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Tainted Kashmir minister likely to resign

Jammu, January 15, 2008:

Cornered Peerzada
The education minister of Indian administered Kashmir, Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed is likely to resign Tuesday amid allegations of graft by a fellow legislator.

After a day of high drama in and outside Kashmir’s legislature in the winter capital Jammu, Peerzada announced his decision to reporters Monday night, after a meeting with region’s chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

"I will resign from the council of ministers on moral grounds tomorrow," Peerzada said.

Earlier in the day Peerzada’s driver was arrested after police traced a threatening call made from his cellphone to another legislator’s mother.

Shoab Lone, an independent legislator alleged that Peerzada’s wife made the threatening call to his mother a day after he claimed in the Legislative Assembly that a minister had taken bribe from him.

Lone submitted the name of the “corrupt” minister in writing to the chief minister in the state legislature Monday without disclosing it in public.

However, talking to media outside the legislative assembly, Lone hinted at the education minister.

A local news agency, NAK, also circulated pictures of the paper chit in front of the chief minister submitted by Lone with Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed written on it.

The arrested driver is also said to be the conduit for the graft amount of INR 40,000 (USD 1000) allegedly paid by Lone to get a pending official work of her sister done.

The chief minister said in the Assembly Monday that the conduit has been arrested, but did not name him.

Talking to media Peerzada termed the allegations against him and his wife "a conspiracy" to malign him.

"There are some elements within and outside the party who keep on hatching conspiracies against me. This is yet another plot," he said.

"I will talk to my wife to ascertain the facts."

Peerzada said that the arrested driver was detached from his squad six months ago.

Sources said that Peerzada, the state President of the ruling Congress party was summoned by chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to explain his position about the allegations.

Peerzada has offered his resignation but Azad asked him to announce his decision publicly first, sources said.

Lone became a legislator in 2005 after his father, a state minister, was killed by gunmen at his official residence in Srinagar.

Lone contested against Peoples Democratic Party, the party his father Ghulam Nabi Lone belonged to.

On his demand the chief minister Monday also ordered a CBI investigation into the killing of his father, as Lone raised suspicions over the police inquiry into the case.



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