Srinagar: Eminent Shia cleric and MLA of opposition PDP in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari died today following prolonged illness.

A four-time MLA from Pattan in North Kashmir, Ansari, 74, died in the wee hours today after battling an ailment for more than a year, his family said.

He is survived by wife, two sons and a daughter.

Starting his career as a Congress leader in early 1960’s, Ansari was made Member of state’s Legislative Council on a Congress ticket in 1973. However, he switched over to Janata Party in 1977.

Born on April 26, 1940, Ansari, who studied Islamic
theology in Iran, Egypt and Iraq, returned to Congress in 1980s and was chosen as leader of the Legislature party in the State Assembly from 1983 to 1987.

After brief stay in National Conference, during which he was also a minister in Farooq Abdullah Government, Ansari quit the party in 2006 to join the PDP.

The Shia cleric won the election in 2008 on a PDP ticket and was nominated as the party candidate for the forthcoming assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year.

Leaders cutting across party lines condoled his death and state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah visited his residence of Ansari and offered “Fateha”.

Condoling his death, Omar said his contributions both  as a religious leader and public representative will be remembered for a very long time.

“My heartfelt condolences to the family and followers of Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari. His untimely demise has left a void that will be long felt,” Omar said.

“Moulvi Sahib has cast a long shadow with his contribution as a religious leader and as a public representative, which will be long remembered,” he added.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad condoled demise of Ansari and said Ansari’s death was a personal loss to him and a great loss to the society.

The deceased leader all along his political career served the people of the State with fervor and commitment and his contributions will be remembered for a long time to come, he said.

“Moulvi Sahab was an embodiment of confidence and courage who steadfastly propagated the values and ideals which he believed in, notwithstanding the odds”, Azad said.

Recalling the three assassination bids that he survived, Azad said that Ansari was one of the rare political stalwarts who stood by the people of the state in all the vicissitudes and endeavoured to serve, guide and lead them with determination and elan.

Upon hearing the news of his death, thousands of Ansari’s supporters thronged his residence at Qammarwari in the city.

Many areas, dominated by Shias, shutdown as a mark of respect to the departed leader.

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