After Army, Congress Now Voices Reservations On AFSPA Revocation23 October 2011
Srinagar: Amid reports of the Defence Ministry's opposition to the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from certain areas in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress, the main ally of the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government in the State, also voiced its reservations. The party also repeated its demand for rotational Chief Ministership after completion of three years of the present government. In a hard-hitting statement, senior Congress leader and general secretary of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) Ashok Bhan on Sunday accused Mr. Abdullah of appeasing radical political elements in the State. In a statement, Mr. Bhan was quoted as saying the Chief Minster's move was “in order to appease the radical political elements in the State and their masters, to cover up his political and administrative incompetence and to weaken the growing political base of the Congress across the State under the youthful and dynamic leadership of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.” “He [Mr. Abdullah] resorts to rhetoric and political narration, which is amateurish, unacceptable and fraught with divisive regional undercurrents. This narration and gimmickry cannot be countenanced by the Congress,” Mr. Bhan said, speaking to a gathering of Kashmiris at a seminar in Delhi. “He never discusses nor has he discussed the policy issues in a coordination committee,” he said referring to Mr. Abdullah's announcement about the withdrawal of the AFSPA from certain areas. Claiming that the Congress had made huge inroads in the State, particularly in the Valley, he said: “Scores of educated youth are joining the party after the recent visit of Mr. Gandhi and after the joint efforts by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the PCC chief Saifuddin Soz and other party leaders. The cadres have legitimate expectations that their demand of the Congress taking the lead role in the government with a change of Chief Minister in January 2012 would be accepted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who herself is well aware of the sensitivities of the suffering masses and prevailing problems of the coalition government and the glaring misgovernance.” Mr. Bhan said the change in the leadership of government will accelerate the developmental works launched by Mr. Azad, ensure equitable regional balance, employment and return of displaced Kashmiri Pundits with dignity to their homeland Valley. “It will also ensure corruption-free, able, astute, and efficient governance, and will end all forms of violence to bring peace and prosperity and, above all, provide an enabling environment for a genuine dialogue to work out a peaceful, democratic and lasting solution of the imbroglio to end the sufferings of the common people.” Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth arrived here on a two-day visit to review the security and developmental situation with the State government. Besides meeting Governor N.N. Vohra, he held a series of meetings with State officials to review various flagship programmes and issues relating to the implementation of the current year's Annual Plan, the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Plan, Centrally-sponsored schemes and other major infrastructure development projects. Considerable attention was devoted to discussing the time-frame within which 3-tier Panchayati Raj institutions would be established in the State. They also discussed issues relating to hydel power development; the Kashmir Railway Project - particularly to link Qazigund with the new 11 km tunnel across the Pir Panjal; 4-laning Project of the National Highway; growth of agriculture and its allied sectors; and certain other key areas. Sources told TheHindu that the issue of AFSPA was also discussed and the Army strongly opposed the withdrawal. Sources privy to the deliberations said the Army said the situation was not completely conducive for the withdrawal, and the challenge of militancy was not over. They cited intelligence inputs about the presence of militants across the Line of Control, who, according to them, were waiting to cross over. The issue would again be discussed with Mr. Abdullah by a high-level Central team comprising, among others, Home and Defence Secretaries before they return to Delhi on Monday.