Mehbooba’s Iftaar party draws overwhelming response

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Srinagar: The Iftaar party thrown by Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti here last evening drew overwhelming response with over 3500 guests, including uninvited, enjoying special feast at SKICC on the banks of famed Dal lake as Muslims broke the fast at sundown.

The party commenced with the playing of National Anthem by a police band as guests stood up in respect, followed by feasting and congregational Maghrib prayers.

Director General Tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah and District Development Commissioner, Srinagar, Farooq Ahmed Lone were greeting the guests at the entrance and guiding them towards the sprawling lawns, where buffet stalls and dining tables were erected.

Official sources said while some 2000 guests were formally invited for the party hosted in connection with the fasting month of Ramzan, 1500 more turned up, uninvited.

The fat list of invitees included a variety ranging from Governor, NN Vohra and lawmakers to Thana SHOs and workers of her Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). Leaders from the opposition National Conference and the Congress were also invited though their presence was minimal with exceptions being NC leader and former Speaker Muhammad Akbar Lone and lawmaker Altaf Kaloo who remained conspicuous for enjoying the feast.

Some of the “who’s who” from the business fraternity could be seen rubbing shoulders with the host Chief Minister though others like Chairman Kashmir Economic Alliance Muhammad Yasin Khan took a U-turn right at the SKICC entrance when cops “misbehaved” with them denying entry to his vehicle inside.

The traditional Wazwan, comprising over seven dishes, was served to the guests at the buffet while pure vegetarian was also available at separate stands.

Some invitees, however, accused PDP workers of creating a scene at the food stalls by emptying chafing dishes straight into their personal bags. “I couldn’t get Gushtaba because a lady worker of PDP rushed to the stall and emptied entire stock of the meat balls into her bag,” complained an invitee.

A major attraction at the party remained the “celebration cake” of Mehbooba’s recent victory at the Anantnag bye-polls. Amid cheers from her well-wishers, Mehbooba cut the cake designed in green creamy map of Kashmir, with white background. Though everyone wanted to have a bit Kashmir from the cake, not all could get it given the overwhelming number of guests.

While most of senior PDP leaders including Syed Muhammad Altaf Bukhari and Syed Naeem Akhter Andrabi interacted with the guests, some of invitees from the business fraternity said they couldn’t get to see Finance Minister Dr Haseeb A Drabu. “We kept looking for him till the end as we wanted to meet him to remind him of our demands… May be he left early,” said Bashir Ahmed Kongposh General Secretary Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation.

After serving of beverages, congregational Maghrib Salah was led by Syed Muhammad Hussain Qadri, the Imam of Sonawar shrine, to be flowed by lavish dinner.

For some media houses in Kashmir, rumored to be favorite with the government, it was a formal invite to “one and all.”

A journalist working with a leading newspaper said: “Till last year only accredited journalists, two or three of them from our newspaper used to be invited, but his time we all including internees received formal invitation cards.”

Interestingly, however, most of the journalists stayed away from the party pleading that they ought to have been invited separately. “There has been a traditional protocol that the government hosts exclusive Iftaar party for journalists but this time from who’s who to Tom, Dick and Harry, all were invited in one go,” quipped a journalist working with international media.

“At exclusive journalistic gatherings, we look for news angle through exclusively interactions with the hosts, but yesterday there was no such chance at the fair,” he explained.

An SKICC official said the government was expecting overwhelming response from the invitees. “That is why we had kept additional stocks ready,” the official said.

Sources said DG Tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah’s “wisdom worked.” “He had asked the concerned to keep the double the stock ready otherwise catering the huge chuck number of people would have been a problem,” the sources said.

Some of the invitees including lawmakers, however, didn’t attend the party pleading that the gala event coincided with the Martyrdom Anniversary of Hazrat Imam Ali (AS)

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