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Farooq named as National Conference president

January 13, 2009 17:39 IST

The ruling National Conference on Tuesday named patron Farooq Abdullah as the party's president, replacing his son Omar Abdullah who became the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister on January 5 following assembly elections in the state.

The party's highest decision-making body, the working committee, unanimously passed the proposal to name the 73-year old veteran politician and former state chief minister as the party's president in a meeting on Tuesday.

Veteran National Conference leader Sharifuddin Shariq proposed the name of Farooq for the post while provincial president Mehboob Beg seconded it, a spokesman of the party told PTI.

He said most of the members of the working committee including newly elected MLA from Kulgam Sakina Itoo, Abdul Rashid Shaheen, the MP from Baramulla, and general secretary of the party Sheikh Nazir Ahmed were present at the meeting.

Farooq, who had been party president even earlier, had handed over the reins of the party to son Omar on the eve of the assembly elections in 2002.

Farooq was first elected to the post of president of National Conference in 1981 when his father, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, stepped down as head of the organisation.

Talking to reporters, Farooq said he took over as party chief to "relieve" his chief minister-son Omar Abdullah from additional responsibilities of party work.

"Omar has the gigantic task of taking Jammu and Kashmir on the road to development and progress. As such, it was imperative to relieve him of responsibilities relating to party work," Farooq said.

He said the party intends to restore the headquarters of the party, Mujahid Manzil, in interior city which was shunned by the party in the wake of eruption of militancy over two decades ago.

"We will restore the pristine glory of Mujahid Manzil and use it as our party headquarters as the sentiments of the people are attached to it," he said, adding that the party proposes to revive the old tradition of "meeting the people on each Friday" to know their problems and try to mitigate them.

Mujahid Manzil, or the fortress of the mujahideen, had served as the hotbed of Kashmiri politics during the freedom movement. It also remained the hub of Kashmiri politics during the National Conference's struggle against Dogra autocracy and its subsequent political activities between 1953 and 1990.

Located in downtown Srinagar, the erstwhile NC headquarters was set ablaze in 1990 by suspected militants, forcing the party to shift its main office to the high security Nawai Subah complex in the city.

Farooq said the NC-Congress coalition government's priority is to tackle the growing unemployment and speed up development and promote tourism.

To a question about trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, the former chief minister said such trade would be further strengthened and the ultimate aim was to have trade with Central Asian countries.

He said there was no possibility of war between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack  since "war is not going to address the problem. The issue could be resolved through dialogue."

Terming the Kashmir issue as an "unhealed wound", Farooq said the people of Kashmir have faced a lot of misery over the past six decades.

"We will work for harmonious relations between India and Pakistan so that the issue is resolved through dialogue," he said.

He said as far as his party is concerned, the restoration of autonomy was the best solution to the Kashmir problem. However, he said his party will endorse any other better solution if it meets the wishes and aspirations of the people.

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