The investigation into the ‘examgate’ involving the state education minister’s foster son has forced Peerzada to resign. Tasavur Mushtaq reports.
The state’s education minister Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed has “resigned” from the cabinet after the Crime Branch (CB) found that officials had helped his foster son pass the secondary school exam by unfair means in 2009.
The minister reportedly has submitted his resignation to his party chief, Sonia Gandhi, instead of sending it to the state chief minister who has the authority to recommend his removal from the cabinet. After the CB report was leaked to the media, there has been immense pressure on him to resign, though the accused foster son, Imam Sauban had distanced himself from Peerzada claiming he has “no relation” with him.
The CB in a seven-day investigation found two hand writings on three answer sheets of the exam taken by the “privileged” boy. As the forensic experts established a difference in handwriting, the CB confirmed use of “unfair means” by the minister’s foster son.
Meanwhile, the accused boy said that he has “no relation with Peerzada who is being targeted by political rivals using him”.
Distancing himself from Peerzada, Sauban told reporters, “I would like to say that I do not have any relation with Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed at all. He is not father from any angle.
“Parvez Ahmed Bhat, who died in a militancy related incident, was my father. I was a baby when he died.
“My mother married Peerzada, and I sometime visit my mother that is the only relation with that family,” he added.
As per media reports, the Crime Branch had not mentioned the name of Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed in its report. But they had referred to his foster son. The sources said the report explains as to why the issue came to fore in 2012 although the episode had taken place in 2009.
Besides indirect role of Peerzada, the Crime Branch which probed the answer-paper scandal submitted its report to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Reportedly submitted by IGP Crime Branch Raja Aijaz Ali, CB report also indicted six BOSE officials including present chairman Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, then deputy director academics Mehraj-ud-Din Zargar and four others for helping the minister’s son pass the exam.
The answer sheets sent for expert opinion were found to have two different handwritings, sources said. The answer sheets of Urdu paper was, as per the investigators, written by Mehraj-ud-Din Zargar while answer sheets of Mathematics and Geography were written by Imtiyaz Ahmad an education department official who was posted as Deputy Superintendent at the said centre.
As the controversy arouse, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah ordered an inquiry by the CB, which carried out detailed questioning of the Board officials. Sayeed had welcomed the decision and claimed that the “issue had been raked up to malign his image”.
The inquiry revealed otherwise. As per the leaked details of the report, Peezada used his official position to help his son pass the examination. During investigation, SSP Crime Branch Abdul Gaffar Malik and his subordinates questioned more than a dozen officials including BOSE chairman Sheikh Bashir, former joint secretary examination, former assistant secretary secrecy and former deputy director academics. Besides, the CB seized number of documents including examination enrollment form of Sauban, anonymous complaint forwarded to Chief Minister’s office and Raj Bhavan.
“Most of the BOSE officials during questioning revealed that there were directions from higher-ups to facilitate copying of Minister’s son,” CB report says.
According to media reports the investigators have nailed BOSE and Education department officials for facilitating the use of ‘unfair means’ by Peerzada’s foster son. It also said that migration of Sauban from Tyndale Biscoe School to New Vision School Humhama was unjustified and done “illegally” by BOSE officials to facilitate copying.
Jammu newspaper quoting CB officials reported that Souban’s “enrolment” in the Government Higher Secondary School Jawahar Nagar in Class 12th (in which he secured 77.4% marks last week) was also part of a plan between the BOSE officials and the Minister’s family.
Peerzada refuted the allegations of helping his foster son pass the exam.
The Minister said, “The matter is already sub-judice. A BOSE officer Mukhtar Jaloo, in his writ petition against BOSE chairman, has brought the matter before the High Court last year. Mukhtar wanted promotion.”
Mukhtar had alleged that he was not confirmed as he had “tried to bring to light the unfair means used to get Peerzada’s son passed in 10th class examination.”
However, a member in Peerzada’s family said, “While we’ve been kept in dark about the report, the Chief Minister has forwarded it to the Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Till now there is no word from Sonia ji on the issue.
Peerzada Sahib is waiting for the Congress high command directive.”
Peerzada Sayeed is not new to controversies. He earlier had to resign in 2008 after being accused of demanding and accepting illegal gratification of Rs 40,000 from an independent MLA Shoaib Lone’s sister. That time he was minister in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government.
The minister has been allegedly involved in the multi-crore rural electrification scam as the then Minister for Rural Development in the erstwhile PDP-Congress coalition Government led by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. The State Accountability Commission (SAC) had indicted him for his “knee deep” involvement in the scam.
In the latest controversy most of his colleagues and fellow partymen had refused to go by the media reports with some even castigating the CB investigation report.
The JKPCC senior vice president Ghulam Nabi Moonga reiterated that the case was an old one, the investigation of which proved that all the allegations (of using unfair means) were baseless. To the repeated queries about the minister’s resignation, his take was, “No report has reached us so far. Even otherwise there’s no direct involvement of the minister. Let the CB report come to us, only then we’ll react and will see as what is to be done.”
Another senior Congress leader Muzaffar Parrey “discarded” the CB report terming it as incomplete. He stated that crime branch could not come out with a report without listening to Peerzada.
“Crime branch report does not carry weight since it is like other reports which can be proved wrong in the court”. Asked as to what should be the response of Congress high command, Parrey said, “It is up to them to decide. But Peerzada Sahib should also be heard before a decision is taken.”
A local newspaper reported that as per sources Congress leadership has told Omar that at least two “tainted” ministers representing the party in the council of ministers of the NC-Congress coalition government in the state, including Peerzada, are to be phased out.
Significantly, Peerzada seems to have been isolated by almost all of his colleagues in the party, including Soz and Azad.
The principal opposition Peoples Democratic Party leadership observed mere removal would not solve problem of corruption in state.
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said, “Removal of Peerzada from cabinet does not solve the problem of corruption in Jammu and Kashmir till Chief Minister Omar Abdullah continues to remain in power and till he (Omar) comes clean in Hajji Yusuf death row.”
Not taking action only against Peerzada, Mehbooba said that CM Omar must also seek answer from ministers from National Conference, Abdul Rahim Rather and Ali Mohammad Sagar who according to media reports have purchased properties in Dubai. “Besides serious allegations on Ali Mohammad Sagar and Abdul Rahim Rather, the allegation against PHE Minister Taj Mohi-Din comes from his own colleague, which also need a reply from Omar Abdullah,” she said
The Chief minister Omar Abdullah on February 10 divested Peezada Mohammed Sayeed of the education ministry portfolio. An official spokesman said the Education Ministry would remain with the chief minister till further orders. The chief minister a day earlier had said that a decision will be taken in next 24-36 hours.