The unlikely minister vs the NCB

Is he targeting NCB because his son-in-law was arrested in January for drug trafficking? Nawab Malik says he did not even speak on case till court gave his son-in-law bail after eight months

Fletcher Patel with a woman he called ‘My lady don’ in his social media post
Fletcher Patel with a woman he called ‘My lady don’ in his social media post

Gautam S Mengle

One person who has been in the news almost as much as Aryan Khan since the latter’s arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau, is Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik.

Malik, the national spokesperson of the NCP, who is also the MLA from Anushakti Nagar in Mumbai and Maharashtra’s Minority Development Minister, has addressed three press conferences so far, each one with more sensational exposure than in the previous one, prompting more questions on the functioning of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). Malik, however, told National Herald that he is just getting started.

“What I have brought to light so far is just one percent of what I know about the NCB and (its zonal director) Sameer Wankhede,” Malik said this week.

Malik had first revealed that two people seen in TV news footage escorting Aryan and other detainees were civilians. One of them, Manish Bhanushali, he disclosed, was a Bharatiya Janata Party member, while the other, K.P. Gosavi, was wanted in several criminal cases in Mumbai, Pune and Thane.

Three days later, Malik alleged that Amir Furniturewala, Pratik Gaba and Rishabh Sachdeva were detained by the NCB on the night of the raid on the cruise ship but were released later. NCB responded by saying that it would reply in court.

“People are with me. Be it in person or on social media, they are asking the same questions that I am: why is the NCB not responding to my specific revelations and instead trying to divert attention by giving roundabout answers?” Malik wondered aloud.

BJP’s troll army has been attacking him on Twitter ever since he addressed the first press conference, he admits. “There have also been some threat calls to my office, which were answered by the police personnel provided to me as security. The details of these calls have been submitted to the local police station,” he maintained.

Unfazed, he went on to name one Fletcher Patel, an ex-serviceman and a family friend of Wankhede, and asked how the man was used as ‘independent witness’ by the NCB in three different cases. An independent witness is required to sign a ‘panchnama’, a document that is prepared every time a scene of crime is examined by a law enforcement agency. As per law, such witnesses must have no connection with the case or the agency.

Patel spoke to several media persons and referred to his record as an ex-Army officer and how the NCB was “doing good work by cleaning up the drug menace in Maharashtra”. Nowhere, however, did Patel respond to the part about him being used as a witness thrice. Instead, he accused Malik of making personal attacks against Wankhede, as he had made public a picture of Patel with Wankhede’s sister.

“The picture was necessary to show that Patel is close to Wankhede’s family and that was my only objective. In any case, the picture was already in the public domain, as it was posted on social media, and it’s not as if I leaked someone’s private information. Nor did I delve into Patel’s personal life, and only spoke about how his closeness to Wankhede violated the law,” Malik said while justifying his action.

He has also been criticised for going after the NCB because the agency had arrested his son-in-law, Sameer Khan, in an alleged drug trafficking case in January this year.

Khan was granted bail last month by a special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court. In its bail order, the court had observed that there was no case made out against Khan.

“I never referred to Sameer as ‘innocent’ or addressed a press conference in his support till the court order was made public and covered by the news media. My daughter and her children have spent the last eight months under horrible stress. All I am trying to ensure is that no innocent person has to go through what Sameer did,” Malik said.

Malik’s ‘pinned tweet’ on Twitter as of October 15 reads: “Idhar aa sitamgar hunar aazmaayein/ Tu teer aazma, hum jigar aazmaayein; (Come, persecutor, let us test our skills/ You test your arrow, I’ll test my guts).”

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