J And K Minister Divested Of Portfolio
1 September 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: In an embarrassment to Jammu and Kashmir's ruling coalition partner PDP, one of its ministers was today divested of his portfolio of Forest and Environment amid allegation of creating an 'articifical scarcity' of timber in Jammu and Kashmir.The stripping of portfolio of Qazi Afzal followed an internal inquiry by the state government which found that not much timber was being marked by the State Forest Corporation (SFC) for use for commercial and private construction work, leading to a situation under which an 'artificial scarcity of timber was created in the state'. The state government has also shifted Managing Director of the State Forest Corporation Ejaz Bhat. The probe found that SFC was allegedly in collusion with certain timber merchants outside the state for supply and the artificial scarcity was being created only to facilitate the move, sources said. Afzal, an MLA from Ganderbal assembly constituency, will however continue to head the Housing and Urban Development Ministry. According to a government notification, Afzal was relieved of the portfolio of Forest and Environment which will be looked after by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad himself. When contacted, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti refused to speak on the development saying she was not aware of the decision.