I know my duties; Chidambaram was in the loop, Omar tells PCC chief

After the Army raised the pitch over revoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, it is the J&K Congress' turn to accuse Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of not taking his party into confidence before making the announcement on limited withdrawal of the AFSPA.

The Chief Minister reacted saying Union Home Minister P Chidambaram was in the loop, while the opposition People's Democratic Party blamed the government for the confusion and the CPI(M) said such issues of public importance should not be messed up in avoidable political skirmishes.

The war of words between the main coalition partners in the government heightened on Thursday after Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz said, “It is a little dangerous to take such a decision without consultation.” Speaking to The Hindu here, he said: “I believe AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act have to go, but at a proper time.” It was true that militancy had declined but not completely.

Professor Soz said Mr. Abdullah was not the only player in the process of AFSPA withdrawal. “There are many actors who are as much important as is Omar. The Home Minister, the Defence Minister, the Unified Headquarters and the Congress as the main coalition party are important actors.” “He [Omar] would not lose anything if he consulted me also. [But] I am not hurt and as long as the Home Minister, the Defence Minister and others agree, I have no problem.”

Professor Soz said the issue was never discussed in the Cabinet or on the coalition government's co-ordination committee, which he heads. “On this Omar has no footing, he cannot take a unilateral decision.”

The PCC chief said, “The decision is wrong if the Defence Minister is not consulted.”

Reacting, Mr Abdullah said: “The issue has been discussed at the Unified Command meeting. I know my duties as Chief Minister. If Soz sahib wants to discuss the issue on the coordination committee, he as its head should convene a meeting. I am not the member of the CC,” the Chief Minister told journalists on the sidelines of a function at Ganderbal.

“Incompetent handling”

Regretting that a “superficial and incompetent” handling of the issue led to an “atmosphere of confrontation,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said it appeared the Chief Minister had not done his homework before he rushed to make the announcement.

CPI(M) State secretary M. Y. Tarigami said his party was always unequivocal in demanding the removal of the draconian laws [the AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act]. In a statement, he said: “Since there is a marked improvement in the overall security situation in the State, time has come to revoke this law [AFSPA] at least from certain areas in the first instance.”