Ahead of the by-polls in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday raked up the issue of revocation of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some areas and “see the impact”. Mufti, who has taken a strong position against militants, pitched for revocation of AFSPA, saying she required a “window of peace” for ensuring good governance to “shrink the space” occupied by militants.
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She said PDP and BJP had come together on an Agenda of Alliance which included revocation of AFSPA.
“We should not shy away from revocation of AFSPA. When things improve, why not?” she said.
“We don’t shy away when situation goes bad. We don’t shy away from calling more forces…we ask army to be more proactive, but when the situation improves, we should not shy away from the fact we need to start revocation of AFSPA from some places and see what is the impact,” she said while addressing a seminar on counter terrorism here.
The conference is being organised by India Foundation, a think tank run by Shaurya Doval, the son of National Security Advisor A K Doval. Four Union Ministers and BJP leaders, including party general secretary Ram Madhav, are on its board.
She also said when the situation improves, there was a need for shifting security camps “away from public”.
Referring to her brother Tassaduq, who has been declared PDP candidate for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat vacated by her, Mufti said her brother “wants to see our kids chasing birds and butterflies rather than have stones in their hands”.
Tassaduq is a cinematographer and has been part of Bollywood hits like ‘Omkara’.
Mufti appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for initiating talks with “all stakeholders” for a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.
“We need to have dialogue as was done by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I am sure our present Prime Minister, who has the moral authority, will take steps at the earliest. We have a bold leadership at this point of time,” she said.
“We have used pellet guns, guns, hand grenades, teargas. We can’t continue with that. They (the protesters) are part of India. Kashmir is the jewel in India’s crown,” she said.
Appealing for a “window of peace”, she said, “Good governance helps in shrinking the space of terrorists. Please give me that.”
By-polls for Anantnag parliamentary and Srinagar assembly seats are slated for April 12 and 9 respectively. Praise for Vajpayee and his Kashmir policy dominated the 25-minute speech of the Chief Minister at the seminar which was moderated by the state’s Governor N N Vohra.
“Terrorism is the biggest threat that the whole world is facing but unfortunately the countries which are fighting terrorism are not fighting it together,” she said, adding “there is shadow boxing going on between the various super powers to get the hegemony over the world,” Mufti said.
By way of explanation, she spoke about China blocking India’s attempts to name Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist under a UN convention.
“I will come to my own country. And we have been facing terrorism and there is again this kind of shadow boxing that is going on between us, China and Pakistan and so and so.
“We have been trying so hard for so many years to declare certain people, certain groups who have really inflicted a lot of pain on us as wanted terrorist but again China comes to the rescue,” she said without naming Azhar, blamed for many terrorist attacks in India.
Speaking about the importance of good governance, she said governance alone cannot fight terrorism because it is the first causality of terrorism.
“When your whole energy which is focused on development and good governance, it gets focused on maintaining law and order, saving the life and property of people becomes your first and foremost duty. And unfortunately governance goes for a toss,” she said and advocated a multi-pronged strategy which included fighting terrorism and redressing the grievances of people.
Speaking about Vajpayee’s policy, she said the former Prime Minister understood the pain of the people and tried to address both internal and external dimension.
Mufti said the “enemies of peace” attempted to sabotage his efforts in various ways, including the Kargil intrusion and Parliament attack.
“But ultimately he once again gave a message to Pakistan from the very soil of Kashmir, in the same language that Kashmiris understood, by quoting our saints and poets like Nund Resh, Lal Ded and Mehjoor.
“Vajpayee’s extending of hand of friendship was reciprocated from the other side. We had a ceasefire that lasted for many many years. We had a dialogue process,” she said.
She also favoured opening of new routes between the two countries and asked India to respond to Pakistan’s offer for joining the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“Why can’t we be partners to the CPEC? Jammu and Kashmir was a gateway to central Asia before 1947. Why should not our country benefit out of that. I heard that Pakistan has offered to us to be part of the CPEC. Why can’t we do that? Why can’t we move away from the skirmishes that we have all the time,” she said.