March 2007 News

PDP Diverting Focus From Real Issues: Azad

29 March 2007
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was today summoned to New Delhi for talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other UPA leaders on the demilitarization demand of coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Earlier, the Prime Minister asked PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to delay his return to Srinagar, promising him a way to avoid a break up of the Congress-led coalition in the state. Meanwhile, without naming the PDP, Azad accused his estranged coalition partner of 'a secret liaison with militants' and 'vicious double speak' during a public rally in South Kashmir. Azad also dissected PDP's troop withdrawal demand and asked the army to move to immediately start vacating orchards, government and civilian properties to give relief to the people. This, he said, had been his government's policy for the last one and a half years, emphasising that relocation of troops was already in progress. Azad substantiated his claim by figures, saying that the security forces have already withdrawn from nine orchards, 92 private houses, 24 hotels and 27 government buildings during his tenure. Azad emphasised that his government will act extremely tough with militants. He then launched a fierce attack on the PDP leadership. 'Those people who shed tears for innocents during the day and entertain the militants during the night are only misleading the people of Jammu and Kashmir,' he said. 'At a time when our government is trying its level best to put the state back on the road to development, there are people who have started the same old emotional slogans, same old speeches. And all this is being done to divert the attention from the real issues.' Questioning the PDP's troop withdrawal demand, Azad said his government had already launched a process to relocate troops from civilian and government property. 'I have told the army that they should move to the hill tops which are uninhabited and vacate the orchards and other government and civilian property'. He said that for the past six months, he had raised this issue at least half a dozen times. Again indirectly hitting out at the PDP, Azad said there had been 433 cases of custodial disappearances and killings in Kashmir before he took over as the Chief Minister. 'Nothing was done in those cases. But after the Prime Minister and I promised zero tolerance to any human rights violations, our government acted swiftly and strictly over every human rights abuse case,' he said, and gave the example of the recent investigation into the killing of five South Kashmir villagers in fake encounters. Azad said his government's resolve was the development of this state. 'I want justice for the people. But I am realistic. I hate those slogans which exploit the emotions of our young men, pushing them to pick up guns again,' he said. The Chief Minister also praised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, saying that after 60 years of hostility, the Pakistani leadership too had realized that nothing could be achieved without negotiations and friendship.


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