Mehbooba meets PM, demands troop reduction
1 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi: Mehbooba Mufti, president of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), a partner in the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Thursday and demanded demilitarisation in the militancy-hit state and revocation of special powers to the security forces.'I met Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today and discussed the issues of troop reduction, revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and vacation of agricultural and orchard land and private and government buildings occupied by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir,' Mufti told IANS.Mufti said her demands were aimed at strengthening the emerging public faith in the state's political and democratic institutions. 'The systematic and time-bound reduction of troops and revocation of the AFSPA would be the appropriate and fitting response to the fast-changing ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir,' she added. Mufti said the reconciliatory process initiated by the coalition government, with the active support of the central government, has to a large extent alleviated public alienation and enhanced people's sense of freedom and their faith in democratic means. 'There is, however, a compelling need to reinforce the political initiatives with adequate administrative measures to completely transform the scenario,' she said in a statement.She added that for sustaining peace in the state through public involvement, the country and its leadership must trust the people of Jammu and Kashmir and reduce troops and revoke AFSPA at the earliest. 'The cost of not doing so, I am afraid, would be much higher for the state and the nation,' she pointed out. Mufti made it clear that the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir called for such confidence building measures earnestly and the country's leadership must grab the opportunity and respond appropriately to the public mood to bring a turn-around in the situation.Appreciating the role played by the armed forces during difficult times, she added: 'But this cannot be an endless arrangement as it is unfair for the security forces as well as the people of the state.' During the last two days, Mufti has held similar meetings with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to put across her party's viewpoint on demilitarisation of the state.