Status quo not only option available to us: Omar5 September 2010
The Daily Excelsior
SRINAGAR-NEW DELHI: With the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir Government working on various options to address concerns of Kashmiris, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah feels that a firm action on issues like amending or phased- withdrawal of AFSPA and resumption of political dialogue is an immediate need. 'Status quo is the only option not available to us,' was the prompt reply of the Chief Minister when asked what measures were being considered to address the issues. 'When we talk about removing status quo, it means resumption of dialogue with all shades of opinion, a review of laws, measures to deal with unemployment whose figures have snowballed into six lakhs over the years,' he said. Omarís comments come at a time when the Central Government is expected to hold a high-level meeting in the next few days. In the meeting, the Centre, in consultation with the State Government, is likely to come out with specific measures to address some issues which may bring relief to the people of the State, official sources said. This includes relocation of security forces, employment package for former militants, who have served their sentences and are unemployed, and a fresh surrender policy, the sources said. While the Centre is building a consensus on Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Omar said, 'This is unnecessarily being made a highly emotive issue which has led to extreme positions. 'I would like to request that a pragmatic view about the continuation of the AFSPA be taken with a view to removing its applicability from those districts where terrorist or insurgent activities are minimal or insignificant,' he said, without naming the Defence Ministry and the BJP, who favour the continuation of the law in Kashmir. In a related move, the Centre is also toying with an idea of a proposal submitted by the State Government for which phased withdrawal of AFSPA in the State following a strong case made out by Omar. To begin with, Centre is likely to explore the possibility of phased withdrawal of the AFSPA in three districts of Kashmir - Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal - along with three in the Jammu region - Jammu, Kathua and Samba - where incidents of violence have shown a marked decline, official sources said. The Chief Minister also gave a road map for its phased withdrawal beginning with the districts which have registered no or bare minimum violence during the past one year and in this context he gave examples of the six districts. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had also constituted a committee headed by Hamid Ansari before he became the Vice President, to find ways for improving internal confidence building measures. The Ansari panel had recommended revocation of AFSPA in the State. The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily, now Law Minister, has also endorsed withdrawal of AFSPA or at least incorporation of some measures which prevents giving sweeping powers to the security forces. (PTI) .