Devoted homemaker to czarina of Atiq’s gang, Shaista remains an enigma to police
Parveen is currently believed to be guarding her husband’s illegal empire, comprising benami properties, shell companies, worth hundreds of crores.
From a devoted homemaker to now the ‘godmother’ of late mafioso Atiq Ahmed’s gang ‘IS-227’, Shaista Parveen has emerged as the dark horse in the past decade. Even as authorities and media reports continue to bring out new details about Shaista and her involvement in illegal activities, the 51-year-old wife of slain gangster, who is at large, remains an enigma to the state police.
Shaista, who chose to remain behind a niqab (a veil covering the face) for the better part of her married life, switched to hijab (which covers just the head and chest) and started looking after business affairs following the confinement of all the influential men in her family. She is currently believed to be guarding her husband’s illegal empire -- comprising benami properties and shell companies -- which is estimated to be worth hundreds of crores. The exact net worth of the empire is yet to be determined though.
“In the last three years, properties worth over ₹416.92 crore belonging to Atiq and his kin have been seized. On the other hand, illegally-constructed properties by the family worth over ₹752.27 crore have been demolished by the police and other district authorities. Additionally, police have also discovered properties worth over ₹1,169.20 crore while probing the cases against Atiq and his associates. Shaista is desperate to protect what’s left of his husband’s illegal empire,” said a senior police official.
Since the assassination of Atiq and his brother Khalid Azeem (Ashraf) and the encounter killing of Atiq’s son Asad, police teams have been frantically conducting raids to nab Shaista, who has cases of serious offences filed against her, but only in vain. At present, she carries a reward of ₹50,000.
To evade arrest, she didn’t even attend the funeral rites of her son Asad, her husband Atiq, and brother-in-law Ashraf. Police even checked all burqa-clad women during the burials to check for Shaista’s presence there. In the last few days, Shaista’s locations have been traced to Naini and Dhumanganj areas of Prayagraj to small villages in the neighbouring Kaushambi district. Cops are carrying out continuous raids and questioning women who were close to her to find out more about her whereabouts. “The fact that she has been able to evade dozens of police teams searching for her should not be underestimated,” said a police officer.
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Desperate for her arrest, police are keeping an eye on the activities of those who have traditionally been the financers of Atiq. After receiving inputs that Shaista may have taken shelter in villages along the banks of Ganga in Prayagraj and Kaushambi, police teams carried out raids and searched some homes there. However, Shaista and other women of Atiq’s family were not found there.
Now, police teams are carrying out combing operations in the wetlands of Ganga and are also taking the help of drones to trace Shaista’s whereabouts. Some women, who were close to Shaista, have been questioned and their activities are under watch, officials further said. Search operations have also been launched in Hatwa, Sallahpur, Mariadih, Asrauli, Ujahni, and other villages in the region.
Additionally, cops in plain clothes have also been deployed at the Kasari Masari graveyard, where Atiq, Asad, and Ashraf are buried. Police officials suspect that Shaista and Zainab, Ashraf’s wife, may try to visit the graves of their husbands. Officials are also monitoring the movements around Rajrooppur children’s home of Prayagraj, where the two minor sons of Atiq and Shaista are lodged since March 3 when they were found wandering in the city by the police.
Even the family members who have not been booked are also under the radar in a bid to zero in on Shaista. “Contrary to the social media chatter, we believe she is still in the Prayagraj region as she has the maximum support base here,” said a senior police official.
A resident of Damupur village in Allahabad West constituency, Shaista is the eldest among four sisters and two brothers. Shaista completed her schooling at Kidwai Girls Memorial Inter College in Prayagraj. She went on to pursue graduation subsequently. While Shaista’s father Harun Ahmad is a retired police constable, her two brothers are posted as madrasa principals. She spent her childhood in Pratapgarh where her father was posted as a constable.
In 1996, Shaista was married to Atiq Ahmed. She had five sons but her third eldest son Asad was killed in an encounter with U.P. STF in Jhansi on April 13. Her two elder sons Umar and Ali are lodged in jail while the two younger ones have been put in a government facility. None of her sons are married. One of Shaista’s kin, who is not named in any criminal cases, says that Shaista was a hands-on mother and never even missed parent-teacher meetings at the top English-medium school where her sons studied. Shaista used to keep a watch on the activities of her sons, especially the three younger ones, including Asad who performed well academically.
“With her face covered in niqab and always in the background of her mafia husband, Shaista was rarely seen in public,” said another senior police officer. Till just a few months back, police even did not have a proper photograph of her. They managed to get a few of her shots only from the items left behind in her rented accommodation in Chakia, which was demolished in March on account of “illegal construction”.
Rise to prominence
When her husband and brother-in-law were at the forefront, Shaista was known to visit only family functions or immediate neighbours, said a senior police officer. “However, with most grown-up men of her immediate family in jail, she gradually started to assert herself. She held press conferences, joined All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the presence of its chief Asaduddin Owaisi in September 2021, and later, joined Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in January 2023 -- all to provide a way out to the men of her family who had been facing difficult times despite efforts of Atiq Ahmed, a five-time legislator and one-time parliamentarian. In fact, she was touted to be BSP’s mayoral candidate but the party retracted its decision after her involvement in the Umesh Pal murder came to the fore,” the official added.
Following Atiq’s arrest in 2017, Shaista acted as the main guardian of the children. This is evident from her signatures on the academic documents and affidavits which were found in the rented house where she was staying for the past over one year in Chakia locality.
“Shaista remained a devoted housewife and mother for most of her married life. She got involved in handling the illegal businesses only after Atiq, her brother-in-law Ashraf, and two eldest sons Umar and Ali got locked up in different cases,” said former police officer Lalji Shukla, who served as SP (city) in Prayagraj (then Allahabad) between April 1998 and September 2003 and retired as Inspector General of Police (IG) in 2015.
Supporting claims of police officials that Shaista is slowly taking control of her husband’s gang while observing her Iddat, the period of four lunar months and 10 days that a woman must observe after the death of her husband, Lalji Shukla added that Shaista remained a revered figure for Atiq’s family and gang members and commands great respect among Atiq’s followers. “At a time when all the men in her family are either jailed or dead, Shaista is the only one who has the support and the calibre to take command of the gang and its assets,” he further said.
On the run
According to police, Shaista is constantly changing her location to evade arrest. Police officials suspect that Shaista is probably in touch with her CA and lawyers to claim Atiq’s movable and immovable assets worth several hundred crores. “She is also trying to manage the benami properties and funds that are lying with Atiq’s partners in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Mumbai, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and other places,” said a senior police official.
“Shaista knows very well that once arrested, she may have to spend a long time in jail for her involvement in Umesh Pal’s murder conspiracy and other criminal cases lodged against her. Before her arrest or surrender, she wants to take control over Atiq’s properties and funds which will help her in securing bail and contesting the cases of her sons lodged in jail,” claim police officials. Cops add that Atiq’s old and trusted associates are still helping her in evading arrest and are also financing her.
According to police records, Shaista has four criminal cases registered against her at Colonelganj and Dhumanganj police stations of Prayagraj. The first three cases filed at Colonelganj police station date back to 2009. They are filed under different sections of the IPC, including 420, 467, 468 and 471 and section 30 of the Arms Act. In these three cases, chargesheets have been lodged by the police at the court of special chief judicial magistrate, Prayagraj (then Allahabad). The fourth case was registered against her on February 24, 2023, at Dhumanganj police station. It concerns the daylight killing of lawyer Umesh Pal and his two police guards in Prayagraj and has been lodged under the relevant sections of the IPC.