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Continuing alliance with BJP was drinking ‘cup of poison’: Mehbooba

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Appeals Modi to accept Imran Khan's offer of 'friendship'; calls for protection of J&K’s special status

                                 Photo/Javed Khan

Srinagar, Jul 28: Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti today appealed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s offer of friendship for ending bloodshed in the state while claiming that she "drank the cup of poison" to continue coalition with BJP after her father’s death.

Cricketer-turned politician Khan, in his first public address after leading his party to victory in the general elections, had said Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India and his government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the "core issue" of Kashmir, through talks.

Khan, whose party emerged as the single largest in the National Assembly elections, asserted that the blame game between the two neighbours should stop.

"I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A new government will be formed in Pakistan and there will be a new prime minister, who has extended a hand of friendship towards India. He (Khan) spoke of dialogue. He (Modi) should respond to it positively,” Mehbooba Mufti said while addressing party workers at Sher-e-Kashmir Park, who had gathered here today in connection with the 19th foundation day of her Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

"It is my request that he (Modi) should grab the opportunity and respond positively to the offer of friendship by Imran Khan," Mufti said.

The PDP president said the forthcoming general elections should not become an impediment in starting the reconciliation process with Pakistan.

"Elections come and go. (Then Prime Minister) A B Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan and also announced ceasefire on the borders. This is statesmanship, such leaders do not think about elections but about the people. Jammu and Kashmir is the biggest challenge for the PMs of our country...," she said.

She said the prime minister who resolves the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and ends bloodshed in the state will have his name written in "golden letters" in the history.

"The PM who resolves the Jammu and Kashmir issue within the ambit of humanity, ends bloodshed in the state and improves relations with Pakistan, his name will be written in golden letters in the history," she added.

Mufti said during her tenure as the chief minister, she called on Modi and discussed with him the need to hold dialogue with Pakistan as well as the people of the state.

PDP president said she "drank the cup of poison" to continue in a coalition government with the BJP out of compulsion, following her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's demise in 2016.

Mehbooba claimed that she allied with the BJP as her party legislators and senior leaders told her that it would be a "disrespect" to Sayeed if she went against his decision to form the government with the saffron party.

"Allah is witness that my politics would start and end with my father. That is the reason when he left this world, I was not ready to form the government. It took me three months...I had never thought that I will become the chief minister. I had only thought of fulfilling my father's agenda of how to take out the people of J&K from the present situation.

"At that time, the workers, MLAs and other senior leaders told me that it was the decision taken by Mufti sahib, you will have to drink this poison and carry this fire on your head. If you don't, it will be a disrespect to Mufti Sahib's decision," she said, speaking at the 19th foundation day of her party here.

Mehbooba said even when she gave her consent to government formation with the BJP, she had urged the party leaders to choose another person as the chief minister.

"These people are here. I had told them if you want to form the government, choose another leader as I am not worthy of it.

"It was the statements of assurance from leaders at the Centre, reiterating their commitment to the agenda of alliance, which compelled me to form the government," she added.

Reacting to the civilian killings during her tenure as the chief minister, Mufti said there were clashes every day which led to killings.

"There was nothing in my hands. I did what I could. We got the Centre to announce a ceasefire and the killings stopped," she said even as she claimed “Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a massive development in the sectors of education, rural development, construction of highways, roads and bridges, construction of hostels, colleges, establishment of two cluster universities in Jammu and in Srinagar, scarping of the stamp duties for women of Jammu and Kashmir and revival of the sports in all the three regions of the state” during her tenure.

On the challenge to special status to Jammu and Kashmir, she credited her party with getting the BJP to make a commitment that "Article 370 will not be touched".

"There was a challenge to Article 35A. It was because of our efforts that the Attorney General told the Supreme Court to defer the hearing on the case as the Centre had appointed a special representative for holding dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.

Asserting that the special status accorded to J&K by the Constitution of India needs to be protected at all costs, she warned any tinkering with it would turn the state into a veritable inferno.

"I appeal to all parties -- both from mainstream and the separatists -- to set aside differences and come together to defend Article 35A, which is a major challenge," she added.

The former chief minister also alleged that she was not allowed to work peacefully.

"There has not been a day since July 08, 2016 that we were allowed to work peacefully," Mufti said.

“The last two years have been a headache for me as there was always some issue or the other to deal with,” she added.

The PDP president remarked that when she took over the reins of government in the state, the situation was worrisome and taming it was a Herculean task.

She, however, claimed that her government didn’t leave a single stone unturned to accord justice to state’s vulnerable sections and went on to recall how the PDP government “fought for justice” to the victim of Rasana case and booked the culprits as per the law of the land.

The PDP president added that the party in unison again pledges to follow the agenda for which foundation of the PDP was laid in the year 1999 by the party founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

“We are once again here to tell it to the world that we will follow the path and the footsteps of our beloved leader and take the state to the new scales of peace, prosperity and development,” Mufti said.

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