Wednesday, September 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Shabir to back Congress
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah has decided to support the Congress in the coming Jammu and Kashmir elections in a determined bid to defeat the National Conference.

Disclosing this to The Tribune today, well-placed political sources said this understanding was clinched at the meetings Mr Shah had with the Congress leadership here this weekend.

Mr Shah had a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday in which Dr Manmohan Singh was also present and the next day he had a luncheon meeting with Jammu and Kashmir PCC chief Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The sources said the understanding about Mr Shah backing the Congress was arrived at the Sunday’s meeting and Mr Shah is also understood to have conveyed his decision to Mr Azad.

The development assumes significance in view of the fact that Mr Shah has pockets of influence in Anantnag, Pulwama, Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Bhadarwa and parts of Srinagar city.

Political observers here say that the development is bound to inject a new lease of life into the Congress and sound alarm bells for the ruling National Conference.

The sources say with this development the Congress is hoping to be able to form the government as it is confident of getting 20 to 25 seats from the Jammu and Ladakh regions this time.

Mr Ashok Bhan, member of the Kashmir Committee, said Mr Shah had made the move because he wanted to keep the National Confernece-BJP combination out of power. “The NC and the BJP are acting in tandem as a spoiler of peace and for finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem,” Mr Bhan said.


Shabir Shah sees Farooq as hurdle
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) chief Shabir Shah, who left for Srinagar today, had a meeting with Kashmir Committee chief Ram Jethmalani yesterday evening.

Mr Shah is believed to have briefed Mr Jethmalani about his talks with officials of the Pakistan High Commission, besides senior leaders of various parties.

In his interaction with mediapersons, Mr Shah accused Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah of creating hurdles in his meeting with the Centre. The DFP leader felt that Dr Abdullah pressured the Centre not to enter into a dialogue with the separatist groups.

Describing his talks with political leaders as “pathbreaking’’, he said this had provided him with an opportunity to explain his viewpoint.

Mr Shah, who arrived here last week along with his party functionaries, met Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayum Singh Yadav and Defence Minister George Fernandes.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Vichar Manch, a forum of displaced Kashmiri Pandits, said today that the Election Commission had adopted different yardsticks while deciding election dates in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir.

It said the voter list was incomplete in Jammu and Kashmir and voting arrangements were inadequate. They demanded an extension in the date for enrolling names in the voter list up to September 14 in the first phase and September 20 in the second phase. In a statement, manch president T.N. Razdan also demanded the abrogation of Article 370.

The Displaced Kashmiri Pandits Forum today decided not to participate in the elections, saying that the poll was not a solution to the long-standing Kashmir problem.

The forum, at a meeting here, observed that elections had been held in the state in the past also but the Kashmir issue had not been settled. 


BJP cautions J&K groups of Pak trap
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
The BJP today appealed to different political groups in Jammu and Kashmir to reconsider their decision of boycotting the coming Assembly elections in the state.

Addressing mediapersons, BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the groups instead of falling into Pakistan’s trap of consistent double speak on the Jammu and Kashmir issue should participate in the elections as they would in reality be furthering the interests of the people of the state who were now yearning for peace after more than a decade of meaningless violence perpetrated from across the border in the name of a non-existent freedom struggle.

The BJP would like to remind all segments of political representation from Jammu and Kashmir that they should not be fooled by Pakistan’s wafer thin commitment to the people of Kashmir, Mr Naqvi said.

Pakistan’s sole stake in constantly raking up the Kashmir issue is to divert the attention of the world community and its own population from the ill effects of a negative state policy that oils a well-entrenched terror network that has taken precedence over basic issues and instruments of governance, Mr Naqvi said.

Neither can Pakistan claim any expertise in offering advice to any section of the political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir on the issue of strengthening of democratic norms and institutions, he said.

Instead of repeatedly expressing its views and solidarity with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, the Pakistan leadership would serve the aspirations of its own people far better by displaying a transparent and honest commitment towards democratic norms where even legitimate and representative sections of the Pakistani political leadership are being systematically denied from participation in the much-touted process of return of democracy, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a high-level meeting between the leaders of the BJP and Jammu Morcha is in progress to discuss seat-sharing in the Jammu region.

The meeting is being chaired by BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu. All BJP national general secretaries, BJP in charge of Jammu and Kashmir O.P. Kohli, Minister of State for Defence Chaman Lal Gupta were also attending the meeting.

According to sources, the understanding between the BJP and morcha on seat-sharing has run into the rough weather after the morcha announced to contest all 37 seats in the region. The BJP, the sources said, was ready to leave maximum of four to five seats for the morcha.


Don’t disrupt poll, George warns Pak
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
Defence Minister George Fernandes today warned Pakistan not to make any attempt to disrupt elections in Jammu and Kashmir either from across the border or within and expressed confidence that such efforts would be “nipped in the bud”.

He expressed confidence that the forthcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir would see a “good turnout”.

“Kashmiris are steeped in politics. They are aware of the significance of the elections and given the situation we should expect a good turnout”, Mr Fernandes said.

The Defence Minister said all security arrangements had been made to ensure a smooth conduct of the elections. However, he did not rule out the possibility of attempts being made to disrupt the elections.

“All the protection security forces can provide will be given to candidates, voters, officials and staff to conduct the elections”, he said while speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a function to lay the foundation stone of the new premises of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).

Asked about his meetings with Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Shah, the minister said this was not his first meeting with Shah as he had been keeping touch in with him over the years during his stay in and out of jails.

He said Shah, during the talks with him, had made it clear that he stood for democracy without any reservations and wanted an end to violence in the state.

Mr Fernandes said Shah had also told him that he wanted immediate return of Kashmiri Pandits as Jammu and Kashmir was not a full entity without them.

Asked whether the Kashmiri separatist leader had expressed unhappiness over the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani refusing to meet him, Mr Fernandes said Shah had made no mention of either of the two leaders.

Earlier, after laying the foundation stone of the new IDSA building, which would come up on a 6.5-acre plot at an estimated cost of Rs 21 crore, Mr Fernandes regretted that India had been overtaken by China in economic growth.

He said while India boasted of a railway track network of 65,000 km built over a period of 150 years, China had embarked upon an ambitious project to lay 75,000 km of railway track by 2005.

Mr Fernandes said though both countries got freedom almost simultaneously, China was thrice ahead of India in the economic field and said if the country failed to stick to time schedules of various work projects, it would slip back further.

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