Srinagar, May 24: The killing of Zakir Rashid Bhat aka Zakir Musa, one the last active militant ‘commanders’ in Kashmir is a major blow to militancy in the valley, police officials said on Friday.
Zakir was killed in an encounter in Dadsara Tral between Thursday and Friday night. The operation was jointly carried out by Army’s 42 Rashtriya Rifles, along with Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the CRPF.
“He was one the last standing militant leaders and his killing is a big success for us. We have now almost wiped off the entire militant leadership,” a top police officer told The Kashmir Monitor.
ADGP Law and Order, Munir Ahmad Khan told The Kashmir Monitor that Zakir’s killing was going to strongly impact militancy in Kashmir.
“He was the head of AGH and eliminating him is a big achievement for us. He was a very old militant and naturally, his killing is going to impact the militancy in Kashmir because the old ones inspire the new ones,” he said.
The ADGP said the killing of militant leaders impacts militancy as there hardly remains anyone to lure youth to militancy.
Army too was quick to react to Zakir’s killing.
“Assuredly moving towards Terrorism Free Kashmir. Terrorist Leadership targeted successfully in Tral. College dropout ZakirBhat Musa leader of AGH neutralised. Defied Hizb continuously. Commendable & laudable efforts by @adgpi @northerncomd_ia @kashmirpolice @crpf_srinagar,” the Srinagar based Chinar Corps, also known as 15 Corps, tweeted Friday morning.
After his killing, the Jammu and Kashmir Police issued a statement saying that the Zakir “was carrying rocket launcher, grenades, huge ammunition and warlike stores beside an AK 47”.
Musa, who left Hizb chief and founded Ansar-ul-Gazwat-ul Hind (AGH), a Kashmir-based militant outfit inspired by Al-Qaeda, was an A++ category militant.
Born in an affluent family of Noorpora village in volatile Tral region, Zakir succeeded Burhan Wani as the divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir soon after the latter was killed in an encounter in July 2016.
After quitting engineering studies at a Chandigarh college in 2013, Zakir, then in his mid-20s, joined Hizb’s core group of militants based in Tral.
He grew very close to Burhan and hit headlines first time in 2015 after his picture along with another militant Lateef Tiger went viral on social media. The picture, in which Zakir and Lateef were in casuals, was clicked somewhere in Srinagar, sending the security establishment into the tizzy that time.
Days after Burhan’s killing, Musa issued a maiden video statement, calling on people to continue the agitation and described Kashmir’s movement as the “movement for Islam”. In several other videos, he was seen giving arms training to the new recruits inside a residential house at an undisclosed location.
However, Zakir shot to prominence in May 2017 after he termed the Kashmir movement “as a struggle for the establishment of Islam and not for nationalism or secularism”. He threatened to behead Hurriyat leaders and hang their heads in Lal Chowk “if they came out in his way of establishing Shariah”.
The threat did not go well with Hizbul Mujahideen leadership based in Pakistan who termed his remarks as his personal views. Musa was quick to hit back and announced his exit from the Hizb.
Days later, he formed his own outfit Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which is believed to be linked to Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, and reiterated his pan-Islamist stand. Zakir entered into a bitter war of words with the militant leadership based in Pakistan over his Islamist stand.
Around a dozen members of Hizb and LeT defected to Musa’s group and announced their support to his cause. Notable among them was Abu Dujana, the successor of top Lashkar commander Abu Qasim, who was killed in 2015 and Abu Hamas, a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. Both the commanders were residents of Pakistan and their support to Musa gave his outfit a big boost.
The first major blow to AGH came in August 2017 when Abu Dujana and his aide Arif Lelhari died in a gunfight at Hakripora in Kakapora area of Pulwama district. A few weeks later, four of his aides were killed in a brief encounter in Tral.
Till this date, more than a dozen members of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind have been killed including its deputy chief Rehan Khan. Before the formation of the group, four aides of Zakir were killed in an encounter in Kakapora.
After quitting Hizb, Zakir remained elusive but his group released many of his audio messages wherein he targeted both India and Pakistan.
While Zakir was severely criticized by the UJC and Joint Hurriyat Leadership, he became highly popular among youths in Kashmir with his slogans being raised even in the protests on civic issues.
He featured in top 12 “most wanted” militant list of the army and managed to dodge forces on several occasions in the last six years.
NITI Aayog meet: Guv seeks liberal GoI assistance for JK
New Delhi, Jun 16: Governor Satya Pal Malik late Saturday addressed the 5th meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog and sought personal intervention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for accelerating the development in the State which is imperative for putting the State on the path of peace, progress and prosperity.
Addressing the 5th meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, Governor highlighted the key initiatives undertaken during the last one year. He said there was a need for giving further impetus to the development process in the State for which the Government of India was requested to provide liberal financial support.
Highlighting some of the key initiatives undertaken, ever since the State was brought under Governor’s rule on June, 20 2018, followed by President’s rule on December, 20, 2018, the Governor said among the major achievements has been the empowerment of people through peaceful Panchayat and ULB elections held in November- December after a gap of over 7 years. Despite boycott calls and threats, people came out in large numbers to vote. The turnover was 74% without any loss of life.
The State Government has introduced necessary amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act to strengthen the institution of Panchayats and given them more powers. In order to further this effort, Governor said that the State Government is organising a week long “Back to the Village” programme from 20th to 27th June 2019.
All gazetted officers will stay in a Panchayat for two days. They will connect with Panchayat representatives, see how government services are being delivered and understand local needs.
“This is a first in J&K. We are new to this. “The enthusiasm all around gives us hope that the future is bright for grassroots democracy in the state,” Governor observed.
Governor said that equitable development of all regions is a priority for the Government.
While Elevated High Speed Rail Corridors and two satellite townships will be developed in Jammu and Srinagar, the aspirations of Ladakh have been fulfilled through creation of a separate division, a University and empowerment of the Hill Councils, the Governor said.
Kargil will soon have a full-fledged commercial airport like Leh, he said.
Governor said that the state too has been taking its own initiatives. The number of Colleges in the state has been increased from 98 to 200, while the number of MBBS seats has been doubled in one year from 500 to over 1000, probably a first for any state. Many new facilities are coming up. The State is expected to be a hub for medical tourism in future.
On infrastructure, Governor said that J&K has had over Rs 6,000 crore of languishing projects, some pending for over 20 years. The State Government has set up a Jammu & Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (JKIDFC) and raised Rs 8000 crore of loans to fund these languishing projects in 18 months. The initiative has been noted as a best practice by the NITI Aayog, he said.
Governor said that J&K has risen remarkably in the Aspirational district rankings. A year ago, Kupwara was at the bottom. This has been done mainly by gearing up the administrative system to deliver results. The worst performing state in Swachh Bharat in February 2018 i.e. J&K, was declared ODF in September 2018 along with others. J&K won a national award of Rs 100 crore for implementing Saubhagya ahead of time.
In Ayushman Bharat, J&K has the largest percentage of Gold Cards issued. J&K has among the best healthcare systems in the country. NITI Aayog has ranked J&K as the second best state in the overall improvement among aspirational districts over the last year and Baramulla is ranked as the second best district overall. All this is being done in the most difficult circumstances, he said.
Governor said that the State Government is taking all necessary steps to ensure that September-2014 like flood situation is not repeated in the State. He said a project has been initiated for dredging of Wular Lake and Jhelum for which he requested the Central Government to fund its share for the Wular, Dal and Jhelum Phase 2 projects which will save Srinagar and other parts of the Valley from future floods.
Governor said that State has also undertaken a programme for 100% piped drinking water supply to the entire state by 2021 for which he requested liberal financial support from Government of India. This will make J&K the first State in the country to have 100% piped water supply.
Governor said that State has witnessed good snowfall this year followed by frequent rains. He said that flexibility in SDRF norms is needed to permit more than 10% of funds to be used for equipment as J&K requires more number of snow clearance and flood relief equipment. There is a huge backlog of MGNREGA receipts from GoI which is causing stress in the system. Further, J&K had a special dispensation by which Land Acquisition cost was included in PMGSY projects. “J&K would like that continue”, he said.
On agriculture and horticulture sector, the Governor said that doubling the farmer’s income in the State can be achieved through focus on horticulture and animal husbandry. He said J&K is a top producer of quality apple, saffron and walnuts and many other fruits. However, J&K is badly placed in the supply chain with extremely limited cold storages, logistics facilities, grading and packing plants, export infrastructure and even good mandis for which Governor sought greater central assistance in supporting Horticulture, logistics, and other areas.
Governor said that the National Highway from Jammu to Srinagar has been a source of great inconvenience. Positioning of Officers from NHAI on the site-fulltime is essential to avoid disruptions and ensure all time connectivity to valley and Ladakh. Further, he said that the international airport at Srinagar should be brought on the international route map.
Governor said that J&K is organising first ever investment summit later this year and preparations are in full swing for this including setting up of two world class IT Parks.
Governor said that J&K depends a lot on the Centre for its development needs. “The massive Rs 80,000 crore PMDP for J&K has been a boon for the state. In the last one year, the implementation of PMDP projects has speeded up phenomenally. Roads, bridges, flyovers, hospitals, educational institutions, and skill and livelihood programmes are moving ahead rapidly. There is an air of expectation among the people” he added.
Governor said that J&K is a front line State in the fight against militancy and sought all support in this regard. He said that a scheme such as Special Central Assistance (SCA) given to Left Wing Extremism (LWE) districts will be of great help to J&K in its fight against militancy and to fill critical gaps.
Governor said that last year there was incident free Shri Amarnathji Yatra. With the help of Central Government, we are hopeful to have a peaceful Yatra this year as well.
In his concluding remarks, Governor observed that last one year has demonstrated that good governance and development are possible and can go hand in hand in J&K. The rule of law has been established. Guilty and the corrupt are being held accountable and brought to book. The time has now come to reach out to our youth with the active support of the Government of India. The State Government will work with the Central Government to ensure that people of J&K reap the benefits of great economic future, which the country is poised for in the next 5 years.
JK polls, unemployment dominate all-party meet
New Delhi, Jun 16: A day before the Budget session of Parliament, the Congress Sunday raised with the government issues of unemployment, farmers distress, drought, and press freedom, while also calling for early conduct of assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
At an all-party meeting called by the government, the opposition parties demanded discussion on all such issues in Parliament, with the Congress asserting that it is still a “fight of ideologies”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress lawmakers Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, K Suresh, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and TMC leader Derek O’Brien were present at the meeting.
The opposition also strongly raised the issue of women’s reservation bill with Trinamool Congress leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien asserting that the bill be listed and passed in the current session of Parliament.
The opposition also flagged concerns over weakening of federalism and asserted that “deliberately targeting of states is unacceptable”.
“We congratulated the government. But with that we also told them that this is a fight of ideologies, it was a fight of ideologies and it will remain a fight of ideologies,” Azad told reporters after the meeting.
He said the Congress party is the foundation of secular forces and will always work to keep that spirit alive whether it is in government or in opposition.
“Even when out of power, we will continue to work for the upliftment of farmers, labourers and women. We also said that there are some issues that the government should pay attention to such as those of the farmers, drought, lack of drinking water, and massive unemployment in the country,” Azad said.
The government needs to immediately pay attention to unemployment that has increased in the last five years, he asserted.
“We also raised the issue of freedom of press. The behaviour of ruling party workers towards journalists was also raised. They (journalists) are being beaten and efforts are being made to muzzle their voice. We condemn that and urged the government to look into it,” he said.
Azad said the independence of institutions and “weakening of federalism” was also taken up with the government at the meeting.
According to him, the Congress told the government that there is no need of president’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir.
On one hand the government says the environment is not conducive for polls and that is why president’s rule has been imposed, and on the other hand the centre says panchayat elections were carried out peacefully last year, Azad said.
“Lok Sabha elections were also held in Jammu and Kashmir recently and even they were conducted peacefully. So, when panchayat and parliamentary polls can be conducted, why not state polls,” he asked.
“We told the government that you are not conducting the polls there because the BJP government will not be formed. That is why you want to rule the state through governor’s rule,” the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir said.
The Union Cabinet last week approved extension of President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir for six more months beginning July 3.
An official statement said based on the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir as stated in the report of the governor, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the prime minister has approved the extension of President’s rule in the state for a further period of six months with effect from July 3, 2019, under article 356(4) of the Constitution of India.
The TMC raised the issues of electoral reforms, including state funding of elections and paper ballots.
The party also flagged the opposition’s concerns over the government’s use of ordinances, saying that in the spirit of the Constitution this should be used only as an “emergency” tool.
“Unfortunately, in the 16th Lok Sabha it was blatantly overused. Highest percentage of ordinances in 70 years,” Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien said.
17th Lok Sabha’s to begin session today
Budget, triple talaq in focus
New Delhi, Jun 16: The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha will commence from Monday during which the passage of the Union Budget and other key legislations such as triple talaq will be on top of the agenda for the government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chairing an all-party meeting on the eve of the first session of the new Lok Sabha, invited heads of all parties to a meeting on June 19 to discuss the “one nation, one election” issue and other important matters.
Noting that there are many new faces in this Lok Sabha, Modi said the first session of the Lower House of Parliament should begin with “fresh zeal and new thinking”.
At the all-party meeting, the Congress raised with the government issues of unemployment, farmers distress, drought, and press freedom, while also calling for early conduct of assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
The opposition parties demanded discussion on all such issues in Parliament, with the Congress asserting that it is still a “fight of ideologies”.
Prime Minister Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress lawmakers Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, K Suresh, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and TMC leader Derek O”Brien were present at the meeting.
The BJP also held its parliamentary party meet here Sunday with Prime Minister Modi assuring Indians that his government will be at the forefront of facilitating legislation that manifests the spirit of “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”.
A day before the first session of the newly-constituted 17th Lok Sabha, a meeting of the NDA was also held here.
The government had promulgated as many as 10 ordinances for the session which ends on July 26 and will have 30 sittings.
The first two days of the session will be used for administering oath of office to all Lok Sabha MPs. The oath will be administered by protem speaker Virender Kumar. The speaker will be elected on June 19 and the next day the president will address a joint sitting of both Houses.
The budget will be introduced on July 5.
Among the bills that will be introduced, the one on triple talaq could be a contentious one between the government and the opposition.
Addressing the media after the all-party meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi said the prime minister urged leaders of all parties to “introspect whether members of Parliament are able to fulfil people”s aspirations as their representatives and the manner in which last two years of the 16th Lok Sabha were wasted”.
An all-party meeting is a customary procedure before the beginning of every session of Parliament to ensure its smooth functioning.
Joshi said the government has requested all parties, especially the opposition, for their cooperation for the smooth functioning of both Houses of Parliament.
In order to build esprit de corps, Modi has invited presidents of all those parties who have an MP either in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha for a meeting on June 19.
The meeting has been called to discuss “one nation, one election” issue, celebrations of 75 years of India”s Independence in 2022 and 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi”s birth anniversary this year, he said.
It will be followed by a dinner meeting with all MPs of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on June 20 to freely interact and exchange views with the government, Joshi said, adding that these two novel initiatives would go a long way in building team spirit among all parliamentarians. (PTI)
PM to meet party presidents on Jun 19
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, Jun 16: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting of presidents of all parties represented in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha on June 19 to discuss the issue of ‘one nation, one election’, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi said Sunday.
The prime minister has called the meeting to also discuss the celebration of 75 years of India’s independence in 2022, 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary this year and issues related to aspirational districts, Joshi said after an all-party meeting called by the government.
He said the PM has also called a meeting of MPs to discuss these issues on June 20, he said.
‘Pak warns India of Pulwama-like IED attack’
Srinagar, Jun 16: Pakistan has shared information regarding the threat of a possible attack in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Indian Express reported on Sunday.
The entire security grid in J&K is on its toes after the alert, which came just days ago, regarding a possible attack by militants using an improvised explosive device mounted on a vehicle, the report said.
“The Pakistanis shared this information regarding the possibility of such an attack with our High Commission in Islamabad. They had also shared this information with the Americans, who too, informed us. So this information has come directly as well as via the Americans to us,” Express quoted an official saying.
“The attack, the Pakistanis say, is being ostensibly planned to avenge the killing of Zakir Musa,” the official was quoted saying by the newspaper.
Musa, who launched and headed an al-Qaeda affiliate called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind in Kashmir after breaking away from the Hizbul Mujahideen in May 2017, was killed in an operation in the Tral area last month. Police sources said Ansar, which had an estimated membership of about a dozen militants, is now down to “two to three” militants.
The security official, as per the Express report, said: “We are reading Pakistan’s sharing of this information in two ways. It is either a way to make sure that they avoid blame if a big attack takes place, because they have already shared the information with the Americans. Or it is a genuine attempt to inform us ahead after they found out, particularly because the information is regarding a plan to attack by members of an al-Qaeda linked group.”
“We also understand that any activities of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda are seen differently by them (Pakistan),” the official said.
Another senior police officer confirmed the alert. “We are always on alert, especially in South Kashmir. But we are taking this alert very seriously,” this officer said.
Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Zakir Musa, the police claims, was the last surviving member of the Burhan Wani group. Wani was killed on July 8, 2016. Musa subsequently broke away from the Hizbul Mujahideen in May 2017 to set up the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which he claimed was a local affiliate of al-Qaeda. The Global Islamic Media Front, the online propaganda arm of al-Qaeda, had released a statement on the setting up of the Ansar in Kashmir.
Musa was a civil engineering student at a college in Chandigarh when he went missing in July 2013, and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen subsequently. In 2017, Musa released an audio threatening top separatist leaders in the Valley. He was also publicly critical of Pakistan.
The February 14 fidayeen car bomb attack in which over 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed, had taken place on the highway at Lethpora (also in Pulwama district), which is 7 km from Awantipora. The attack had prompted India to launch the Balakot airstrikes on February 26, and Pakistan had retaliated the following day.
Temperatures were lowered after Pakistan returned IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan who had been captured after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down.
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