In a major political development which may be seen as prelude to the formation of a Third Front, several former ministers and legislators from across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir met here on Wednesday and formally decided to float a political party in the coming days.
The meeting, which lasted for nearly three hours, took place at the residence of Democratic Party (Nationalist) president and former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir.
Those attending the meeting included former ministers Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari and Mohammad Dilawar Mir, besides Javed Hassan Beig, Choudhary Qamar Hussain, and Raja Manzoor Ahmad – all former PDP legislators.
These leaders are perceived to be closer to security agencies and not political heavyweights like Sajjad Lone of the People’s Conference or M Y Tarigami of CPI(M) in Kashmir. While Altaf Bukhari was expelled from the PDP on charge of anti-party activities in 2018, others among the eight former ministers and ex-legislators were expelled last month within hours of meeting G C Murmu – Lieutenant Governor of the UT.
The party had accused them of going against the will of the people, while the UT administration described their meeting with Lt Governor as an initiation of a political process and dialogue with members of mainstream political parties.
Former minister Dilawar Mir is a relative of well-known businessman-turned-politician Altaf Bukhari. In 2014, he was awarded three years in prison and fined Rs 3.21 crore by a Delhi court in a case related to he wrongful release of Rs 30 lakh and a contract for sale of urea to his firm by the public sector company National Fertilizers Limited between 1993-96.
However, the court had granted him bail and suspended the sentence till January 2, 2015 to enable him file an appeal.
Bukhari was accused of planning a split in the PDP after Mehbooba Mufti took over as Chief Minister and did not make him part of her Cabinet. Later, he was inducted into the Cabinet and allocated the Finance and Education portfolios. After the BJP pulled out of the coalition government, he was again tipped as a joint chief ministerial candidate of the PDP-NC-Congress combine. However, the move failed as the then Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the Legislative Assembly over a fortnight before the end of Governor’s rule in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
His younger brother Tariq was also summoned by a Central agency for questioning in a case last year.
Former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir was in the middle of a controversy following the publication of a secret Board of Officers inquiry report in The Indian Express in September 2013 in which he was stated to have received Rs 1.19 crore out of the Army’s Secret Service Funds to engineer a change of government in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mir had called the charge baseless. At the time, former Army Chief V K Singh had called Mir a “God, a nationalist and unifying factor in Jammu and Kashmir”.
Both Hassan Mir and Bukhari confirmed Wednesday’s meeting and added that the political party would is expected to be floated by the month’s end.
Pointing out that members of different political parties attended the meeting, Bukhari said the members discussed the report of a sub-committee led by Dilawar Mir which was constituted last month for feedback from the people on the formation of a new party in the UT. All the participants were unanimous in their opinion that a new party would be formed for the “good of the people of the state”, he added.
Early last month, a group of former PDP ministers and ex-legislators led by Ghulam Hassan Mir and Altaf Bukhari had met Lt Governor G C Murmu and demanded among other things, restoration of statehood, release of political detainees and withdrawal of cases against youths, besides protection of local people’s rights over land and jobs.
This was the first formal contact between mainstream opposition politicians from Kashmir and the J&K administration after the erstwhile state’s special status was scrapped and it was bifurcated into two UTs.
While most leaders in the delegation were from PDP, and had no representation from other mainstream parties such as NC, the Congress or People’s Conference, all of them had claimed to have met the Lt Governor in their individual capacity.
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