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Six Kashmiri political bigwigs booked as anti-corruption drive picks up pace

Six Kashmiri political bigwigs booked as anti-corruption drive picks up pace

The anti-corruption and counter-terrorism drive in Kashmir is picking up pace with some of the bigwigs of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir now going behind bars.

Arrested last fortnight for his alleged links to a terror-funding module, also involving Davinder Singh, a former deputy SP of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the Peoples Democratic Party’s youth wing president, Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, is the sixth mainstream Kashmiri politician booked or arrested by a Central investigation agency in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three years.

Booked by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Parra is now charged with his links to Hizbul Mujahideen, even as the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti has linked his detention to his contesting the District Development Council election from Pulwama.

The FIR in the matter of a fund embezzlement in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA), involving former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, had been lodged on a complaint by the Jammu and Kashmir Police when Omar Abdullah was heading the National Conference (NC)-Congress government. The allegations of the misappropriation Rs 133-crore fund, received from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), surfaced for the first time in 2012.

As the J&K Police failed to establish charges, two cricketers filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court (JKHC). In September 2015, when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Chief Minister, the JKHC ordered transfer of the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The CBI registered its own FIR, without naming Farooq Abdullah, but called the octogenarian politician for questioning. The CBI completed the investigation and submitted the charge sheet in a designated court in Srinagar establishing charges of embezzlement of funds against Farooq Abdullah and others. Suddenly the Enforcement Directorate (ED) too jumped in with additional charges of money laundering in the same case in 2019.

In 2019-20, Dr Abdullah was interrogated by the ED twice at Chandigarh where he reportedly maintained that no embezzlement or money laundering had taken place in the JKCA when he was the President.

Hilal Rather, the businessman-son of the high-profile NC leader and former Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, has been facing charges of misappropriating a housing loan of over Rs 100 crore of the J&K Bank. He was initially booked and arrested by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)

Even after the ACB completed its investigation and filed a charge sheet, the CBI jumped in with a separate investigation. In August 2020, the ED conducted searches at Rather’s business and residential premises in Jammu and Srinagar.

Hilal Rather has been in jail since January 2020. The ACB and the CBI have strongly resisted his counsel’s attempts to get him released on bail. The courts at different levels have turned down Hilal’s bail petitions. His family and counsels have claimed that Hilal had invested an amount of over Rs 170 crore—much more than he has lifted as loan, in a housing project in Jammu and, as such, there was no
question of the alleged money laundering. They have claimed that Hilal had almost completed the construction of more than 250 flats and the 14-floor towers in Bhattindi, valued at Rs 200 crore, Jammu, were well in place.

Former independent MLA from Langet, Engineer Rashid, was questioned, booked and arrested by the NIA in August 2019 for his alleged involvement in a terror-funding module. He has been charged with receiving money from a detained businessman Zahoor Ahmad Watali on behalf of Hafiz Sayeed and some Hurriyat leaders.

Senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin was booked last month by the CBI, in compliance with the JKHC order over the infamous Roshni Scheme. The FIR for alleged land grabbing of 15 kanals of the forest land in Shopian has been filed against Taj by the CBI. Taj has claimed the land to be proprietorial.

Former deputy mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), Sheikh Imran, was arrested by the ACB in December 2019 in a case pertaining to misappropriation of loans worth crores of rupees from the Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

Imran, who was removed as deputy mayor of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) last year, was taken into custody by the ACB for questioning in connection with illegal appropriation of subsidy given to his company for setting up of a Controlled Atmosphere (CA) store.

The ACB investigation has revealed that a large amount of loan was diverted which was meant for construction of a CA store. The case is under investigation with the ACB to unearth further details of the bank fraud. After becoming deputy mayor in SMC, Imran had joined Sajjad Lone’s PC. However, he has remarkably reduced his visibility in politics and social media in the last few months after his release
from jail.

The J&K Police has questioned Muzaffar Parrey of Congress and the PDP’s former MLA from Wachi, Shopian, Aijaz Ahmad Mir, after suspected militants looted arms and ammunition from their official houses at the Government Quarters of Jawahar Nagar. However, neither of them has been booked or arrested so far..