In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN’s Senior Editor Suhasini Haider, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah admits the lapses in the rehabilitation policy for surrendered militants following the fiasco over the arrest of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Liaqat Ali Shah.
He admits the friction with the Centre on the issue of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and handing over of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s body to his family members, but says that he doesn’t want to pull out of the United Progressive Alliance.
Talking about the 2014 elections the CM says he does not buy Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Third Front idea.
The excerpts of the interview:
On Liaqat’s arrest fiasco:
Given the complete divergent point of view of the Delhi and the Jammu and Kashmir police, we needed an objective organisation to look into the facts and tell us the truth. I still believe what the J&K police say. I think Liaqat was coming back for our rehabilitation policy.
The Delhi police has a completely different point of view. Let the NIA (National Investigation Agency) unravel the truth. The Government of India is also talking to us about measures to be put in place to avoid such confusion in the future. Hopefully those steps will work as well.
On the rehabilitation of policy:
In this instance, the policy has not worked. But you have to put it into perspective. More than 200 people have returned and this is the first time where we have two different police agencies holding different points of view. It should have not happened but I think it was inevitable.
Given that the actual policy gives a call to come back from the Line of Control via the Poonch-Rawalkot Road or the Uri Road, given they are coming via the Nepal route; it was inevitable that we hit such a problem. Now we are aware about it, I think corrective measures will be put in place.
This is an evolving policy on how we bring them back and having brought them back, what do we do with them. There is a lot of talk in the media about how militants are being rehabilitated, but that needs to be put in perspective.
Being at loggerheads with the Centre:
I don’t think so. It’s the Delhi police and J&K police that have given divergent views. The Government of India has not taken a position on this.
That’s exactly the right thing to do, given that they are not sure whose point of view is correct. They have done the right thing by handing over the case to the NIA. We are not on cross-purposes with the Centre on this.
There are other issues on which we have an ongoing discussion with the Centre -- AFSPA, the hanging of Afzal Guru and the aftermath. But the rehabilitation policy is not a matter of disagreement between the Centre and the state.
On returning body of Afzal Guru:
I think it’s unfortunate… Having hanged Guru and the way we did it, having denied his family a final meeting; having compounded things soon after his execution; sending warrants for four members of the Veerappan gang only to find that their execution has been stayed by the Supreme Court.
Now, the people in Kashmir rightly ask if Guru’s execution could be stayed by the Supreme Court having the President denied his mercy petition. Why was Afzal Guru denied that last legal recourse? There are areas where the Centre and the state find themselves in disagreement. Where to bury Guru was also another one. I know the jail manual says he should be buried where executed, but I think these are laws and there is no harm if we take a humanitarian viewpoint on this. Given that we actually denied his family the chance to say farewell to him, the least we can do is to give back the body to them. They can bury him as per their wishes.
On being an ally of UPA:
This is a season for the allies to claim they have been let down. I’m not going that far, otherwise it will seem like joining the so-called premature Third Front bandwagon. Yes there are issues and I hope the Centre will be little more accommodating. But I’m not going to say that I’m disappointed or angry. That will open up a different can of worms. Better rather not to open that.
On Mulayam’s speculation of Third Front:
I have not idea on what he is basing the idea of the Third Front. It’s too early to predict how India will vote. Clearly, there is no discernible trend in favour of the UPA or against the UPA. There is also no favourable trend for the National Democratic Alliance either. I’ve no idea about the basis of Mulayam Singh Yadavji’s prediction, but I will not go with it. We have to wait for the electoral results.
On alliance with the Congress for 2014:
It's for both the National Conference and the Congress to decide. The NC has authorised its president Dr (Farooq) Abdullah to take a final view on this. It will require some discussion between him and the Congress high command. We have been the victims of political machinations. I don't see a situation where we would abandon the UPA just because things look bad for them. The Congress will have to decide whether it wants a pre-poll alliance with the NC and then our leadership will decide.
On withdrawal from UPA on AFSPA:
Such withdrawals inevitably result in nothing. Recently Karunanidhi's DMK pulled out on Tamil issue, but what has changed for the Tamils? I can pull out of the UPA government on the issue of AFSPA, but what will change? My voice will become weaker.
At least today I stand some chance to make some headway on these issues. Tomorrow If I pull out of the UPA, I will no longer be the CM. I will become one among the many voices talking about the Kashmir issue. How will I be any closer in getting anything done?
On political issues, I will take a more political stand. But I'm not raising AFSPA because of politics. I'm raising this issue because I think strategically we have reached a point from where we can move forward. I think that's better said as a CM than as an Opposition leader.
On death of Chamel Singh in Pakistan jail:
I want India to take up this matter more strongly with Pakistan. It does not help our case that there is an interim government in Pakistan trying to organise an election there. It would have been better had there been a full- fledged government we could deal with. We have asked the ministry of external affairs to take it up through the high commission in Islamabad. We hope we will get some answers. There are many unanswered questions those need to be answered.
Image: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah