February 2017 News

Mehbooba Mufti Adjusts Favourites In Top Govt Posts As PDP Leaders Revolt Against Her

2 February 2017
Ishfaq Naseem

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, has resorted to 'favouritism' to adjust her party People's Democratic Party (PDP) leaders on top government positions after some MLAs including former ministers have openly revolted against her and criticized government functioning. In last one week, Mehbooba Mufti has issued two orders to appoint former PDP MLA from Bandipora, Nizamudin Bhat, as vice chairman of the State Horticulture Development Board and former MLA from Pahalgam, Rafi Ahmad Mir, as vice chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC). The orders come as Mehbooba faces revolt from some PDP MLAs including former ministers, who were part of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's cabinet, and are critical of her functioning. Mehbooba Mufti, who is trying to get a grip on administration as the protests in Kashmir over Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Muzafar Wani's, death have subdued now, is facing dissensions from MLAs, who could play an important role in swinging the results of two parliamentary constituencies of Srinagar and Anantnag, which are likely to go to polls in April. Adjustment of Bhat and Mir as important government functionaries is seen by officials as 'sheer' political favoritism and to 'earn back the loyalties of leaders.' However Secretary General Administration Department (GAD), Khurshid Ahmad Shah, who has issued the order of Bhat's appointment, said he can't comment on the criteria employed to issue the order. ' I can't comment,' he said, adding that Bhat would be entitled for salary and other benefits from government. Many officers didn't come on record over the postings for fear of reprisal from Mehbooba, who has resorted to spree of premature transfers in last one year. Hundreds of officers have been prematurely transferred by Mehbooba's administration before the mandatory 2 year term. Top officers say that 'our honesty and hard work has been overlooked to adjust favourites in government.' Although appointments on political considerations were not an exception in the NC-Congress government headed by former chief minister, Omar Abdullah. 'Mehbooba has been brazen,' said a top government official, who was recently transferred from the position of a Director to Special Secretary in the administration. While Nizamudin Bhat and Rafi Ahmad Mir are well known political leaders, PDP-BJP dispensation has also appointed lesser known workers to head advisory bodies. Former chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, appointed PDP worker from Kokernag area of South Kashmir, Zafar Iqbal Khattana, as the vice chairman of Gujjar and Bakerwal Advisory Board. Unlike Khattana, Bhat had lost the Assembly elections on Bandipora constituency to Congress party's Usman Majeed, which had seen star-studded campaigning including by Congress President, Sonia Gandhi. Rafi Mir lost to NC's Altaf Ahmad Kaloo, on Pahalgam, a constituency on which PDP has been claiming an easy victory ahead of elections, banking also on Mufti's popularity in South Kashmir region. Among others who are holding offices on political considerations are PDP leaders Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor and PDP youth leader, Waheed Parra. Mehjoor is functioning as the chairperson of the State Women's Commission, since 24 June, 2015, while Parra is currently Secretrary, Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council (JKSSC). Parra was previously working as political analyst in Mufti Sayeed's government. The post of political analyst was created by Mufti Sayeed and Mehbooba chose to create the position of media consultant and picked up former News X staffer, Suhail Bukhari, for the job. Earlier after Mufti Sayeed's death, during Governor's rule, GAD had sought ending the appointment of political leaders to the offices of Corporations and Boards including that the State Women's Commission and Gujjar Advisory Board. However Governor, NN Vohra, didn't approve the proposal, and Mehbooba has chosen to continue with the posts. Gujjar Bakerwal vice chairman, Zafar Iqbal, said that he continued to hold the office even in Governor's rule. But top officers said that such political appointments are only a 'means of corruption.' 'For regular appointments there are many criteria which are kept in consideration including the requirement for financial approval from finance department. However no such criteria is kept in consideration for political appointments which have been made by the chief minister,' a senior government official said. The political appointments by Mehbooba are also seen as a desperate bid by her to keep the dissidence within the party under check. Last year, Mehbooba dropped four MLAs from the council of ministers, who were part of the former chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed's dispensation. Among those who couldn't make it to Mehbooba's ministry are Amira Kadal constituency MLA and former Roads and Buildings Minister, Syed Altaf Bukhari, Noorabad MLA and former Minister of State for Public Health Engineering, Abdul Majeed Padder, former Revenue Minister and MLA, Chadoora, Javid Mustafa Mir and Sonwar MLA and former Minister of State for Power, Muhammad Ashraf Mir. All four MLAs have been critical of the government functioning, while there are many in PDP who believe that Bukhari was trying to stitch an alliance with BJP himself and become the chief minister. Bukhari recently said in the Assembly that it was the 'people who appoint the MLAs and not the government.' He said he was not invited by government to lay the foundation stone for a parking lot, which lies barley few meters away 'from my residence in Srinagar.' Srinagar seat fell vacant after former PDP leader, Tariq Hameed Karra, resigned as MP citing the reason that PDP failed to live up to its electoral promise. He had noted that the government forces have resorted to brutal use of force. Anantnag seat is vacant after Mehbooba resigned the seat and got elected as MLA.