Cash rich WAKF ‘let down’ Muslim Community

Srinagar: Muslim Wakf Board- the second largest asset rich body in Jammu and Kashmir after the state government has ‘let down’ the Muslim community across State. At a time when newly created Hindu Trusts and Welfare Organizations including Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, Pratap Sabha are busy in setting up Colleges, Universities and Hospitals, the Wakf Board has miserably failed to make any mark on the ground. Muslim community here in Valley has enough reason to believe that Board has failed to contribute impressively in any of the sectors be it health or education sector. In quiet opposite to the contributions made by the Wakf, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has made significant contributions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few days back inaugurated a 230 bedded super specialty hospital at Kakriyal near Katra, constructed by Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board at the cost of Rs 300 crore on a sprawling 80 hectares. “It is really sorry to state that our Waqaf Board is busy in loot. The Waqf is interested more in recruitments than in doing any work on ground. Can you believe it over 8 decades of its history, it has not produced a single ‘Hafiz Koran’. The scams and scandals frequently surface in this Board. It has really let down the Muslim community,” religious scholar Ghulam Rasool Hami said adding that land and timber mafia are running the affairs of this Muslim Board.

Wakf Board earlier known as Muslim Auqaf Trust was founded by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1930 but with the passage of time it degenerated into an institution more for the benefit of the National Conference than a community organization. Mufti Muhammad Sayeed shortly after assuming charge of Chief Minister of the State in 2002 clipped its wings by converting it into a Board but when National Conference returned to power, it restored it to its previous position. The Wakf properties are worth Rs. 2000 crores but it cannot take pride in its achievements.

“Not to speak of helping the destitute and establishing institutions for Muslims, the Wakf has failed to renovate the shrines and mosques that are in shambles for years together. “All but 60 percent of its annual earnings are eaten up by its fat salary bill, leaving peanuts for charity and development activities. The political intervention has ruined it. It should be brought outside the clutches of every political dispensation. There is dire need to institutionalize all kinds of donations including Zakat. It has to be an independent authority if it really wants to contribute towards Muslim society,” renowned civil society member Shakil Qalandar said.

When one takes a cursory look over the functioning of the Wakf Board, a grim picture emerges. A Wakf employee wishing not to be named admitted that Board has been generating enormous income from different quarters but the money according to him is not spent in the right direction. “It is quiet surprising where all this money is going. Most of the famous shrines including Khankah Mola and Baba Reshi are in shambles. The infrastructure constructed for devotees are in bad shape. Even the academic institutions run by Wakf have failed to make a mark. Despite huge wealth at their disposal, the Wakf educational institutions are far behind than the Christian Missionary Schools in terms of great academic standard and attracting the large sections of society towards them,” he said adding the mess is because of lack of accountability.

The records available suggest that Board is least bothered about the welfare of the Muslim community despite huge property owned by it including 1453 shops, 2160 Kanals of orchard land, 99 Kanals of paddy land, 242 Kanals of maliyari land, 6840 Kanals of forest land, 32 Kanals of marshy land and 63 Kanals of Eidgah in its possession.

Former Vice Chairman M.Y.Qadri was too candid to admit that Waqaf Board can’t compete with Shri Mata Vishnav Devi Board. “The income Wakf Board generates is spent on salaries of the employees.”

Qadri in a way is correct in his assertion as after the devastating fire in Dastagir Dargah Khanyar, the preliminary enquiry revealed that a lion’s share of this Shrine’s income is spent on the salaries of its army of employees whose number exceeded 100.

“In fact we have been lacking but steps are being taken to improve the overall set up of the Board. If there will be no improvement, I will surely resign then. The late Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was keen to improve the standard of the Wakf Board, but what takes us on back foot is the expenditure that we incur on salaries. We have availed the services of a government approved company that will conduct a scientific evaluation to increase our income generating capacity,” incumbent Wakf Board Vice Chairman Pir Muhammad Hussain said.

Efforts to contact Hajj and Auqaf Minister Syed Farooq Andrabi did not materialize. (CNS)