Mehbooba reiterates stand on troops reduction, AFSPA
25 February 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Toughening its stand ahead of a scheduled meeting with the Congress high command, the PDP today said its demand for reduction of troops and revocation of AFSPA will be the most credible action to have a positive impact on the fast changing ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir. 'To mark the beginning for getting out of the messy static situation we are in for the past 17 years, only such tangible measures would make a difference to the life in Kashmir and provide a visible breakthrough on the ground,' PDP president Mehbooba Mufti told a workers’ convention at the party headquarters here. She said her party’s demand for troops reduction and withdrawal of AFSPA is vital to level the ground for the real and substantial forward movement in the ongoing peace process. 'These measures should not be viewed in isolation, as unless practical initiatives are taken to address the situation on the ground, the confidence building measures will have no meaning for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are the worst victims of the conflict.' Mehbooba, a Lok Sabha MP, is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee next week, party sources said. PDP is sharing power with Congress in the State since November 2, 2002. She said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while announcing reduction in number of troops deployed for internal security during a function here in 2004, had made it clear that if conditions improve there would be a further cut. 'We can’t wait for the last gun to fall silent and I don’t think anybody can confidently predict that conditions would be more appropriate for such an initiative after two or three years,' she said. According to Mehbooba, the armed forces and the country should take pride in pulling Jammu and Kashmir out of the most difficult times and hand over the responsibility to political forces to allow democratic institutions to consolidate and flourish. Instead of being on the defensive over troops reduction and withdrawal of AFSPA, the UPA leadership must take pride that they have created an atmosphere in the State for lessening the burden on the armed forces and allowing democratic and political institutions to play a more vibrant role in consolidating the normalisation process, she said. She was optimistic that such a measure would be the 'most appropriate response to the faith of the people in the democratic processes and institutions, that has grown manifold during the past four years with various people-friendly initiatives'. However, she did not elaborate. 'This also would go a long way in addressing the alienation of the people to a large extent, which is today a major concern of the Government, both in the State and at the Centre given the unfolding of some unfortunate and tragic incidents recently,' she said referring to the alleged fake encounters.