, who were both junior employees of the hotel, had died and two more of their colleagues had sustained injuries when four heavily armed gunmen, suspected to be the cadres of LeT, had attacked Solver Star hotel at 4.30 p.m. on October 19th. While as authorities had claimed that the militants caused the bloodshed after they failed in their plans to attack a convoy of security forces, LeT spokesman had claimed that Army suffered casualties as two fully packed vehicles became the target of its militants who all reached safely back to their hideout after the ‘fidayeen attack’.

Sources associated with the investigation revealed to Early Times that two of the four ‘fidayeen’ had been identified even as two more were likely to be identified in a couple of days. All the four, according to these sources, were members of the Sajjad group of LeT. Operating in Pampore-Wuyan-Nowgam-Parigam belt, Sajjad is said to be a resident of Zewan village. However, he was not among the four of his associates who did a fierce shootout at the hotel and escaped successfully, sources said.

Qasim, who is believed to be a Pakistani national and involved in a fatal highway strike on Army at Pampore earlier this year, as also LeT’s Kashmiri functionary, Imtiyaz of Kulgam, are said to have been identified as participants of the ‘fidayeen’ attack on the hotel. At least one militant of the group has been identified with the help of a previous video recording by the CCTV as Police tallied his visuals with the photographs already in their possession. It indicates that the militants had carried out a reconnaissance survey of the spot before they struck on the hotel earlier this month.

The investigators, who are still processing hundreds of call detail records of cellphones and video recordings, have noticed that the hotel’s CCTV system had been “unusually” shut off at 6.00 p.m. on October 18th. When questioned by Police about it, the hotel’s proprietors and staff insisted that the system had closed down automatically when the electric supply went off a day before the shootout.

The investigators have, nevertheless, seized the CCTV system with all of its cameras and processing units. Its back up has been preserved and is being scanned by a technical team helping SOG in the investigation. According to sources, it contains the recorded footage of 30 days prior to the militant strike.

Police, according to sources, were trying to ascertain whether the militants had operated with the help of some insider at the hotel or the CCTV had really stopped working in absence of power supply.

Presence and movement of the LeT group in Pampore area had led to return of a Rashtriya Rifles camp at Chhatergam village earlier this month. However, within days, it suffered a setback when soldiers of a different battalion of Army opened fire on a privately engaged Tata Sumo of RR 53 Bn, killing a Territorial Army driver on spot out of confusion. He was a resident of Beerwah area of Budgam district.


Monday, October 22, 2012

After failing to attack CM at KU, LeT ultras killed in Sopore

‘Div Commdr’ Hashaam, Abdullah Shaheen killed in 24-hour-long operation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Oct 21: In a significant achievement, Police and security forces have killed two of the top wanted militant commanders of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, who had planned to attack Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during his recent visit to the Kashmir University campus at Hazratbal. LeT’s ‘Divisional Commander’ Muzamil Amin Dar alias Hashaam, alongwith a Pakistani commander of his outfit, had been directed to accept Chief Minister’s ‘attack-me’ challenge but Police not only foiled their plan but also tracked them deep into Sopore town and finally eliminated them both today.

Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Muzamil alias Urfi alias Hashaam of Badam Bagh, Sopore, alongwith a Pakistani militant of LeT, had been given the task of planning and executing a fatal attack on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah immediately after the latter’s open challenge to militants last month. In his reaction to killing of a Panch in Sangrama area of Sopore, Chief Minister had publicly commented that militants were "cowards" and they had been attacking soft targets. He had challenged them to carry out an attack on him and face the retaliation.

According to the information available with the official sources, some Sopore-based militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, headed by Muzamil, conducted a reconnaissance survey of several sensitive spots in the capital city. As they were planning to execute a ‘fidayeen attack’ on the Chief Minister during one of his recent visits to the Kashmir University, Police and intelligence agencies got an inkling of the strike. Muzamil could not be traced immediately but his brother, Muntazar Amin Dar, who is a student of Masters in Commerce, was arrested by Sopore Police and passed on to Special Operations Group (SOG) Srinagar for sustained interrogation.

However, SOG failed to extract any significant information from Muntazar. According to the interrogators, Muntazar was a “hard core pro-Pakistani student” but did not have knowledge of his militant brother's guerrilla operations, including his plan to execute an attack on CM at the University campus. He was finally released today after Muzamil died in an encounter and a day after a group of students staged demonstrations and threatened to boycott classes in case the detained student was not set free.

Sources said that while tracking Muzamil and two Pakistani cadres of LeT, Police and security forces received information of the LeT Divisional Commander’s presence in Shalpora locality of Sopore, some 300 yards behind Police Station on Sopore-Bandipore road, in the afternoon on Saturday. Sopore Police, alongwith CRPF 179 Bn and Rashtriya Rifles 22 Bn, laid siege to the locality and began a cordon-and-search operation. During the initial stage of the operation, two militants hiding in a residential house opened fire from an AK-47 rifle and lobbed two grenades.

A CRPF constable sustained injuries. Police and security forces maintained a tight cordon and stormed the identified hideout in the forenoon today. Dy SP of SOG Sopore, Riyaz Ahmad Tantray, had a providential escape as he was hit straight in his forehead. His bullet-proof headgear neutralized the brunt. Thereafter, Police and troops brought down the target house with IEDs, killing both the holed up militants. Their dead bodies were recovered from the debris late in the afternoon.

Sources participating in the operation said that one AK-47 rifle and two Chinese pistols were recovered from the spot. They said that collateral damage was restricted to only three personnel getting injured. Sources identified one of them as ASI Kafil Ahmad of Sopore Police and another as Naik Gurjan Singh of RR 22 Bn.

GOC of Kilo Force, Lt Gen Sarat Chand, Commander of Army’s Watlab-based Sector-5, Brig J.P. Mathews, Commanding Officer of RR 22 Bn, Col Bikram Saini, SP Sopore, Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, and other officers supervised the 24-hour-long operation.

IGP Kashmir, S.M. Sahai, visited Sopore immediately after both the militants got killed. According to an official press release, he told mediapersons police intervention party stormed into the target house after nightlong siege of some houses in the morning toda. He said that ASI Kafil Ahmad of Sopore Police and Naik Gurjan Singh of 22 RR got injured.
“In the ensuing gunfight that lasted for several hours two militants of LET got killed who were identified as Muzamil Amin Dar alias Hashaam alias Urfi alias Usman S/o Mohammad Amin Dar R/o Badambagh Sopore; Divisional Commander LeT, and Abdullah Shaheen resident of Pakistan”, IGP said. He added that Hashaam was wanted in several terrorist acts, including the killing of SPO Reyazul Hassan Tantray S/o Ghulam Hassan Tantray R/o Brath Kalan on September 8th this year.

IGP said that Muzamil’s name also figured in the investigation of a bomb blast in Delhi in which two persons from Sopore, namely Ehtisham Malik and Tauseef Ahmad Peer, were arrested by Delhi Police in February 2012. IGP said that Muzamil alias Hashaam had gone underground in hometown Sopore immediately after the arrest of his associates by Delhi Police.

Sources said that Muzamil had planned and executed a number of strikes, including the murder of SPO Reyazul Hassan Tantray. He had gunned down the SPO at his home last month. Before going underground, Muzamil had completed the paramedical Theatre Assistant course from Khanam’s Hospital and had been engaged on contractual basis by the state Health Department. According to official records, he had remained closely associated with the most dreaded Pakistani commander of LeT, Abdullah Uni, who died in an encounter with Police and forces last year. He also worked with Uni’s successors Akash Badar and Fahadullah, both Pakistani nationals.

Reports from Sopore said that Abdullah Shaheen’s dead body was buried in a graveyard reserved for unidentified foreign militants at Dangiwacha in Rafiabad. Muzamil’s body was buried in a local graveyard in Sopore. Reports said that Sopore township observed shutdown but just 400 people, including about 100 women, participated in the funeral. Traders have called for three days shutdown over Muzamil’s death in the gunbattle.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hotel shootout toll reaches 2 as Lolab youth succums at SKIMS

LeT militant Muzamil alias Hashaam trapped in Sopore

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Oct 20: With the death of one more civilian, toll of Friday’s ‘fidayeen-type’ attack at Hotel Silver Star has reached two today. Meanwhile, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s top wanted militant in Sopore area, Muzamil Amin Dar, is believed to have got trapped after his associates lobbed grenades and fired upon a search party of Police and CRPF in the north Kashmir apple town.

Authoritative sources told Early Times that Anees Ahmad Wani S/o Habibullah Wani R/o Divar Anderbug, Lolab, Kupwara, succumbed to injuries at SKIMS today. As already reported, he had sustained critical injuries in yesterday’s shootout at Hotel Silver Star on the National Highway Bypass at 4.30 p.m. Farooq Ahmad Bhat S/o Ghulam Nabi Bhat R/o Luryar, Tral, had died on the spot and one more civilian had got hit in his hand. All the were staffers of the Hotel.

Meanwhile, informed sources said that Police and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation on a tip off in Shalapora locality of Sopore at 3.30 p.m. today. The operation began minutes after Police received information that two to three militants of LeT were present at their hideout about 300 yards in the backside of Police Station Sopore.

Sources associated with the operation told Early Times over telephone from the cordoned locality that militants fired a couple of gunshots and lobbed two hand grenades when the house-to-house search operation was underway. One CRPF personnel sustained minor injuries. However, rather than intense retaliation, Police went for evacuation of the entire civilian population. It took more than three hours.

Sources said that LeT’s top wanted militant in Sopore, Muzamil Amin Dar alias Hashaam, was believed to have got trapped alongwith one of his local associates at his hideout. Police zeroed in on a cluster of four residential houses and maintained tight siege around it. Officials said that Police and CRPF would continue the cordon for the whole night and storm the suspected hideout in the morning tomorrow. However, if holed up, militants could attempt to escape from the cordon area during the night with the advantage of darkness.

According to official sources, Muzamil used to work as a Theatre Assistant in the State Health Department and he went underground only after his associates were arrested by Delhi Police from Jkarkhand last year. He was believed to be a key member of the group. Current year’s reports suggested that Muzamil was operating in Sopore area in coordination of two top functionaries of the organisation. Muzafar alias Muz Maulvi and a Pakistani commander of LeT, Fahadullah, were suspected to be guiding him from the top.

Sources said that in the past, Police and security forces had recovered some arms and ammunition from Muzamil’s residential house.

However, hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani has described Muzamil as a non-militant civilian and claimed that he went underground following continuous Police raids on his home. He alleged that Police had now detained Muzamil’s brother who was an M Com student with University of Kashmir. Reports said that his class students observed a boycott to the studies and staged a demonstration while calling for his immediate release on Saturday.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Civilian killed in shootout at Srinagar bypass hotel

LET calls it fidayeen attack on Army convoy; claims to have video footage

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar, Oct 19: One civilian died and two others sustained injuries when a group of four heavily armed militants carried out a fidayeen-type strike on a three-star hotel on the National Highway Bypass in outskirts of this capital city today. Contrary to the Police claim that there was no military or paramilitary movement around the timing of the shootout, militant outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba claimed that four of its cadres conducted a suicidal attack on an Army convoy and returned to their hideout safely.

Hotel Silver Star, that belongs to a prominent businessman and the former Treasurer of J&K Cricket Association (JKCA), Gazanfar Ali Mir, and is situated on the highway bypass between Lasjan and Nowgam, became the scene of intensive AK-47 firing at 4.30 p.m. today. Police sources said that a group of three to four militants, carrying AK-47 rifles, trooped into the lounge of the 5-storeyed hotel building. Claiming to quote the hotel staff, these official sources said that the gunmen commandeered some workers and employees to first and second floor of the building.

When the hotel workers, according to Police sources, attempted to run away, the gunmen fired upon one of them and left him wounded. He died within minutes. Police sources identified him as Farooq Ahmad Bhat S/o Ghulam Nabi Bhat R/o Luryar, Tral. According to these sources, another hotel employee, namely Bilal Ahmad Lone S/o Abdur Rasheed Lone R/o Pukhripora Beerwah, Budgam, was fired upon after he was ordered to recite Kalima. With a gunshot wound in his hand, he is now under treatment at Bone & Joint Hospital Barzulla, in Srinagar.

These sources said that the third hotel employee was also targeted when he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape. He was critically hit in his abdomen and his intestines were visible from outside when he was evacuated and admitted to SKIMS Soura. He was identified as Anees Ahmad Wani S/o Habibullah Wani R/o Divar Anderbug, Lolab, Kupwara. Doctors at SKIMS maintained that he underwent a surgery and was responding to treatment. However, he was not declared out of danger till late tonight.

Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, S.M. Sahai, told mediapersons on the spot this evening that it was not clear whether the attack was aimed at the hotel or a party of security forces on the nearby highway. “They must have been 3 to 4 militants and we have launched an operation to nab them”, the IGP said. According to him, the motive of the attack was not immediately clear. He said that Police reached the spot quickly and carried out an extensive search of all rooms and halls of the hotel. However, neither any militant nor any weapons or other belongings of the attackers were recovered.

A senior Police official revealed to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity that ‘Sajjad Group’ of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba had carried out the attack. Quoting ‘credible inputs’, he said that three to four militants carrying AK-47 rifles reached the hotel gate in a vehicle. As their vehicle sped away, they walked into the hotel and began issuing different directions to the staff. Minor resistance from some among the staff led to opening of firing by the militants.

Sajjad is a resident of Zewan village, not far away from Hotel Silver Star, and believed to be operating in Zewan, Khrew, Pampore, Kakkapora, Pulwama, Parigam, Newa and Nowgam villages.

JKCA too under scanner
The official said that Police were looking into different theories even as it, by no indications, appeared to be a fidayeen attack intended on Army or paramilitary forces. According to him, there was no military or paramilitary movement after 4.00 p.m. on the highway. It was also confirmed by Commanding Officer of a battalion of Rashtriya Rifles that had its ROP on the highway earlier today to ensure safe passage of the convoys.

According to the Police official, plans of the militants’ suicidal attack on a convoy were being examined though there was nothing substantive to indicate that the militants planned to carry out a fidayeen strike. He said that all other possibilities were being scanned. Significantly, owner of the hotel, Gazanfar Ali Mir, remained in news last year and earlier this year when he claimed on camera to NDTV that a prominent politician and top functionary of JKCA had barged into his hotel with his security guards and forced him to sign blank cheques of the association.

Sources said Police had information that Gazanfar owed an amount of Rs 1.50 Crore to another suspended functionary of JKCA, known as Mirza. He also owned an amount of Rs 2.75 Crore to one Ghulam Raza of Kargil. “However, it is difficult at this stage to suggest that the attack was essentially sequel to JKCA bickering or the hotel owner’s refusal to return money to his lenders”, said a Police official. He said that the picture would become clear within a week or so.

Neither Mr Gazanfar nor his son, Imran, who was reportedly present at the hotel at the time of the shootout this evening, could be reached for comment as their phones were continuously switched off.

Fidayeen on Army’
Contrary to the Police claims, chief spokesman of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Dr Abdullah Gazali, told Early Times through a VOIP-operated phone call this evening that four ‘fidayeen’ of his organisation had carried out the attack successfully. He claimed that all the four militants returned to their hideout safely after accomplishing their task.

Gaznavi claimed that the LeT militants attacked two fully occupied vehicles of a military convoy outside Hotel Silver Star. He said that a number of soldiers were believed to have died and several others injured in the attack. When it was pointed out to him that a civilian had died and two more sustained injuries inside the hotel, Gaznavi claimed that troops must have stormed the hotel after the militants escaped from the spot and the civilians must have died or got injured in that military action. He claimed that LeT had filmed the strike and it could release its video footage “very soon”.

However, Police and Army officials contradicted LeT claim strongly and claimed that there was no question of any casualty among the soldiers as they were not in movement or present in that area around the timing of the shootout.

Though routine militant firing has taken place several times in Srinagar since November last year and around half-a-dozen civilians and serving and retired Policemen have died in these hide-and-seek guerrilla attacks, last fidayeen attack in this capital city happened in January 6th, 2010. Two militants, a Police driver and a civilian died and the building of Punjab Hotel perished in the 24-hour-long gunbattle at the top business nerve centre of Lalchowk. Even particular suicide strike had also come after a long pause of three years in such kind of “made-for-TV” attacks.