Govt Initiative On J&K Runs Into Trouble
15 August 2006
The Times of India
New Delhi: Even before it takes off, the Centre's efforts to find a consensus on the Kashmir issue seems to be getting into trouble. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced the formation of five joint working groups to untangle the Kashmir knot internally, and insisted that the most politically-sensitive fifth group get its act together at the earliest. Former CJI A H Ahmadi had been asked to head this group. But even before Ahmadi got to know any further, the government seems to have considered that he had refused the post and named former head of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Abid Hussain to replace him. Ahmadi had sought some clarifications from the government on June 29 on the group, formed to rework the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. 'I had some concerns and raised some issues, but there has been no communication from the government ever since,' Ahmadi told the TOI, adding that the clarifications were necessary because it is a sensitive group which is supposed to deal with a sensitive issue. Ahmadi was categorical in saying, 'I have neither resigned nor declined the post.' But, he said that he learnt from news reports that Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said in Srinagar that he (Ahmadi) had resigned from the post. 'I had agreed in principle to take on the responsibility, also because I was given to believe that the PMO would be the nodal body for the working group, but now it transpires that the chief minister is the nodal authority,' Ahmadi said. The PM, it is learnt, was keen that even while the dialogue process with Pakistan was frozen for now, New Delhi's earnestness in reaching out to Jammu and Kashmir should show. The fifth group involves most Kashmiri and national political parties. Congress had nominated water resources minister Saifuddin Soz on its behalf, while BJP nominated party general- secretary and Rajya Sabha member Arun Jaitley. National Conference will be represented by its legislative party leader Abdur Rehman Rathar and PDP will be represented by its party chief Mehbooba Mufti. CPM will be represented by its leader from the state Yusuf Tarigami. The representatives from Jammu and Ladakh region have yet to be finalised. Ladakh and Jammu shall also be represented in the group. It may be difficult for its members to come to a meeting point on the status of J&K, seeing the diverse shape the group has taken. If NC has stuck to its demand for autonomy for the state, PDP has been talking of self-rule. The Jammu region has been pressing for statehood and Ladakh insists on a Union Territory status for itself. BJP's favourite pitch has been for doing away with Article 370 which grants special status to the state.