Omar Changes His Opinion, Justifies Award

30 January 2009
The Times of India

Srinagar: The controversial Padma Shri winner from Kashmir received the support of chief minister Omar Abdullah, but it was revealed on Friday that his brother was once arrested on hawala charges. Kalam Ullah Khan, the elder brother and business partner of Hashmat Ullah Khan, who is on the list of this year's Padma awardees, was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police in 2004 on charges of his involvement in a hawala transaction. Kalam was acquitted by a court but not before he spent six months in jail, police sources said. Evidence of terrorists using the hawala route for money is available with the police. Kalam said the charges against him were 'frivolous'. Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who earlier objected to the nomination of Hashmat because his name was not recommended by the state government, justified the nomination on Thursday. The findings have proved that Hashmat was fit for the award and it is immaterial whether the name was recommended by state government or some organizations in New Delhi, he added. Chief secretary S S Kapoor had also expressed reservations about the contribution of Hashmat to the art of Kani shawl weaving. 'If the Centre has recognized his contribution nobody should have problem with it. Hashmat Ullah Khan had contributed in reviving the art of Kani shawls though he is himself a businessman,' Omar said.