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Mehbooba sacks Finance Minister for calling Kashmir ‘social issue’

IANS | Jammu |

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday sacked Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu from the cabinet after a political storm over his controversial remarks that the Kashmir issue should be seen as a social and not a political problem.

The sacking of Drabu, an eminent economist and the main architect of the BJP-PDP alliance and its agenda of governance, came a day after the Peoples Democratic Party asked him to retract what it said was “detrimental to the party’s interests”.

Informed sources told IANS here that Mehbooba Mufti wrote to Governor N.N. Vohra, informing him about her decision to oust Drabu from the council of ministers.

Drabu earlier wrote on a Facebook post that he was quoted out of context and that his speech at a function in Delhi was carried “in bits and pieces” in a news report.

The event was organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry to invite foreign and domestic investors to Jammu and Kashmir.

“I will not make a sales pitch here nor will I ask you for investments. That will happen. It will be a consequence of something else which I want to speak about today: your interest in Kashmir and its people, and their lives.

“For Kashmir is not just a political problem but a social issue. Our society has been ravaged and we need to address that first. It is in this we seek your help,” the economist-turned-politician said at the Delhi event.

Opposition parties and separatist leaders targeted the Mehboob Mufti government for Drabu’s remarks saying the comments were a “proof of surrender”, “misleading and distortion of history” that amounted to the PDP’s sellout of its self-rule demand “to remain in power”.

The PDP said it recognised the state as a political issue and had been pursuing its resolution through reconciliation and dialogue — both at internal and external levels.

Interestingly, Drabu was the PDP’s pointsman who worked out the draft of the agenda of alliance with the BJP that brought the two ideologically different parties to power after the 2014 elections produced a hung Assembly.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the move was not enough for the PDP to salvage itself from the wrongdoing of the last three years of power.

“Simply sacking the architect of the BJP-PDP alliance and co-author of the agenda of alliance will not redeem the PDP for the sins of the last three years,” Abdullah tweeted.

Drabu, a former Business Standard editor, was known to be close to late Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed, father of Mehbooba Mufti.

He plunged into politics in 2014 when he joined the PDP and successfully contested the Assembly elections from his home constituency Rajpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

He was the chairman and CEO of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank from 2005 to 2010.

He was the economic advisor to the state during the PDP-Congress coalition that came to power after the 2002 elections.

Drabu began his economist career in 1990 when he was appointed with the Perspective Planning Division of the Planning Commission. He was also a consultant to the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister and finally with the 10th Finance Commission.

He also served as a consultant to the Asian Development Bank.

Drabu had earlier too been caught up in controversy when in March 2014 JKLF leader Yaseen Malik, a militant-turned-separatist politician, said the economist was an advisor to his group in the early 1990s when it started an insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.