What's the need for 'protection' to army, asks Omar
Holding that the government has to have courage to take a decision on the issue of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday questioned the need for "protection" to the army in areas where they have not operated for years.
"Our endeavour is to remove AFSPA from those areas where there is no need of army to work. I have never said that we should remove AFSPA from Baramulla, Sopore and Kupwara areas," Omar told mediapersons in Jammu.
He was replying to questions on issues relating to removal of AFSPA, army's demand for legal protection and delay in appointment of a judicial commission on alleged political payoffs as the secretariat and other offices started working from Jammu, the state's winter capital.
"Where the army has not worked for years, what is the problem in removing (AFSPA) from those areas? When did they (army) work in Srinagar the last time? When did they last time work in Budgam?" Omar asked.
Please click NEXT to read further...
Image: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah
'We have to have courage and take a decision'
On the army's demand for legal protection while operating in insurgency-affected areas in J&K, the chief minister said, "There are places where army did not work for years. What is the need for protection when they have not worked in those areas?"
"It is a straight question and (requires) a straight answer (from the army). It will be taken into consideration," he said, adding, "If we say we will wait for last gun to fall silent then the time will never come to remove these things (AFSPA or Disturbed Areas Act)."
"We have to have courage and take a decision. In beginning, there would be difficulty but ultimate results would be good," he said.
Image: A file picture of a Kashmiri woman looking out of the window of her house as an army jawan guards during a gunbattle with militants near Srinagar
'If we wait for last gun to fall silent, that time will never come'
The chief minister said, "When we removed 40 security bunkers in Srinagar city, there were the same (army) voices which had said that it (the Valley) would be hub of militants and there would be attacks."
"But the reality was totally different. I would like to talk on this issue and take it forward," Omar said.
On whether it is the right time to remove the operation of AFSPA from some areas, he said, "Is it the right time or not? Militant activities for past several years are decreasing. If we wait for last gun to fall silent, that time will never come."
Asked about objections raised by the Ministry of Defence on the AFSPA issue and the way to bring them on board, he said, "There would be an element of consultation which would continue. There is a meeting of the Unified Headquarters later this afternoon in which I and the deputy chief minister (Tara Chand) will take part."
"Subsequently on a future date, yet not decided -- but not too far away, this matter would come up for discussion at a cabinet meeting as well", he said, adding, "I had a brief discussion with Union Home Minister P Chindambaram over telephone over the issue yesterday evening."
Image: Army soldiers runs towards the site of gunbattle with suspected militants in Maloora on the outskirts of Srinagar
'No differences in ruling coalition over AFSPA'
He said, "So far as I am concerned, necessary process is going on. Beyond that I am not going to pre-judge what would be the conclusion."
Omar said, "I did not make any announcement (on AFSPA) at a public meeting. I made an announcement in this regard on the intent at Police Commemoration Day at Zewan where the police high command, heads of para-military forces and the army high command were present."
Omar also claimed that there were no differences between the ruling coalition partners on the AFSPA issue.
Image: File picture of Omar Abdullah with senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz
'Nothing wrong in asking for a commission of inquiry'
To another question on appointment of a judicial commission on the issue of alleged political payoffs, Omar maintained, "I have always said that we have asked for a commission of inquiry by a sitting judge and there was nothing wrong in that as it is our right to ask for that."
"It is also the right of the chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir high court to accept or reject any such request (on grounds) that he did not find that the circumstances necessitate (an inquiry by) a judge or a sitting judge..(But) that does not take away our right to ask for one," he said.
"We have asked the law ministry to give us a retired judge of the Supreme Court. I have spoken in the last couple of days to Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid. They are in process of finalising one or two names and that would be made available to us and we will go ahead with the judicial commission of inquiry," he said.
To another question about the police in Kashmir issuing a handout condoling the death of brother of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chief minister said, "It is very much part of humanity to express sympathy."
Image: Kashmiri protestors agitating in Srinagar