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Denied travel papers, Geelani to skip Pak conference
Srinagar, March 8
Two days ahead of the Pugwash meeting in Islamabad, the hardline APHC leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, here today announced that he would not attend the conference for want of travel documents.

Backdoor appointments rock House
Jammu, March 8
The proceedings of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly were today adjourned amidst day-long noisy scenes by the Opposition National Conference.

Azad kicks off poll campaign
Bhaderwah (Doda district), March 8
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad kicked off his Assembly election campaign in his home constituency here today by laying the foundation stone of the local campus of Jammu University and announcing a number of development projects.

VDC member among 3 killed, 9 militants surrender
Srinagar, March 8
A Special Police Officer and a Village Defence Committee member were among three persons killed, while nine militants surrendered in Jammu and Kashmir overnight, an official spokesman said.



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Denied travel papers, Geelani to skip Pak conference
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, March 8
Two days ahead of the Pugwash meeting in Islamabad, the hardline APHC leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, here today announced that he would not attend the conference for want of travel documents. He condemned the Central Government’s policy, which had denied him the chance to visit Pakistan on this occasion and earlier to console people affected by the Oct 8 earthquake last year in Muzaffarabad and other areas of PoK.

Geelani also categorically denied his willingness to join any talks with the Central Government unless it recognised the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir. “I will not be willing even if the Prime Minster comes to my place for talks,” Geelani said in reply to a question. He added that it would not be possible unless Kashmir was accepted as a dispute, which needed a settlement through the right of self-determination under the UN resolutions and resolved to “continue the ongoing legitimate struggle”.

When asked about his willingness to attend the Islamabad meet, Geelani pointed out that it was not being held by any government.

Referring to the Chief Minister, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad’s statement on the roundtable conference, Geelani sought to adopt “sincerity”. Azad had in Jammu yesterday stressed the need for a sincere and unanimous approach to discuss Kashmir and evolve a workable consensus for restoration of peace. Geelani held that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were “the most peace-loving and sacrificed” their lives during the past 16 years.

“I have decided not to attend the conference”, Geelani said at a press conference at his party office at Rajbagh here this morning and added that he was being blamed for not participating in any talks process. “We are interested in a peaceful, democratic and long-lasting solution to the Kashmir problem,” Geelani pointed out and reiterated his stand on the right of self-determination under relevant UN resolutions for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

He held that there was no optimism over the Pugwash meeting, as such conferences did not lead to any resolution of the vexed problem.

The meeting in Islamabad would have helped “us to meet different people and leaders” from Pakistan while a large number of them had extended their support during his recent Haj pilgrimage, Geelani claimed.

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Backdoor appointments rock House
Tribune News Service

Jammu, March 8
The proceedings of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly were today adjourned amidst day-long noisy scenes by the Opposition National Conference.

The Speaker, Mr Tara Chand, adjourned the House twice due to acrimonious scenes by the Opposition. However, later he adjourned the House for the day as bedlam prevailed and the Opposition members stalled the proceedings.

Trouble started in the morning during question hour when NC members were not satisfied with the reply of the Public Health Engineering Minister, Qazi Mohammad Afzal, regarding the backdoor appointments in the department.

The NC members raised slogans against the government and waved certain papers in the House.

They alleged that while Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was trying to portray a clean image of the coalition government, the minister had flouted all rules and regulations to appoint some persons in the department.

Referring to the main question of Mr G.M. Jan (NC), Leader of the Opposition, Mr A.R. Rather, pointed out that works worth crores of rupees had been executed by the department in Poonch district without inviting tenders.

Amidst pandemonium, the Speaker tried to pacify the members by saying that he would allow a 30-minute discussion on the issue tomorrow. However, when the members refused to relent, the Speaker adjourned the House for some time. Again, there was pandemonium when the House re-assembled and the Speaker adjourned the House till 2.30 pm.

The NC members demanded the setting up of a House committee to look into matter and raised slogans against the government. Speaker vainly tried to restore order and finally adjourned the House for day.

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Azad kicks off poll campaign
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Bhaderwah (Doda district), March 8
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad kicked off his Assembly election campaign in his home constituency here today by laying the foundation stone of the local campus of Jammu University and announcing a number of development projects. Although the byelection for the Bhaderwah seat has yet to be announced by the Election Commission, Mr Azad addressed a large public meeting in which, for the first time, he announced that he would contest the election from here.

He said that electioneering by all parties would be launched here within a few days when the election was formally announced. He said several legislators from Kashmir and Jammu had offered to vacate their seat for him. He also rejected the easy way to become a legislator by getting nominated to the legislative council and decided to contest from his home constituency. His cousin, Mr Mohammad Sharief Niaz, recently vacated seat for him by resigning from Assembly.

The Chief Minister appealed to the gun-carrying militants to surrender before the authorities and join the mainstream, as numerous avenues for work had opened, with the Centre liberally providing funds to the state government.

He said the state could develop only when there was a congenial atmosphere for work and there was no fear of militancy. Mr Azad announced that work on a number of roads would be started soon. A Rs 3-crore project on the Neeru Nullah under the rural development scheme was announced by him.

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VDC member among 3 killed, 9 militants surrender

Srinagar, March 8
A Special Police Officer (SPO) and a Village Defence Committee (VDC) member were among three persons killed, while nine militants surrendered in Jammu and Kashmir overnight, an official spokesman said.

Militants kidnapped and later killed SPO Mehraj-ud-Din Sofi at Khana Gund Tral in Pulwama district last night.

Militants entered the house of VDC member Bansi Lal at Chajroo in Udhampur district of Jammu region and shot him dead. The security forces and the police killed a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Shaheel Bhai, in an encounter at Harigam Kangan this morning. An AK rifle and other arms and ammunition were recovered from the slain militant.

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