Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday divested Forest and Environment Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal of his portfolio.

According to a Government Order, the portfolio shall remain with the Chief Minister. Mr Qazi will, however, continue to hold the portfolio of Housing and Urban Development.

Even as no reason was mentioned, official sources said the action followed an internal probe by the government, according to which an “artificial scarcity of timber was created in the State.”

When contacted, Mr. Qazi said: “I was only conveyed the decision and do not know anything about it.”

The decision is likely to push the coalition government towards a crisis as People’s Democratic Party (PDP) sources said the party was not taken into confidence.

“The Minister belongs to our party and as per agreement the portfolio is our share. But nobody was contacted,” a senior PDP leader said. The PDP founder and former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and the party president, Mehbooba Mufti, were in Delhi and on their return the matter would be discussed.