March 2007 News

Mufti accepts PM invite for talks; Azad in Delhi

18 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday telephoned former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and invited him to Delhi for talks on the political crisis in the state, even as Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was in the capital to hold parleys.Sayeed has accepted the invitation and might visit Delhi Tuesday, sources in Jammu said.Azad, who was in New Delhi, will Monday meet Manmohan Singh, ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders on the issues that have left Sayeed and his People's Democratic Party (PDP) agitated and angry with the Congress, according to party sources. However, in an apparent snub to two PDP ministers in Azad's cabinet, the Jammu and Kashmir government Sunday kept in abeyance the transfers they had effected this month, saying the cabinet had not approved them.The prime minister, according to the sources, told Sayeed that the PDP should not take any decision in haste as the issues needed to be resolved through talks rather than be allowed to reach a breaking point. Matters had come to a head following the rejection of the PDP demand for withdrawing troops from the militancy-hit state without any delay, rescinding of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and vacation of agricultural and horticultural land and civilian buildings by the security forces. The demands, often dismissed by Azad as being untimely and not tenable, were firmly rejected when the prime minister responded to a letter from Sayeed on the issue. In the letter, Manmohan Singh asked PDP to wait till summer for a review of the situation before taking any decision on withdrawing troops. This was because the situation was fluid and could worsen, with intelligence reports warning that terrorist violence could escalate, the prime minister maintained. He also offered to move the troops out of private lands but ruled out the revocation of AFSPA. The PDP has called a meeting of its political affairs committee in Srinagar on March 25 to decide on pulling out of Kashmir's Congress- led coalition in which it is a junior partner.Now, everything hangs on the outcome of the Manmohan Singh-Sayeed talks, the sources maintained.At the same time, the Kashmir government's move in stalling the transfers Finance Minister Mir Tariq Hameed Kara and Tourism Minister Mohammad Dillawar Mir had ordered could only serve to exacerbate the crisis in the state.'All those transfers effected in March 2007 without cabinet approval have been kept in abeyance as the financial year is coming to a close (on March 31), Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, principal secretary in the general administration department, told reporters.'These transfers will be reviewed in the new financial year (beginning April 1)', he added.In New Delhi, Congress sources said the invitation to Sayeed had been in the pipeline for the last few days, with the party discussing the issue and deciding to leave it to Manmohan Singh and Gandhi.'Given the delicate nature of the issue, the party felt it would be best handled by Gandhi and the prime minister, who, between them, would decide on how it is to be handled,' a Congress functionary said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


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