Kashmir 'separatists could exploit Yousuf's death'

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Old 10-Oct-2011
Kashmir 'separatists could exploit Yousuf's death'

New Delhi: People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti says the custodial death of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference worker Sayeed Mohammad Yousuf has "exposed the rampant corruption prevailing in the state under Chief Minister Omar Abdullah" and official inaction could be exploited by separatist groups in the Valley.

"Whenever opposition parties used to raise the issue of corruption, the chief minister used to counter us, asking for proof. Now, we are saying here is the proof and, that too, implicating Omar and his father (Union Minister) Farooq Abdullah," Mehbooba, the leader of the opposition in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, said in an interview by phone from Srinagar.

"You all know how difficult it is for the mainstream [pro-India] parties to function in the Valley. The death of Yousuf can make things worse. Official inaction can help the campaign of others [separatists]," Mehbooba, 52, said.

Saeed Mohammad Yousuf, 61, died in police custody on September 30, a day after he was summoned to the chief minister's residence here to answer allegations that he took bribes to arrange for political posts.

Political turbulence

The case has triggered political turbulence in the border state, with the PDP and other parties demanding the chief minister's resignation.

Mehbooba said that corruption had been on the rise during the three years of Omar's rule. She said Omar has forfeited the "standards and stature" the chief ministers and pro-India leaders had in the Valley, which historically had a big presence of separatists.

"There might have been differences among the public over the political ideology of chief ministers. But most of them whether it was Shaikh Abdullah or Gulam Mohammad Seddiqi or Mufti Mohammad Saeed were held in esteem. The present chief minister has forfeited that position also," she said.

The PDP leader described the judicial probe announced by Omar as an "eye-wash and impractical".

"The first pre-condition to the probe should be that Omar, who is the prime suspect, should step down.

"It has a lot of practical difficulties too, as getting a sitting judge for a probe is a prolonged process," she said. Mehbooba denied Omar's charges that the PDP was trying to influence eye-witnesses.

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