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Political parties in J&K welcome Shah’s statement on AFSPA revocation

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Srinagar: Two former chief ministers Wednesday welcomed the proposed revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir, but expressed fears that it might be just a poll promise of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Former chief minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah said the promise of revoking the AFSPA has been made in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as he feared that the people here would be cheated just like those in Ladakh were on the promise of the Sixth Schedule.

Another former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti welcomed Shah’s statement but hoped it would not be a “Jumelbaazi” like the BJP promise of providing two crore jobs in the country every year.

Both the leaders were reacting to local media reports that quoted Shah as saying that the BJP-led Centre will surely consider revoking the AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir in the future.

“I have been waiting for this day since 2011. We made a lot of efforts to remove the AFSPA (when he was the chief minister) as well, but I fear that the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be misled and cheated like the people of Ladakh were misled and cheated on the promise of the Sixth Schedule as elections are here,” Abdullah told reporters in Budgam district.

The NC leader said the law, which gives widespread powers and immunity against prosecution to security forces in disturbed areas, should be revoked right away in view of the statements made by central leaders about restoration of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.

“As far as revoking the AFSPA is concerned, start from today. When they say the situation is normal and militancy has ended and there is no separatist thought left, then what are they waiting for?” he asked.

Private television news channel — Gulistan News — quoted Shah as saying that “the situation is getting normal and we are speedily considering revoking the AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir and a state of change is being considered”.

The Lok Sabha polls are scheduled to be held in seven phases starting April 19.

Peoples Conference chief Sajad Gani Lone said the proposed removal of AFSPA was an excellent step.

“Removal of AFSPA will be an excellent step. People of Kashmir will welcome it. Let us take the HM for his word and let us hope he honours his word,” Lone said in a post on X.

In an apparent jibe at the NC and the Congress, Lone said to those Kashmiri leaders who ruled J&K and their national partners who brought in AFSPA and never took it back “can u please have the decency of shutting up”.

Meanwhile, in a post on X, PDP chief Mufti said, “As a first step, the Central government can release journalists and Kashmiris languishing in jail ‘without any charges.”

“PDP has consistently demanded the revocation of draconian AFSPA along with a gradual removal of troops. It also formulated an important part of our Agenda of Alliance wholeheartedly agreed upon by BJP. Der aaye durust aaye.

“Better late than never but only if it isn’t jumlebaazi like generating two crore jobs every year or empty promises of depositing 15 lacs into bank accounts,” Mufti said.

The former J&K chief minister hoped that the government would fulfill its commitment in case of AFSPA revocation as it would bring relief to the people of the Union territory.

“One can only hope that they fulfill their commitment at least in this case since it would bring a huge relief to the people of J&K. To walk the talk perhaps MHA can start by releasing journalists & thousands of young Kashmiri boys currently languishing in jails without any charges or prosecution,” she added.

Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, who is her media advisor, said the party welcomes the announcement and it is a good start.

“We welcome it because the PDP’s approach and its manifesto has always stood for the revocation of AFSPA which is a draconian law. The PDP also stands for withdrawal of armed forces from civilian areas,” Iltija Mufti told reporters here.

Terming the announcement as a good start, she, however, said whenever the PDP president states the same thing, “she is dubbed as anti-national”.

“If the Home Minister really wants to do it, then as a goodwill gesture before the Eid, hundreds of young Kashmiris and journalists who are in jails under UAPA and PSA should be released,” she added.

Iltija Mufti said the party, however, has an apprehension that this should not be a “Jumelbaazi” because the BJP knows that their position in J-K and Ladakh is not good and it does not look like they will perform well electorally.

Asked about the Shah’s other statement that the government has plans to pull back troops in the UT and leave law and order to the Jammu and Kashmir Police alone, the media advisor to the former CM said the BJP does not do what they say.

“First, they should revoke the AFSPA and withdraw the Army, then we will see who they empower. There is a slip between the cup and the lip. As far as the BJP is concerned, the distance between the cup and the lip is huge, they do not do what they say,” she said.

The Jammu and Kashmir unit of BJP said the UT has witnessed a transformation after August 2019, when the Centre abrogated Article 370.

“NC is the party which implemented laws like AFSPA, but the BJP is a party which is in the process of revoking it as the situation has improved in J&K,” BJP’s J&K spokesperson Altaf Thakur said.

He said J&K is moving towards peace and prosperity and the time has come to revoke AFSPA.

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