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J&K crisis has blown over: Mufti
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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March 30, 2007 17:50 IST
Last Updated: March 30, 2007 19:51 IST

When Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and People's Democratic Party leader, drove out of the 7 Race Course meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, he had a smile on his face.

"It is done. PMO will issue a statement," Mufti told reporters waiting outside the prime minister's official residence.

Talking to newsmen at length at his residence on Shahjahan Road, Mufti said the crisis that Jammu and Kashmir faced in the last one week or so has blown over.

"We may have differences of opinion on matters, but I have nothing against Azad. PDP ministers have been directed to attend the Cabinet meetings called by chief minister Gulam Nabi Azad, by the party president Mehbooba Mufti," the former chief minister of the trouble torn state of Jammu and Kashmir said.

Mufti clarified that his party was never for demilitrisation as was being made out in the some parts of the media. "We are only for gradual troop reduction, keeping in mind the security of the country," he said.

Mufti agreed that he could have sorted out issues at the administrative level. However, he wanted to send a message to his coalition partner, but refused to assure the citizens of the state and the Indian Union that there would be no crisis in the future. You cannot say what will happen in the future," he said.

Mufti was not too worried about the government not putting any timeframe for the report of the two expert groups and subsequent action by the committee headed by defence minister.

"Both Dr Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi have graciously worked towards amicable settlement of the issues raised by our party. I am very happy with the outcome. It really does not matter if there is no time frame because defence secretary is a very busy person. I am glad that all the issues have been addressed," he said.

Mufti admitted that the coalition was virtually on the brink of breaking the thread, but somehow it was averted.

He defended the state government and claimed that the human rights violation have come down in recent months.

"When we took over power in 2002, we had a testing time. But the Congress party stood by us, particularly when there was attack the on the Raghunath temple and the attack on the army barracks in Akhnoor. We released the militant-like Yaseen Malik. Those were testing times," Mufti said in response to a question from a newsman.

He disputed the claim of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who had alleged that Mufti was trying to hijack the agenda of the All Party Hurriyat Conference.

"This is not true. I would say that we would support all those who speak of giving relief to the people. The Special Powers Act needs to be reviewed. Where there is no army there is no hostility towards them," he said.

Mufti invited mediapersons who have not been to Valley to visit the state and understand the problems of the people by talking to them. He is flying back to Srinagar to brief his party of his parleys with the government.

Earlier, the Union government agreed to form an expert panel, to be headed by the defence secretary, that would look into ways and means to 'relocate and reconfigure' the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, Sanjaya Baru, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's media advisor, told mediapersons.

He was speaking after a meeting between Dr Singh and Mufti in New Delhi on Friday morning.

The PDP has been demanding that para-military forces be withdrawn from the state. It had threatened to pull out of the ruling alliance with the Congress in the state if this demand was not met.

The panel would have representatives from the defence ministry, home ministry, the armed forces and the Jammu and Kashmir government.

"While making its determination, the panel should ensure that the cardinal aspects of security are not compromised in any manner," Baru said.

Another panel would look into all aspects of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and ensure that it confirms with the legal requirements.

A third panel, to be headed by Defence Minister A K Antony, would be empowered to take decisions on the recommendations of the two panels.

Baru also said a nodal officer would be appointed to survey how many public/private properties are being held by the armed forces and how they can be restored to their owners. In cases where this was not possible, the officer would recommend proper compensation.

The PM's media advisor said there was no timeframe for implementation of the recommendations.

Baru said these proposals had been given to Mufti and that he seems satisfied with them.

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