Centre okays release of 44 J-K prisoners
3 October 2005
The Indian Express
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
New Delhi: In line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance to the Hurriyat leadership, the Centre has cleared for release by Jammu and Kashmir a list of 44 political detenues. This move will help clear the air for the next round of talks likely this month. Confirming the decision to release 44 political prisoners, a Home Ministry spokesperson said that ‘‘Central Government reiterated its commitment to carry forward the dialogue and take all possible measures to strengthen the peace initiatives on a sustained basis.’’ Advertisement The Indian Express was the first to report about the Government move to release political prisoners. Though the release of political detenues from Jammu and Kashmir is an internal security measure, aimed at boosting the Kashmir peace process, it coincides with the vist of External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh to Pakistan. Singh is expected to meet General Parvez Musharraf tomorrow. The General has been insisting on more concessions from India on Kashmir. Sources told The Indian Express that the release of 44 political prisoners was not the ‘‘end of the exercise’’ and the Government was considering the release of more political prisoners. Earlier, the NDA government had released 92 political detenues in a phased manner before the peace initiative collapsed. Those being released include Dukhtaran-e-Millat supporters, over- ground workers and symphatisers of insurgent outfits. All those being released are understood to have been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). It is, however, learnt that chief of Dukhtaran-e- Millat, Asiya Andrabi is not being released yet. Sources said that her name is under consideration. She was arrested on September 6 under the PSA. The J&K government, it is learnt, forwarded a list of 399 political prisoners to the Home Ministry following the PM’s assurance to the Hurriyat on September 5. Of the 399, the Screening Committee cleared 44 names for release. This has been accepted by the state government. The list of political detenues to be released in the first phase was finalised at a meeting of the high-level Screening Committee in Jammu and Kashmir today. The committee comprises Director General of J&K Police, the state’s Financial Secretary (Home) and Joint Secretary (Kashmir) in the Union Home Ministry. According to J&K government officials, the release will happen within this week. In their first meeting with the Prime Minister, the Hurriyat moderate faction led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq had sought reduction of troops from the urban areas of Jammu and Kashmir and release of political prisoners to improve the ground situation in the Valley and boost the peace process. Singh linked troop reduction to the overall security situation of J&K.