Q: Tell us about your new assignment. How challenging is the role?
A: I accepted this challenge in 2016 when I was in central Waqf Council. After spending six years there, I have been assigned the charge of J&K Waqf Board. Every other job is challenging. It is not only Waqf that is challenging. This job is challenging because people have this notion that the assets of Waqf don’t belong to anyone and that they can grab it. These lands that were donated by these people for the sake of Islam and Muslims, but people have deemed them as their assets and occupied illegally. People need to understand that the concept for Waqf was not introduced by any politician, but by our saints and that we have to preserve them. We will not tolerate any illegal occupation of these assets. We will fight against mafias and recover the assets they have illegally occupied.
Q: Are you planning to introduce a new management to run the daily affairs of Waqf?
A: Waqf Board has been working here for decades. The properties of Waqf were being taken care of, either through Muslim Waqf Board in Kashmir and the Council in Jammu. Nobody will come from outside to teach us how to take care of Waqf. Now this is only being organized and only the name has changed from Muslim Waqf Board to J&K Waqf Board. But the work hasn’t changed. The main aim is that the management of these shrines should be run by worthy and competent persons. The complaints we are receiving, we have to resolve those issues. Many people have pain in their hearts but they don’t speak up for the fear of getting politicians and management angry. I visited the shrine of Syed Sahab (RA) and got the Safes opened and I want media which is a third eye to accompany us in these visits. So that transparency is established in the work and people get to know that their money is in right hands. Our concept of a cancer hospital, weddings of poor girls and taking care of orphans are put to action.
Q: Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has been engaged in all the good works like establishment of universities and hospitals in Jammu. Why wasn’t Waqf despite all its riches able to get involved in asset building?
A: I want to inform the people that Waqf Board has donated 11 crore rupees and 200-kanal land for the establishment of IUST Awantipora. But it is surprising and unfortunate that this is not mentioned anywhere. Not even the name of Waqf Board is not mentioned anywhere in the university. Did the then government not know that this land belonged to Waqf? Did the rulers not know that we have poor kids who need support in education? We need a share in the University because we have donated land and the 11-crore donated then are worth 1100 crore now. We will investigate why was it kept hidden from people when it helped IUST with 200 kanal land and 11 crore rupees. People need to know this. We are not here to dig up old things, but now there is accountability. Construction work is going on at several places. Scholarships are being given to students. Issues like addressing suicide cases need to be dealt with. Elderly people are being forced out of their homes and we recently heard about the murder of a man by his sons. They even dumped his body in a lake. We want to work on these issues.
A: There is a general feeling that there is utter mismanagement of Waqf assets. How would you like to respond?
A: Waqf owns a hotel by the name of ‘Hotel Gulmarg’ on the Boulevard but it is closed in view of a court case filed by somebody. When we went there to review the property, it looked like a ghost house. The manager of the hotel in connivance with the said person has led to the closure of the hotel for the past eight years. I don’t know the politics behind the issue, but we will recover the losses from the person. This money belongs to our nation. How can a person mismanage the money of God and his messenger and use those assets for his own gain.
Q: Going forward, how do you plan to rent out Waqf assets?
Whoever has occupied our shops and other assets and are paying meager rents of Rs 5. I want to tell that this is not an era of 5 rupees or 500 rupees. They have to pay Rs 50000 and only then they will be allowed to use those shops. It is a matter of lease and this property doesn’t belong to you or me. This is a property of the nation and only those who respect it will be allowed to use it. This is not anybody’s inheritance. Now is the time to take account of these properties. Whatever time we have her we will utilize it to work honestly. Some people are saying that Dr Andrabi has warned of using bulldozers. I want to tell people that somebody has to come forward to remove the tyrants who have illegally occupied these properties. To achieve that, we will go to any length.
Q: Are you planning to hold fresh auctions?
A: If you have taken a shop on rent for five rupees, it was fine at that time. But now there would be a fresh auction and shops will be provided on rent or lease as per current market rates. This is not a matter of inheritance. As per the act, we can provide assets on 3-year lease and 11-month deed, and we would charge six-monthly or yearly rent as per the market rates. The property will never be registered in the name of the tenants. It will always stay with the Waqf.
Q: There are allegations that Waqf employees are not paid their salaries on time.
A: Whole income from the Waqf is spent on the board employees and no work isbeing done. They are a burden on the board. None of them is educated. Who are these people, why they are there and who brought them there – nobody knows. This is not a government department, this is people’s department
I have received many applications from youth who want to work like me 24/7 without salary.
Q: What is the logic behind inviting online donations?
A: We are making it digital so it will be easy for us to use the money. This will also bring transparency in the accounts. Nobody will harbor these doubts that money taken out of the chests has been stolen.