Azad-led DPAP announces support for Engineer Rashid

SRINAGAR — Ghulam Nabi Azad’s party 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 militant funding case, Abdul Rashid Sheikh — popularly known as Engineer Rashid — heads the regional Awami Ittehad Party and had voted for Azad during the 2015 Rajya Sabha elections. He was an MLA from the Lagate assembly seat in the erstwhile state.

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 Mohiduddin, the party’s treasurer and its North Kashmir in-charge, while announcing the decision.

Mohuiddin said the decision was taken after the jailed leader’s son Abrar Rashid appealed to 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.

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

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

The former MLA was also named by Syed Naveed Mushtaq Ahmad alias Naveed alias Babu, a commander of the banned Hizbul 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 militant 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 militant 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 militant groups and separatists in the Valley. — (PTI)