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Monday, September 3, 2012

Mirwaiz confidante alleges ‘rigging’ in Bar elections

‘Urdu daily editor, Police and Revenue officers, among bogus voters’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Sep 2: Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s confidante and a member of his Awami Action Committee (AAC), Advocate Shahidul Islam has leveled allegations of “largescale rigging and bogus voting” in the lately conducted elections of High Court Bar Association (HCBA). He has complained that despite being a licensee advocate and a genuine voter, he was among a large number of voters who were denied right to participate in the elections even as a number of ‘ bogus voters’, including editor of an Urdu daily and officers of Police and Revenue departments, were allowed to cast vote.

“I will not take it lying down. I will raise my voice and fight for my right’, Aftab Hilali Shah alias Shahidul Islam, who claimed to a member of Hurriyat Conference’s Working Committee and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s AAC, told Early Times. Once a top ranking commander of then dreaded militant outfit, Hizbullah, Shahidul Islam has distanced himself from guerrilla warfare after his arrest and subsequently release from a jail over 15 years back. Over a decade ago, he joined AAC and has been asserting as Mirwaiz Umar’s personal spokesman. He has been occasionally attending Hurriyat’s meetings on behalf of Mirwaiz Umar---the separatist amalgam’s founder-chairman and incumbent head.

Now a Police-protected Hurriyat activist and Mirwaiz Umar’s spokesman, Shahidul Islam is the first in the Valley’s entire separatist camp who has come out with serious allegation of rigging and bogus voting in the HCBA elections, held on Thursday last. Since 1990, HCBA has been an open advocate of Kashmir’s “freedom” from India and it has been reaffirming its political resolve after its elections and round-the-year by staying away from all government functions including the official ones, like swearing-in of judges, held by J&K High Court.

From 1993 to 2003, HCBA functioned as a General Council constituent of ‘All Parties Hurriyat Conference”. After Hurriyat’s split in 2003, it has been asserting as an independent “pro-freedom organisation” while issuing statements, staging demonstrations, contesting detention and charges slapped on separatist activists and militants besides organizing conferences. All the 600-odd advocates, practicing at J&K High Court in Srinagar, excluding those recruited or engaged by Government of India and Government of Jammu and Kashmir, qualify to be its members. Prominent separatist leaders, like Mian Abdul Qayoom and Nazir Ahmad Ronga, have been HCBA’s Presidents for most of terms in the last 23 years.

While talking to Early Times, Shahidul Islam alleged that the HCBA elections were being held in “completely non-democratic atmosphere”. “There’s no transparency. Even in the recent elections, electoral roll was surreptitiously changed just two days before scheduled date of polling”, Shahidul Islam lamented. He complained that a number of genuine voters, including he, were prevented from casting vote and their names were removed from the electoral roll. “Everything was hijacked”, he alleged. According to him, even the officers of Police and Revenue departments cast votes.

“A large number of bogus voters were incorporated in the list and allowed to cast vote. They included about 150 members from district bars who have been admitted as voters only on account of their loyalty and liaison to a former HCBA functionary. Many of those, who are not practicing lawyers and members of HCBA, were allowed to cast vote. They included an editor of a local Urdu daily besides a spokesman of a politico-religious organisation. I don’t want to name them as both are my good friends”, Shahidul Islam asserted. He claimed that he had completed his LL B from University of Kashmir in 1988-89, got himself registered as a legal practitioner and obtained Advocates License No: 2041/89 from the competent authority.

Nobody from HCBA could be reached for comment over telephone. However, a couple of HCBA members argued on condition of anonymity that despite having obtained license in 1989, Shahidul Islam had never practiced law in any court and thus he was not entitled to being a member of HCBA or a voter for the elections. “He practiced different things but not law”, said one of them. He claimed that the elections were held in a transparent and democratic manner under the supervision of a senior advocate who had been duly appointed as Election Commissioner by the HCBA Governing Body. “Why doesn’t he name the Police and Revenue officers who, according to him, cast votes?” he asked.

Shahidul Islam admitted that he had not worked as full-time legal practitioner but asked: “Those having completed Bachelors in Law through correspondence course are not qualified to become HCBA’s members or voters. Isn’t it a fact that a number of such individuals did cast vote in the elections on Thursday last?” He claimed that, until last year, he had voted in all the HCBA elections and nobody had ever objected to his enrolment as a voter. According to him, bogus voting took place in order to ensure victory for a particular candidate faithful to a former Bar chief.

In the annual elections held last week, senior advocate Zaffar Qureishi defeated Mirwaiz loyalist advocate Nazir Ahmad Ronga as President of HCBA with a margin of 104 votes. Mohammad Ashraf Bhat was elected as General Secretary, defeating advocate Ghulam Nabi Shaheen. Advocate Aijaz Ahmad Bedar was elected as Vice President.


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