February 2003 News

Mufti Disbands SOG

24 February 2003
The Statesman

Jammu: After months of speculation, the Mufti Sayeed-led coalition government has ordered the disbanding of the elite anti-insurgency Special Operations Group and announced its merger with the state police. During its election campaign, the PDP had promised to disband the SOG. Mufti Sayeed had then promised that if voted to power, he would withdraw Pota, release all political prisoners, provide a 'healing touch' to the masses and persuade the Centre to initiate talks to resolve the Kashmir issue. The Governor, Mr Girish Chandra Saxena, in his address to a joint session of the legislature this morning, announced this decision, saying that the police force should be committed to high professional standards. The services of the whole force should be harnessed for the maintenance of peace rather than leave this duty to a few. There will now be no separate anti- insurgency wing of the J&K Police. The designation of the superintendents of police (operations) has been changed and all the SPs (operations) have been redesignated as additional SPs. The state police will, however, continue to conduct anti-militancy operations. But the operations will be planned and executed under the supervision of SPs and there will be no separate wing for it. The decision to disband the SOG coincides with the Pampore by-polls which will be held on Wednesday. The National Conference has been raising the issue of non-fulfillment of promises by the PDP, including disbanding the SOG, during its campaign. The SOG was first introduced in Srinagar in 1994 with Mr Farooq Ahmad Khan as its chief. It was later extended to other militancy-hit districts. The force draws support from paramilitary forces, including the Army. It functions as a nodal agency for anti-militancy operations though some forces do carry out their operations independently. The SOG's strength exceeds 1,000 and it operates in 12 of the 14 districts. The SOG has been criticised by the PDP and separatist parties for alleged human rights violations. The PDP vice-president and daughter of the chief minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, has even termed the SOG a 'symbol of state terror'. Almost 80 per cent of the complaints registered with the state human rights commission set up in 1997 are against the SOG. UK delegation: A delegation from USA's New Hampshire is arriving in Islamabad today on a fact-finding mission in PoK. The New Hampshire Senate has passed a house concurrent resolution, urging the US Congress to hold hearings into issues attendant to the Kashmir conflict and urging all parties in that conflict to abide by the UN Charter on Human Rights.


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