Minister admits using surrendered militants for electioneering
6 October 2003
The Hindustan Times
Press Trust of India
Jammu: A Jammu and Kashmir minister today admitted utilising the services of surrendered militants for canvassing during the assembly elections last year.Qazi Mohammad Afzal, Minister of State for Public Health and Flood Control in the Mufti Sayeed Government, said it was on his 'great persuasion' that militants gave up the gun and took part in electioneering.'I agree that the services of surrendered militants were procured by me during canvassing in last assembly polls. These former militants had joined the national mainstream and their participation and canvassing in elections was just like any other citizen,' he told reporters here.Qazi defeated Omar Abdullah in the assembly elections held October last year from Ganderbal, a constituency considered to be a stronghold of the Abdullahs.He said it was on his 'great persuasion' and assurances that they would be treated as 'citizens of a civilised society', the militants gave up the gun and took part in electioneering.Refuting allegations of his links with militants, Qazi said 'police, including the central agencies, know better as to who played a constructive role for the nation while bringing misguided youth in national mainstream.'Lauding Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's role in ensuring free and fair elections in the state, Qazi urged him continue with the peace initiative with Pakistan.On Sayeed's healing touch policy, Qazi said 'the basic philosophy of this policy is redressing the genuine grievances of the people and healing the wounds of the sufferers.' The policy would soon yield positive results, he said.