Srinagar: Cabinet ministers Sajjad Gani Lone and Altaf Bukhari are likely to get Z-Plus security. The government has received intelligence reports that the duo are under threat from militants.
Official sources told Kashmir Reader that during a recent review of the security provided to ministers, it was decided that security of all cabinet ministers would be increased. Two ministers, however, were under particular threat from militants: Sajjad Gani Lone, minister for social welfare, and Altaf Bukhari, minister for education, according to intelligence reports.
“There had been fresh inputs that both the ministers were under militant threat. To ensure their safety, it was decided that they will be provided with Special Security Group (SSG) personnel to guard them,” the sources said.
SSG is considered to be an elite and highly-trained group within the J&K Police. The SSG was set up under the J&K SSG Act 2000 for protection and security of the Chief Minister and his or her immediate family members. Subsequently, the scope of SSG cover was extended to former chief ministers.
Currently, only four persons enjoy Z-Plus security cover in the state: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and three former chief ministers –Omar Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Dr Farooq Abdullah.
Most of the current cabinet ministers have been provided Z security cover while a few of them have Y-category security.
As per the official figures, there are 1,785 protected people availing security cover in the form of personal security officers, residential guards, vehicles or accommodation in Jammu and Kashmir.
As per records, 1,463 categorised and 322 uncategorised people are availing security cover.
Sources said that the home department has already given the nod for Z-Plus security cover to Lone as there were inputs of militant threats against him earlier also.
“Now Bukhari is also likely to be given the high-security cover due to rising threat perception against him,” sources said.
Since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016, militants have attacked and killed pro-India political leaders, including the Pulwama district president of the PDP in April this year.
Militants have attacked the house a PDP minister in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Suspected militants killed advocate Imtiyaz Ahmad Khan, associated with the National Conference, in Shopian district in May this year.
Political leaders living in the four districts of south Kashmir have avoided visiting their houses and preferred to stay at their residences in Srinagar or Jammu along with their families.
Senior Superintendant of Police, Security, Maqsood-ul-Zaman refused to comment on the issue. “I can’t talk on the issue of security as it is classified information,” he said.
He said that ministers are provided Z-security cover.
Sajjad Lone is chairman of the Peoples Conference and the lone minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government who is neither from the PDP nor from the BJP.