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Mufti firm on troop drawdown
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Having taken its demand of troops reduction in Jammu and Kashmir to a high pitch, the PDP is likely to insist on a "mechanism" to force a pullout during tomorrow's meeting between its leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Mufti, who arrived in the capital today, gave indications of the party's tough stance on the issue of troops reduction, which has strained the relations between his party and the Congress in the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said the PDP was not prepared to wait for long on its demand of reducing troops from the civilian areas of the state. Not satisfied with the Prime Minister's offer of reviewing the situation in summer before deciding on pull-out, he said a beginning had to be made. He said the party would not accept any window-dressing on the issue.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti told The Tribune that her party did not think troop withdrawal would compromise on the security set-up in the state. She said ground situation had improved and people should be shown positive result.

Ms Mehbooba said linking a demand to the security situation was the easiest way to deny it. "Security input will always come. But we have to move forward," she said.

Referring to measures taken during the term of the Mufti as the Chief Minister despite concerns on security, she said the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was opened, mobile services were expanded and the Jawahar tunnel remained open for longer hours. “We also initiated the process of opening the old Mughal Road though there were security concerns,” she said.

Asked about Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s categorical statement opposing troop reduction, she said it reflected a mindset. “He knows by connecting the issue to national security, there is no need to give a reasonable answer,” she said.

Referring to the reports of the Congress reluctance on troop withdrawal being linked to its apprehension about BJP making it an issue during the UP poll, Mehbooba said Jammu and Kashmir could not be treated as a ground for political wrestling. She said the problem was with the country’s mindset which wanted hard options in Kashmir. “People who do not favour hard options are in a minority,” she said.

The PDP leader said there was no real democracy in the state for 60 years and it was former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who deviated from the beaten track. His initiative, she said, had been continued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with full support from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Referring to her party’s other demand of withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, she said similar demand had been made by the Manipur Government following atrocities on a woman. The PDP is also demanding that the security forces should vacate the agricultural land held by them in the state.

The Mufti has been invited by the Prime Minister for a meeting to help solve the crisis facing the coalition government.

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