Monday, October 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong’s grudging nod to PDP programme
M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, October 27
Grudgingly, the Congress has accepted the common minimum programme whose guidelines and contours, besides the content, have been prepared by the PDP.

The most significant aspects of the programme are enshrined in the PDP poll manifesto and at one stage, the Congress-PDP relationship was on the rocks when the Congress did not agree with some controversial issues mentioned in the manifesto.

The first issue that the Congress was not prepared to accept was the PDP plan of disbanding the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the police which had been assigned the task of carrying out anti-insurgency operations.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed ultimately agreed to include remodeling of the SOG by way of absorbing its personnel in the regular police force in the common minimum programme. The Mufti has, in fact, succeeded in wooing voters with the slogan of disbanding the SOG. Even after the acceptance of the common minimum programme, he did not hesitate from calling it a “bandnaam” (discredited) force.

Other features of the programme include the release of those persons who are lodged in different jails without a trial. Here also the Congress forced an amendment, agreeing on first screening all cases and letting off those having no serious charges.

Regarding the rehabilitation of wards of militants who were either killed or were in detention and those children whose parents were killed in militancy-related violence, the Mufti explained that those who took to the gun had not done so under the influence or direction of their family members and hence there was no rationale behind forcing their kith and kin to suffer deprivation.

The promise to implement basic recommendations of the Wazir Committee is another part of the programme. The committee said district boundaries within the state needed to be reorganised so that at least two new districts could be carved out in the Jammu region.

The basic purpose of the common minimum programme, according to the Mufti, is to give a healing touch to the people of the state.

The PDP-Congress coalition is keen to win over the people, especially in the Kashmir valley, so that the level of alienation among the people in all three regions could be reduced.

The new government would prefer giving a new look to its plans and programmes. The common minimum programme will not only bind the two main partners together but also pave the way for opening communication channels with militants and separatists.

The Mufti is keen to start a dialogue with separatists of different hues because he knows that as long as militants and secessionists are on the other side of the fence, peace and normalcy would be a distant dream.

Both the Congress and the PDP have plans to making a fresh beginning in the programme of winning over people and bringing separatists into the national mainstream. Initially, the Congress had reservations on at least two issues — the disbanding of the SOG and the release of militants — and several Congress leaders said there was hardly any difference between the Hurriyat and the PDP programme.

However, the Congress leadership has been convinced by the Mufti that novel ways are required to lure separatists and their supporters to mainstream political thought. The programme does not provide for any ceasefire by the security forces. Keeping the SOG off the anti-insurgency operations could result in demoralisation of the police. But a senior PDP leader said the police would be forced to be accountable for each action besides being transparent. Once the police is prevented from running amok, from it would be treated as a people’s force, which could help the security agencies in seeking cooperation from the masses in destroying rebel hideouts.

One thing seems to be certain that the common minimum programme may not endanger the state’s security in case Pakistan and its agencies are not allowed to increase the level of violence. The programme does not envisage dialogue with foreign mercenaries. It does provide for amnesty to these foreign guerrillas. As such, the bullet-for-bullet policy adopted against local militants and separatists has not proved helpful in containing militancy. It has, on the other hand, raised the level of alienation among the people.

The common minimum programme, if implemented sincerely, could create an atmosphere that may be helpful for infusing confidence among the people.

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