PAGD unity will be tested in assembly polls: Altaf Bukhari

Apni Party president Syed Altaf Bukhari on Tuesday said it remains to be seen what happens to the “so-called unity” of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) while asserting that the “alliance members will come down to name calling” as soon as assembly polls are announced.

“The delimitation exercise will get completed soon and we will have the assembly polls. At first place, why did they boycott the delimitation exercise when even that could mean that they are taking sides. Now let assembly polls be announced and we will get to see what happens to their so-called unity. It is then that we will get to see the name calling they indulge into,” Bukhari said while addressing party workers in its maiden conclave at the Sher-e-Kashmir park here.

While referring to the Apni Party “as a nine-month baby” and some other parties as “70-year old person”, Bukhari said PAGD parties “must have come across a challenge which compelled them to join hands”. The Apni party president said he was hopeful that the party will “leave its stamp on the election outcome.”

“They (PAGD) jumped on each other to be in the fray for DDC polls. Even for contesting these polls, these parties made the Apni Party stand responsible saying if they don’t contest the Apni Party will win. They make it appear like a contest between a 9-month baby and a 70-year old person.  This baby (Apni party) has been delivered and now it will grow with each passing day,” Bukhari said.

While taking a dig at the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, Bukhari accused these parties of deceiving people of the Valley with “hollow slogans” for the last 72 years.

“People in Kashmir have shown patience and are good natured. But the day our patience comes to an end, people will not forgive those who were in power and who betrayed them for 72 years. Politics of betrayal is over and it is time for politics of truth which the Apni Party believes in. We don’t want to raise any different slogans but make realistic promises. We spoke about return of statehood and safeguarding land, jobs and many raised concerns on this but today I ask those people what about the slogans you raised for 72 years,” Bukhari said. “You raised slogans of autonomy, dual currency, self-rule and self-determination, which never became a reality in 72 years,” Bukhari added. The Apni Party president accused the PDP and NC of depriving people in the Valley of basic development, especially in Srinagar city which Bukhari said “lacked basic civic amenities.”

“Is it not a fact that these politicians have a hand in destroying our Shahr-e-Khaas. Aren’t these people responsible for snatching our joys. We make outsiders responsible for our problems but we ourselves elected governments here and are responsible for whatever happened. Is it not a fact that people in Srinagar always voted for a particular political party till 10 years ago but what did that party deliver for 60 years,” Bukhari said. “Another party (PDP) was formed and they thought by waving green handkerchiefs they will do away with hunger and poverty. They made it appear as if it was a solution to unemployment but alas even this was a betrayal,” Bukhari said.

Bukhari described August 5, 2019 as a “black day” saying no one in Jammu and Kashmir was able to forget the happenings of that day. However, without directly naming the National Conference, he said the mainstream political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir “did nothing” to safeguard its special status.

“The leadership of the country decided to take a decision on this day but what about our politicians of the last 72 years. What did they do? In June 2019, these leaders sought a vote on the basis that they will safeguard Article 370 and 35-A . Forget safeguard, these leaders didn’t even speak about it. These leaders (of NC) visited Delhi just days before abrogation but have not put forth their discussions with the PM and Home Minister,” Bukhari said.

Calling the political leaders of other parties including NC “as our elders whom we respected,” Bukhari said “respecting them does not mean that we don’t have a tongue in our mouth”. Without naming any party, Bukhari asked PAGD leaders about “what compelled them to form the alliance”.

“A particular political party was being called as a creation of LK Advani for 21 years and another leader was taunted for calling PM Modi as his elder brother. What sort of an alliance is this that has come into formation now? On one day they say politics of power is a disgrace and every day this alliance has a new story to befool people,” Bukhari said.

“Among others who addressed the party workers at the Apni Party convention, which apart from its workers was attended by trade, transport community members included senior party leader and vice-president Ghulam Hassan Mir, provincial president Muhammad Ashraf Mir, Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu, and other JKAP leaders including Jagmohan Raina, Muzaffar  Reshi, Abdul Rashid Haroon, Khalid Rathore and Imaad Rafi. The proceedings of the convention were conducted by party’s state secretary and district president Budgam Muntazir Mohi-u-Din,” said a party statement.

As per the JKAP statement, the convention was also addressed by district president Noor Mohammad Sheikh who explained the sufferings of people of the Srinagar city. He raised the demands of transporters especially taxi and auto rickshaw owners, houseboat owners, pending rehabilitation of Dal, Jhelum and Veer Chattabal dwellers, loan waiver for artisans and other traders who deal with handicrafts sector and street vendors, the statement said.

Among others who attended the convention included vice-president Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, general secretary Rafi Ahmad Mir, party senior leader Muhammad Dilawar Mir, state secretary and district president Budgam Muntazir Mohi-u-Din, media advisor Farooq Andrabi and spokesman Javid Hassan Beig.

Bukhari while addressing the workers said that Srinagar city “faces extreme economic disparity as compared to cities in the rest of the country. “Besides, lagging behind in other developmental parameters, Srinagar city is facing extreme unemployment. Our small and big traders, hoteliers, houseboat owners, shopkeepers, artisans, shikara walas, street vendors and tour and travel operators are facing the brunt of official apathy which needs to be looked into,” Bukhari added.

The Apni Party President said that Srinagar “should not only become a Smart City but an attractive destination which motivates people for huge investments”.

“People in J&K particularly the residents of Srinagar have faced the worst during the last 70 years at the hands of existing political parties who never tried to speak truth and refrain from political gimmickry,” Bukhari said.

Bukhari said that it was his party’s intervention that got the domicile law on jobs modified resulting in protection of all the categories of government jobs for the youth of J&K. “Similarly, we have already expressed our reservations with regard to the domicile law on land. We will not sit as mute spectators like our political opponents and we will pursue complete protection of land rights for the domiciles of J&K,” Bukhari added.