New Delhi: In 2015, history was created in Kashmir. For the first time, the BJP had made inroads into the valley and was about to form a government with the PDP. The alliance was about to be cemented. That’s when a name, associated with finance and economics, started making its way into newspaper headlines. The name was Haseeb Drabu.
Known to be a ‘sympathiser’ of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in its initial years, Drabu, a former Jammu and Kashmir Bank Chairman and a loyalist of then PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was appointed by the party to do the maths with the BJP over a possible government formation in the state.
What followed were endless meetings with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav in various locations in Chandigarh, Jammu and New Delhi. Madhav and Drabu had different agendas and perspectives on Kashmir’s history. Yet they clicked and managed to form a coalition between the two parties, who earlier were sitting miles apart from each other.
A popular face from the craftily woven alliance – one of the most difficult agenda-setting exercises in recent history – Drabu had done what nobody ever had fathomed. The BJP was finally in Kashmir.
Fast forward to 2018 and the maverick Finance Minister has been sacked by his own party for his political views. Well, almost. Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling party, PDP, on Monday sacked Drabu from the council of ministers over his remarks that Kashmir “isn’t a political issue”.
Drabu, on March 9, had claimed at an event organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi that “Kashmiri society faces social issues and the problem should be treated as such.” “It is not a political issue as far as I can see,” he had said during the event, which was attended by around 130 ambassadors, government officials and business leaders.
Drabu, a noted economist, formally joined the PDP in 2014 and contested the state elections from his home constituency Rajpora. After the alliance was finalised, Drabu was given the finance portfolio – a ministry that was earlier manned by stalwarts such as Abdul Raheem Rather, Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hamid Karra.
With a doctorate in economics from JNU under his belt, Drabu started his career with the Government of India in 1990, first with the Perspective Planning Division of the Planning Commission, then as a consultant to the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister.
He then joined the media and became an editor at Business Standard, where he set up a research bureau. Drabu has also been a regular commentator on economic issues and used to write a fortnightly column for business daily Mint.
He also briefly served as a consultant to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). After the 2002 state elections, when a PDP-Led Coalition state government came to power in Jammu and Kashmir, Drabu was appointed as its economic advisor. He planned the tax reforms, methods of expenditure compression and attempted to reduce the debt stock of the state government. In the same year, the PDP-Congress presented its zero-deficit budget — a brainchild of Drabu.
In 2005, Drabu was appointed as the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Bank by the PDP – Congress government. He was unceremoniously removed as the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Bank by the Omar Abdullah government in August 2010.
A man who has is often being credited for bring PDP and BJP on the same table, Drabu, interestingly, was accused of being ‘turn coat’, by The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief, Yasin Malik.
When Drabu joined PDP, the JKLF chief had said that in 1996, Drabu came to All Party Hurriyat Conference’s Kashmir Awareness Bureau office at Delhi and discussed ideas to “liberate Kashmir from India”.
“Drabu talked to me for hours and while praising our efforts for liberation of Jammu Kashmir from illegal occupation of India delivered several ideas and concepts for it,” Malik had said. JKLF chairman further had said that after few years Drabu “got what he intended to and was awarded with the chairmanship of J&K Bank.”
“Betraying his nation, he renounced resistance movement for his petty selfish gain and switched over to other side of the divide and joined Indian political system,” Malik had said. In 2016, Drabu’s wife, Roohi Nazki, an entrepreneur, had taken to social media to express her outrage and angst over “the killings and maiming of children.”
Nazki had said, “children of Kashmir are being killed on street corners, by the forces, who pump pellets into their young bodies.” In her social media, Nazki had cricitised the state government – of which her husbad was a part of – and had asked Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti-led government to step down.