The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister has been pitching for the removal of AFSPA from those areas where normalcy has returned.
With differences persisting at the highest levels of government on the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah met the Prime Minister and other top leaders here Monday to press his case for the law’s withdrawal from three districts in his state.
Later, Mr. Abdullah met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a one-on-one, and also the two seniormost ministers in the Union Cabinet – Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Mr. Chidambaram, who met Mr. Abdullah for an hour, supports the chief minister’s proposal. Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Abdullah expressed confidence that AFSPA could be partially withdrawn while addressing the concerns of the armed forces.
However, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, whom he met on Sunday, sounded a note of caution, terming it as a “very, very sensitive” issue on which any decision would require a “mature and cool” handling. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function here, Mr. Antony said he had “very frank and fruitful” discussions with the Chief Minister but that these remained inconclusive.
Maintaining that there was no politics involved in his demand, Mr. Abdullah said, “I have been talking about the partial rollback of AFSPA right from the day I became chief minister.”
The Army has opposed lifting the law from any region of the state, saying the time was not ripe for it as Pakistan’s proxy presence was still very much there. An Army slide presentation to Mr. Abdullah in Srinagar last week said only “Pakistan, ISI, terrorists and separatists” want AFSPA repealed.
Though the controversial slides – and the fact that the Army leaked other details of its presentation on AFSPA – to build public opinion in favour of the law have raised eyebrows in the highest political circles here, the chief minister on Monday played down the sharp differences which exist between himself and the Army brass. “I believe there is ample opportunity to address both the concerns of the armed forces while still allowing us to go ahead with the position that we have taken, which is keeping with what the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) recommended almost a year ago,” Mr. Abdullah told reporters after meeting the Home Minister.
Asked what assurance he received from the Prime Minister and the Union Ministers, Mr. Abdullah said it was not proper for him to say anything on their behalf. “I have made our point of view very clear. They, I think, were very receptive, to what we had to say. As I say, this is an ongoing process, this will continue.”
The Chief Minister said the State government was talking about withdrawal of the AFSPA from the areas where armed forces were not operating now.