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05 February 1998

"Mr Controversy" seeks a clean ticket

S Hussain Zaidi  
February 4: Controversy is actually his first name. Aftab Ahmed Khan seems almost secondary. For fifty-seven-year-old Khan, former Inspector General of Police, the tryst with controversy seems to be far from over.

This officer of the 1965 batch has consistently made news, be it for allegations of staging encounters, corruption and communalism. After a contentious tenure as a cop, Khan has now made a foray into politics. Initially tipped to join the Samajwadi Party after he took voluntary retirement in March 1996, Khan surprised many by joining the Janata Dal. He filed his nomination papers for the north-west constituency on Tuesday.

Although the SP denied Khan a ticket from the constituency, he denies that it is a case of sour grapes, and claims ``JD's ideology is compatible with mine.'' Terming the SP a ``one-issue-party'', he denounced its leadership, saying the party was led by a TADA detenue (Abu Asim Azmi).

SP leaders, though, allege that Khan's entry into the contest, a triangular one now(between the SP's Tushar Gandhi, Shiv Sena's Madhukar Sarpotdar and Khan), was at the instance of Bal Thackeray. They theorise that Thackeray colluded with Deve Gowda to cut into the Muslim vote and let Sarpotdar win. ``This is outrageous. I don't need a Bal Thackeray to win. Tushar Gandhi or no Gandhi. I definitely stand a good chance,'' he shot back.

It is the north-west constituency that saw Khan get embroiled in the first major controversy of his career: the encounter deaths of, among others, top Dawood Ibrahim henchmen Maya Dolas and Dilip Buva, at Lokhandwala, Andheri, in 1992. The six-hour long drama, which was telecast live on the CNN, exposed Khan to both praise and criticism. It was alleged that the killings were executed at the behest of Dawood Ibrahim to take revenge on his aides, who had fallen out with him. Dismissing this as a``figment of sick minds'', Khan asserted, ``It is a ridiculous allegation. Those were Dawood's men that I killed in that encounter.'' The anti-terrorist squad (ATS)which had participated in the encounter, was also charged with walking away with Rs 70 lakh which belonged to Maya Dolas. Petitions alleging corruption were also filed against Khan. Four inquiries were instituted against him, and although he was cleared in three of them, his controversial reputation stuck.

One such inquiry also stalled Khan's promotion to the rank of Additional Director General of Police in March 1996, which Khan himself attributed to the ``communal face of the Sena-BJP government''. Ironically, Khan's own secular credentials came under scrutiny during the communal riots of 1993, where he was accused of indiscriminate firing on Hindus.

Khan not only pooh-poohes this, he proffers former police commissioner Srikant Bapat's deposition to the Srikrishna Commission probing the riots as proof of his secularism. ``Bapat testified that I am a true professional and not a communal officer. His testimony is sufficient for me,'' he said.

Khan is also unfazed by his lack of political acumen. ``Onthe contrary, it is actually my plus point. While politicians are generally distrusted, I won't be,'' he says.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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