MUZAFFARABAD, July 16: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed on Tuesday detailed five members of his cabinet to receive Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Birjees Tahir at an entry point on the latter’s maiden visit to the AJK capital.

The minister for school education Mian Abdul Waheed, minister for college education Matloob Inqilabi, minister for food Javed Iqbal Bhudanvi and minister for works Chaudhry Muhammad Rasheed welcomed the federal minister at Kohala Bridge after waiting for him for an hour.

They were accompanied by the deputy commissioner (DC) and SSP Muzaffarabad. However, Information Minister Bazil Ali Naqvi received the VIP guest near Ambore tunnel, 5km away from here.

Officials in the AJK government told Dawn that chief secretary Alam Din Bullo was not in favour of sending the cabinet members to Kohala to receive the federal minister. Instead, he had suggested that the DC and SSP receive the guest at Kohala while other officials greet the minister at the hotel where the AJK premier had arranged for an iftar dinner. However, Mr Majeed had not agreed to the suggestion.

The move drew flak from opposition and civil society activists, as political leaders said it amounted to “undermining the status of the AJK government”.

“The federal minister himself should have taken notice of this unusual reception,” said former AJK premier Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan. The president of PML-N’s AJK chapter and leader of the opposition in AJK assembly, Raja Farooq Haider, was also not happy with this development.

“Azad Kashmir is back in 1950’s,” he told Dawn, referring to the alleged practice of 1950’s when AJK president(s) used to receive the joint secretary of federal ministry of Kashmir affairs at Kohala.

PML-N’s senior vice president Chaudhry Tariq Farooq said: “The AJK government wants to hush up its corruption and hoodwink the federal government with such acts of puffery.”

However, Shaukat Javaid Mir of the Pakistan People’s Party, one of the official spokesmen, shrugged off criticism against the reception and maintained that the PPP government had demonstrated its “traditional hospitality”.

But there were little takers of the official stance.—Staff Correspondent