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Held Kashmir’s Chief Minister Sayeed dies

Held Kashmir’s Chief Minister Sayeed dies

SRINAGAR: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the chief minister of India-held Kashmir, died on Thursday, an official said.

Mr Sayeed died in a hospital in New Delhi after being admitted on December 24. He was suffering from a respiratory illness, the official said.

His party gained popularity in the disputed region on a promise to bring a “healing touch” to the war-ravaged area.

The 79-year-old leader, whose party is in a controversial coalition with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party in the region, is likely to be succeeded as chief minister by his daughter.

His daughter Mehbooba Mufti, the current head of the moderate People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that he founded in 1999, is widely expected to take over as the state’s first woman chief minister.

Thousands of locals including several top politicians flocked to a sports ground in Srinagar on Thursday to offer prayers for Mr Sayeed after his body was flown to the city.

His body was then moved to his hometown of Anantnag, around 56km from Srinagar, where an even bigger crowd waited to bid a final farewell to the veteran leader.

“Mufti Sahab’s demise leaves a huge void in the nation & in J&K (Jammu and Kashmir state) where his exemplary leadership had a major impact on people’s lives,” the prime minister tweeted.

Analysts said the death of the veteran leader, who also served as chief minister in Kashmir after his party’s election in 2002 until 2005, was unlikely to trigger major change.

“The BJP and PDP have limited options and will try to continue in power,” said Happymon Jacob, assistant professor of international studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“But Mehbooba is a bit immature when it comes to the administrative part. She has never held any position in the government and has to start from scratch in an alliance with an ideologically disparate partner.”

Mr Sayeed, a former lawyer, was appointed India’s first Muslim home minister in 1989.

Later the same year another of his daughters was kidnapped by militants. She was eventually released in exchange for five jailed militants.

Despite gaining praise for his reconciliation efforts, he also faced criticism at home for his perceived closeness to New Delhi.

A profile of the chief minister in the latest issue of Indian magazine The Caravan was headlined “The Collaborator — How Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became Delhi’s man in Kashmir”.

Several Kashmiri groups have for decades been fighting Indian forces deployed in their disputed region, seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2016

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