M A I N   N E W S

NC-Congress rift widens over lifting AFSPA in parts of J&K
Army concerned over Omar’s proposal to withdraw its special powers from 4 areas
Tribune News Service

Srinagar/New Delhi, Oct 27
The “avoidable political skirmish” between J & K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the state Congress, over the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), escalated on Thursday.

J&K Congress chief Saifuddin Soz went public to complain that the Chief Minister had neither taken the Congress into confidence nor discussed the issue at the Unified Command before publicly announcing that the law would be lifted from parts of the state.

The Chief Minister, as is his wont, responded almost immediately and maintained that Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had been kept in the loop and that the issue was discussed at meetings of the Unified Command. Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand is also part of the deliberations by the Unified Command, he asserted. Pointing out that Soz chaired the NC-Congress coordination committee in the state, Abdullah declared that the committee was free to deliberate on the issue and give its opinion. “ I am not a member of the coordination committee,” said Abdullah.

But he conceded that the decision to withdraw AFSPA, wholly or partially, rested with the Home Ministry.

On Diwali day, Omar tried to douse the controversy created by his uncle and National Conference general secretary Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, who had suggested that the four grenade attacks on Armymen on Diwali-eve could have been engineered by the Army itself to justify the continuation of AFSPA, which provides it immunity from legal prosecution while detaining, arresting or killing suspected militants and while searching any premise at any time.

Abdullah was quick to complain that Kamal’s statement was distorted by the media and twisted out of context. “ It is nobody’s case to demonise the Army, as it has proved time and again that it is a disciplined force which is governed by certain standard operating procedures,” said the CM, who alleged that attempts were being made to drive a wedge between the state government and the Army.

Army Chief General VK Singh refused to comment on the controversy. He only said the issue was being deliberated by the Union Home Ministry and the Army had provided the inputs required.

The CM, meanwhile, finds himself in a catch-22 situation. While he is committed to the withdrawal of AFSPA, there is clearly no consensus on the timing yet. While Abdullah has made no secret of his belief that such a withdrawal would greatly help in restoring people’s confidence in the government, the grenade attacks this week demonstrate the ease with which peace can be shattered by militants in the Valley. In such an eventuality, even a partial withdrawal could easily boomerang and make the Chief Minister’s continuation untenable. Even the National Conference, therefore, seemed to be having second thoughts.

The principal opposition party in the state, PDP, is naturally elated at what it perceives to be a ‘self-inflicted goal’ by the Chief Minister. The controversy, it commented, reflected Omar Abdullah’s style of governance, namely speak first, act later.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |