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Jailed Candidate From Baramulla Gets Support From Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Party

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With the jailed Engineer Rashid entering the Lok Sabha poll fray in Kashmir, it was time for former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to return the favour for a Rajya Sabha election vote in 2015.

Mr Azad’s outfit in Jammu and Kashmir – the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) – on Thursday announced its support for Rashid, who is contesting as an Independent candidate from the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat in North Kashmir.

Arrested in 2019 in a terror funding case, Abdul Rashid Sheikh – popularly known as Engineer Rashid – heads the regional Awami Ittehad Party and had voted for Mr Azad during the 2015 Rajya Sabha elections. He was an MLA from the Lagate assembly seat in the erstwhile state.

Mr Rashid filed his nomination from Tihar Jail to contest from Baramulla, which goes to the polls on May 20.

“Engineer Rashid is innocent and people want him out of jail. He has always fought for the people’s cause. So, this is injustice,” said Taj Mohiuddin, the party’s treasurer and its North Kashmir in-charge, while announcing the decision.

Mr Mohiuddin said the decision was taken after the jailed leader’s son, Abrar Rashid, made an appeal to Mr Azad, seeking support for his father’s candidature.

“Engineer Rashid has consistently fought for the people. Therefore, we feel it’s important to stand by someone who has made sacrifices,” he added.

Mr Rashid, who contested the 2014 assembly elections as an Independent candidate from Langate in North Kashmir, is in jail in a terror-funding case.

The case, the chargesheet for which has since been filed, names Hafiz Saeed, chief of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa – a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit – as an accused.

The former MLA was also named by Syed Naveed Mushtaq Ahmad alias Naveed alias Babu, a commander of the banned Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

Naveed was arrested along with Davinder Singh, who was dismissed as deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Naveed claimed during interrogation that he had been in constant touch with the former legislator for establishing a firm base for the terror group in North Kashmir and was looking for possible hideouts in that area, officials alleged.

Rashid was first the mainstream politician to be arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a case related to the funding of terror activities in Kashmir.

His name had reportedly cropped up during the interrogation of businessman Zahoor Watali, arrested by the NIA for allegedly supplying money to terror groups and separatists in the Valley.

The NIA registered the case against separatist and secessionist leaders, including unknown members of the Hurriyat Conference, who were acting in connivance with active militants of proscribed terrorist organisations Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other outfits and gangs in 2016.

The case was registered for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terror activities in the erstwhile state and causing disruption in the Valley by pelting security forces with stones, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India, the probe agency said in the FIR.

 With the jailed Engineer Rashid entering the Lok Sabha poll fray in Kashmir, it was time for former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to return the favour for a Rajya Sabha election vote in 2015.    

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