'Engineer Wave' Grips North Threatening Established Parties

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Srinagar- With around 17 lakh voters Baramulla constituency is all set for polls
on 20th of this month. But the entry of a jailed former MLA has altered the dynamics of the race previously dominated by former CM Omar Abdullah and Sajad Lone of the Peoples Conference.

Massive outpouring of support for Shaikh Abdul Rashid, commonly known as Engineer Rashid, a former MLA from Langate, who is contesting the elections
despite being incarcerated in Tihar jail on UAPA charges, has surprised the political pundits.


Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi
Azad's regional outfit in Jammu and Kashmir - the Democratic
Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) - on Thursday announced its support for Rashid, who is contesting as an Independent candidate from the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat in North Kashmir.

Arrested in 2019 in a terror funding case, Engineer Rashid - heads the regional Awami Ittehad Party and had voted for Azad during the 2015 Rajya Sabha elections
. He was an MLA from the Lagate assembly seat in the erstwhile state.

Rashid filed his nomination from Tihar jail to contest from Baramulla, which goes to the polls
on May 20.

Read Also Engineer Rashid Factor Video: Er Rashid's Candidacy Alters Baramulla's Electoral Landscape

“Engineer Rashid is innocent and people want him out of jail. He has always fought for the people's cause. So, this is injustice,” said Taj Mohiduddin, the party's treasurer and its North Kashmir in-charge, while announcing the decision.

Mohuiddin said the decision was taken after the jailed leader's son Abrar Rashid appealed to Azad, seeking support for his father's candidature.

“Engineer Rashid has consistently fought for the people. Therefore, we feel it's important to stand by someone who has made sacrifices,” he added.

Chief Spokesperson, DPAP Salman Nizami said,“Engineer Rashid has consistently fought for the people. Therefore, we feel it's important to stand by someone who has made sacrifices.”

Rashid, who contested the 2014 assembly elections
as an Independent candidate from Langate in North Kashmir, is in jail in a terror funding related case.

The case, the charge sheet for which has since been filed, names Hafiz Saeed, chief of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa - a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit - as an accused.

The former MLA was also named by Syed Naveed Mushtaq Ahmad alias Naveed alias Babu, a commander of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen.

Naveed was arrested along with Davinder Singh, who was dismissed as deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Naveed claimed during interrogation that he had been in constant touch with the former legislator for establishing a firm base for the terror group in North Kashmir and was looking for possible hideouts in that area, officials alleged.

Rashid was first the mainstream politician to be arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a case related to the funding of terror activities in Kashmir.

His name had reportedly cropped up during the interrogation of businessman Zahoor Watali, arrested by the NIA for allegedly supplying money to terror groups and separatists in the Valley.

The NIA registered the case against separatist and secessionist leaders, including unknown members of the Hurriyat Conference, who were acting in connivance with active militants
of proscribed terrorist
organisations Hizbul Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other outfits and gangs in 2016.

The case was registered for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terror activities in the erstwhile state and causing disruption in the Valley by pelting security forces with stones, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India, the probe agency said in the FIR.

Er Rashid Trends On Twitter

Syed Mohammad Burhan

Jailed politician & independent candidate contesting from North Kashmir's Baramulla Parliamentary constituency, Engineer Rashid's entry into the electoral contest has introduced a new dynamic to the ongoing competition between NC's Omar Abdullah and Sajad Lone of Peoples Conference.

Days after his son Abrar started campaigning for his incarcerated father, his rallies have been attended by thousands of people across several North Kashmir districts.
This backing is not only evident in offline gatherings but also online, with Er Rashid trending on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday.

Notably, the growing traction of his campaign is visible both on the ground and in the digital sphere.
Videos showcasing widespread support for Er Rashid's campaign have been disseminated widely.

Noted Journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani posted a video of Abrar Rashid with the caption,“Reporting from Kashmir:

Kashmiriyon ka gussa vote ke zariye bahar aa raha hai” is the common sentiment. Such scenes in Kashmir during elections
are unprecedented. Supporters of jailed leader Er Rashid in Bandipora. His son is leading his campaign.”

Another 'X' user Saqib Khan tweeted,“Call me a traitor or whatever you want but I'll cast my life's first vote to Er Rashid
if my vote can help to release someone's Father from prison I am going for it.”

Many social media users posted similar tweets. Aquib Ali, posted,“Dear colleagues, let us recognize Er Rashid not just as a politician but as a true leader of the people. His voice in Parliament has the potential to shake the foundations of the ruling regime. By casting our votes in his favor, we can pave the way for his release.”

Much to the surprise of netizens, a video of an African from 'Ghana' started to do rounds on the social media. In the video he states that,“I am from Ghana and I want every Kashmiri out there to support Er. Rashid as he is the best. Support Er. Rashid!” The video went viral on social media.

Pertinently, as the Srinagar Lok Sabha elections
concluded in Srinagar on Monday, all eyes are on North Kashmir now. With the significant response Rashid and his party, the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), has garnered, analysts believe he could bring about a major surprise. Engineer's participation is seen as giving an edge to Omar Abdullah.

In the past Er, Rashid has been detained multiple times during protests and even thrown out by Marshals from the state legislative assembly. His pictures of eating“beef kebabs” to“protest pictures” have been viral in the past as well and netizens have shown keen interest in the political career of the firebrand politician.

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