March 2007 News

Time not yet conducive for de-militarisation: PM

15 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

Jammu: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that 'time is not yet conducive' for withdrawal of troops from the state and intelligence inputs suggest that the 'situation can escalate' if it was done.He conveyed this to the People's Democratic Party (PDP) patron in a letter in response to Sayeed's asking for withdrawal of troops from the state and repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that grants special powers to the security forces. According to sources, the prime minister had written to Mufti that security and intelligence inputs along with the regular reviews of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir 'do not favour pulling out of troops at this time'. He said that there was fear the situation could 'escalate if such a step is taken'. Manmohan Singh told Mufti, whose PDP is an ally in the coalition government in the state with the Congress, that regular reviews were being held to assess the situation and 'such steps would be taken when the situation is right'. Regarding withdrawal of AFSPA from the state, the prime minister, according to the sources, said the matter was under review at the legal and security level. In his March 5 letter, Mufti also demanded vacation of land, orchards and buildings occupied by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. In response, Manmohan Singh said that the 'process has already begun under the directions of the Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad'. The PDP has been harping on these issues of late even to the extent of embarrassing its coalition partner - Congress. The PDP ministers even abstained from two cabinet meetings in the state protesting against non-inclusion of these issues in the meeting agenda. The sources said the letter from the Prime Minister's Office was delivered Wednesday evening at the residence of Mehbooba Mufti, the PDP president and MP, in Delhi. But Mufti received its copy through fax Thursday. None of the Muftis were available for comment.


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