March 2020 News

Altaf Bukhari Launches New Party In J&K, Special Status Not On Agenda

8 March 2020
Nazir Masoodi

Srinagar: Seven months after the centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status, a new political formation has taken shape in the newly-designated union territory. Led by former People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari, the new outfit Apni Party includes members mostly from the Mehbooba Mufti-led group and Congress besides a few from the National Conference (NC). According to Mr Bukhari, the revocation of the state's special status under Article 370 of the constitution will not be part of Apni Party's political agenda. The move, one of the headline reforms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second term, is already in court, the former J&K finance minister said. 'We are not going to sell moons or unachievable dreams to the people but make attempts to solve their problems,' Mr Bukhari said, adding that the new party was an outfit 'of the commoners, by the commoners and for the commoners'. 'I do not see elections happening anytime soon. It may take at least a year or so. Let us work for the people till then,' he said. Formed at a time when political parties have not been allowed any activity in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, the new group is widely seen to have been formed with the blessings of the BJP-led government at the centre. Several leaders of the region's two dominant political outfits - PDP and NC - including former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and their rival Mehbooba Mufti are under arrest, charged with tough Public Safety Act. Reading out the JKAP's declaration, Mr Bukhari said the party would work for restoring 'self-esteem and pride' of the people of Jammu and Kashmir which has been hit by the demotion of an erstwhile princely state to a union territory. 'The decision taken by the Union government on August 5, 2019, besides scrapping of special status, has reduced the erstwhile princely state to a Union Territory, an unknown and unimaginable situation in last 70 years when a full-fledged state has been reduced to a Union Territory,' he said. In an apparent dig at the NC and the PDP, Mr Bukhari told journalists at his residence that the outfit would be different from other parties as it was not floated by families. Among the prominent leaders who have joined the party include former minister and PDP founding member Ghulam Hassan Mir, former minister and PDP general secretary Dilawar Mir and former ministers Chowdhary Zulfiqar Ahmad, Mohammad Ahsraf Mir, Abdul Majeed Paddar, Aijaz Ahmad Khan and Usman Majeed, besides former chief secretary and ex-NC leader Vijay Bakaya.