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J&K: Omar hopeful of partial withdrawal of AFSPA

New Delhi, May 21: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of his state, yesterday expressed hope of finding

PTI [ Updated: May 21, 2013 11:09 IST ]
j k omar hopeful of partial withdrawal of afspa
j k omar hopeful of partial withdrawal of afspa

New Delhi, May 21: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of his state, yesterday expressed hope of finding a "common meeting ground" with the Army on the vexed issue.




Omar, who listed removal of AFSPA as an important confidence building measure, contended that the special law has been misused from time to time and has forced various human rights body to support for its repeal.

"We understand that you cannot overnight take it (AFSPA) away. It has to be a gradual process. It has to start with those areas where Army is no longer required to operate and that is what we have been asking for," he told reporters during an interaction at Foreign Correspondents' Club here.

Omar was given an honorary membership of the club on the occasion.

He said there are areas in the state where infiltration and militancy continue to be a problem and thus, making a ground for Army's presence.

"There are also areas where Army has not operated for a number of years now - where the security situation is controlled by Jammu and Kashmir police and central paramilitary forces.

"In such places, the requirement for AFSPA that we discussed, that is exactly what we are doing, the Army has been very reluctant to go forward on this. But I believe there is a common meeting ground that can be found and we are talking about it," Omar said.

The Chief Minister cited the coalition government in his state as a hurdle for revoking of the Disturbed Areas Act, a prelude to the removal of AFSPA.

"I have a coalition government. A coalition government in which Congress is an ally of mine. They are also the single largest constituent of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre. Clearly for me to do anything in the state I need a majority of my own or I need to take Congress on board.

"Both of which require discussion or a dialogue. I don't have a majority of my own. And therefore, I need to carry political parties like Congress along with me and that is what I am trying to do. I wish it would be easier for me to remove DA Act. Before 2002 it would have been possible when the NC had a full majority in the Assembly, but that opportunity is unfortunately not available now," he said.

There will not be any significant impact in Jammu and Kashmir after the withdrawal of international security forces from violence-hit Afghanistan in 2014, Omar said.

"I am perhaps in minority here, but I don't feel that there will be any significant impact in Jammu and Kashmir with the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan. For a number of reasons.

"I don't believe that international community will leave a vacuum in Afghanistan. They paid a heavy price for the vacuum in the past when Soviet forces evacuated (from Afghanistan). You can very well correlate it with 9/11," he added.

Omar said for the massive influx of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir from Afghanistan, it would have required complete sort of turning a blind eye towards the situation.

He said international community knows what happened in the region when Indo-Pak situation flared up, and the measures in the state to tackle militancy has been well on the ground.

"None of which is going to miraculously change if international forces downsize from Afghanistan. There may be some implications for my state while I don't expect any dramatic reversal in the situation or sudden spurt in militancy in terms of what happens in Afghanistan in 2014," the J&K Chief Minister said.

 

Omar hoped for "decent" allotment of funds from the Planning Commission for 2013-14.

"There are still unfinished agenda which I would like to do. I still feel there are some progress which I would like to make on AFSPA. I believe it is an important step in the right direction," he said when asked about his tenure as chief minister.

Omar had taken over the reins of the state in January, 2009.

"I hope we get a decent plan size after discussion with the Planning Commission for the development works which we have set up. The development works include large infrastructure projects which I won't be able to complete in this term of the government but I would like to see them moving forward," he said.

Omar said the state was also grappling with power shortage and he would give priority to start hydro electric projects for developing electricity.

"Laying of Jammu and Srinagar National Highway and a couple of hydro-electric projects I would like to complete," he said, adding that power shortage is a huge issue which he has been dealing with.

"There was a time when we were thinking of buying electricity from Pakistan, but now there is a time when we are thinking of selling electricity to Pakistan. But I still have shortage of electricity in J&K, and the only way the economy of Jammu and Kashmir can be turned around is not only we develop electricity but we become surplus which require a lot of our hydro electricity projects to run," Omar said.

He said there was a need to do more work for ensuring 'paperless' offices.

"A lot more needs to be done to made e-governance widely available. On the e-governance pyramid, Jammu and Kashmir ranks very close to the bottom," Omar said, adding that the government will put in efforts to work for transparent administration.

To a question as to whether National Conference will support Congress in the general elections due in 2014, the Chief Minister said he would "wait and see".

"Let's wait and see. ... The NC has authorised its President to take assessment of the situation and then decide. Let us hope the similar situation develop in Congress side as well.

"Ours is not a pre-poll alliance. Ours is a post-poll alliance. So when we go into the next election with the alliance or not -- its an open question...Parliamentary elections are an year away, Assembly elections are a year-and- half-away, so we have time before we decide on this," he said.

"The NC will take all things into account as it is not an unilateral decision. Both Congress and NC has to decide at the decision making level," he said.

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