Azad ready for talks with Hizb, not Lashkar

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Ghulam Nabi Azad: "We are not against dialogue but it should yield results."
Ghulam Nabi Azad: "We are not against dialogue but it should yield results."

Shujaat Bukhari

Chief MinisterGhulam Nabi Azadsays it will take a lot of time to rescue Jammu and Kashmir from the vested interests that have become entrenched. Excerpts from an interview:

After being at the helm of a coalition for nine months how different do you find the job from what you had expected?I think completely different. My objective in coming here was to drive home the point that this time the Congress, which had the largest number of members among the coalition partners, will head the Government rather than repeat what we had been doing from 1975.

That does not mean the government headed by the PDP was not doing good but it does not look good to always attach your members with the other party. And secondly, people have always been hoodwinked with slogans, and no attention had been paid to their development.

Was it your personal decision to come here as Chief Minister?Obviously, the party took a decision. If I had said no, how would it have looked?

That means you had a desire to become the Chief Minister.Definitely, because I had the apprehension that someone else would come and again romanticise slogans. I have never believed in such sloganeering. I wanted to contribute here, given my 30 years experience in dealing with all the States and Union Territories. But there is one difference in States like Punjab and Mizoram the people had a desire to see peace there while here the political parties are divided over this and do not want peace.

Are the mainstream parties also like that?I do not want to go into the details but there are parties who have developed vested interests. ... They cannot continue with these attractive slogans and cannot befool the people.

There is vested interest in each and every section of society. Under the garb of militancy, everything has become "legitimate." I am not disappointed but it will take time to set things right.

I tell you ad-hocism has flourished in this State in the last 16 years.

Over the past few months, the security situation has deteriorated and there is an increase in human rights violations as well.No, I do not think so. There were certain incidents but the PM's zero tolerance policy is being implemented in letter and spirit. In nine months, we have had only two custodial killings. There is a lot of improvement.

What about infiltration?Unfortunately, it has started picking up since March this year. Earlier, after the 2003 ceasefire Pakistan President General Musharraf had also put a brake on the Army and the ISI and only the tanzeems [militant organisations] were sending people. But now we have reports that all the three the ISI, the Army, and the organisations are pushing them to this side. There may be many factors, and one could be that elections are approaching in Pakistan, and they always use Kashmir as [an election card] like here. They must try to show that they have not given up on the issue of Kashmir.

The dialogue with the Hurriyat has been put on hold. Why?I do not think so. ... Peace process is on and the Prime Minister held two round table conferences. Five Working Groups were formed; three of them met and two are meeting soon. Within six months, the reports will be submitted.

But the separatists were not part of it, and they are the ones challenging accession?We cannot help that. After the first conference they put certain conditions, and we fulfilled all those. But still they did not come. You should ask them. I think the RTC [round table conference] was the mother of all CBMs, and they missed this historic opportunity.

They should be asked at0 whose behest they did it. We are not against dialogue but it should yield results.

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin recently said that his outfit was ready for ceasefire with some conditions. How would you react?It is a welcome development. We are ready but the only condition is that they should abjure violence. The two things [talks and violence] cannot go together.

Are you ready for talks with the Lashkar-e-Taiba as well?The question does not arise. Why should we talk with foreigners? Somebody coming from Afghanistan and Sudan and asking us to talk. How is it possible? The Hizb is a Kashmiri organisation, and I hope they are realising that it is the people of Kashmir who are suffering.

How would you react to the proposal for demilitarisation?It is again a publicity stunt like self-rule. There are two things. One, that the Army is guarding the borders, and, two, that troops are on internal security duty. The day the politicians in Kashmir tell me they will move about without security, within 24 hours I will recommend that the troops be withdrawn. But they cannot have bullet-proof cars and commandos and then talk about demilitarisation.

I do not like double standards. Such people should stop playing with the sentiments of the people.

Why should someone say self-rule or demilitarisation because General Musharraf is saying that? Have your own road map.

You mean your coalition partner PDP?No, I have not named anyone. I have full respect for PDP, National Conference, and Hurriyat. But people should not be befooled.



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