Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who turned 84 on Wednesday, was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for five hours in connection with a multi-crore scam in the JK Cricket Association during 2002-11. The National Conference president drove off after his questioning, for the second time in three days, at the ED office in Rajbagh here without talking to reporters waiting outside, unlike on Monday when he had asserted that he was prepared to answer all questions and was not worried about the case. He was questioned for over six hours on Monday.
Abdullah's National Conference (NC) criticised the government over his questioning, and said it was "yet another attempt to browbeat" the opposition. ED officials said on condition of anonymity that Abdullah had been called again on Wednesday to obtain some clarifications. He was questioned for the first time in July last year in Chandigarh after the agency had registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in 2018.
The officials said Abdullah's statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and he was asked about the procedures followed and decisions taken when he was the president of the cricket body, the time when the alleged scam is said to have taken place. The agency is expected to file a fresh charge sheet in the case soon, they said.
As Abdullah went for his second round of questioning, his son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah expressed his displeasure and tweeted the party statement on his father's summons with the comment: "This on a day when my father turns 84!" NC spokesman Imran Nabi Dar issued a statement expressing anger and said these tactics are only aimed at "browbeating" opposition leaders who raise their voice against the BJP's "divisive politics". The party criticised the government for what it called an "agenda of cornering any voices of dissent".
"How many times will BJP use CBI, ED, anti-corruption bureau and its other agencies to browbeat opposition? The plot has become predictable. Anyone who speaks against the government or musters courage against its divisive politics will be hounded and summoned," it said. Terming these ED summons "calculated coercive measures", Dar said that it is aimed at curtailing Farooq Abdullah's efforts to weave unity among mainstream political parties in JK.
Calling the repeated ED summons as pressure tactics, he said, "What is it that ED forgot to ask during the six hours it interrogated an 83-yr-old Member of Parliament?" The government and its agencies, the spokesperson said, has no consideration for a law-abiding citizen who is severely immuno compromised and diabetic. "Abdullah being treated like this is a proof that the BJP is not even interested in a face-saving act and is completely comfortable with being seen as a bully by the nation," he said.
He said that the "only way to get a clean chit these days is to surrender ones ideology and join the BJP. We've seen this story play out from Assam to Karnataka, from West Bengal to Andhra Pradesh but Dr Abdullah is not going to surrender to the BJP, come what may." The last round of questioning took place four days after Jammu and Kashmir's mainstream political parties, including the NC and the PDP, met at Abdullah's residence and formed the People's Alliance for 'Gupkar Declaration'. The agency's case is based on an FIR filed by the CBI, which booked former JKCA office-bearers, including general secretary Mohammed Saleem Khan and former treasurer Ahsan Ahmad Mirza.
The CBI had also filed a charge sheet in 2018 against Abdullah, Khan, Mirza as well as former JKCA treasurer Mir Manzoor Gazanffer Ali and former accountants Bashir Ahmad Misgar and Gulzar Ahmad Beigh for the "misappropriation of JKCA funds amounting to Rs 43.69 crore" from grants given by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to promote the sport in the erstwhile state between 2002 and 2011. After Monday's questioning, the People's Alliance, a newly-formed conglomerate of mainstream political parties, had condemned summoning of Abdullah and termed it as part of vindictive politics practised by the Centre to kill dissent and disagreement across the country.
The alliance, which came into existence to carry forward the 'Gupkar Declaration' seeking restoration of status quo of the erstwhile state as it existed on August 4 last year through constitutional means, said such "tactics" will not dampen the conglomerate's resolve for restoration of statehood and special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Condemning the ED action, it said such actions were part of vindictive politics practised by the central government to kill dissent and disagreement across the country and in present case to silence the genuine demand for reversal of unilateral and unconstitutional decisions of August 5, 2019 under which the state was bifurcated into union territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir — and the special status guaranteed under Articles 370 and 35-A of the Constitution were abrogated.