Mufti breaks silence on Govt formation

Greater Kashmir

‘PDP in talks with BJP, but won’t sell mandate for sake of power * Common Minimum Programme to form basis for alliance’

Jammu, Jan 24: Breaking his silence on government formation, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed Saturday admitted that his party was moving ahead with Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) for government formation in Jammu and Kashmir but made it clear that he would “not sell the people’s mandate for the sake of power.”
In his around one hour long speech to the party delegates who assembled here to elect party president for next three years, the PDP patron made it clear that his party’s stand on Article 370, revocation of AFSPA, peace talks with Pakistan and separatists, release of political prisoners, return of power projects and comprehensive rehabilitation of flood-affected would remain non-negotiable during the talks with BJP on alliance formation.
“The interests of the state and its people alone will guide me and my party in the bid to form a stable and representative government in Jammu and Kashmir”, he said adding, “I am in no hurry to be in power and I will never sell my mandate for the sake of power.”
Disclosing that his party was holding negotiations with BJP on government formation, the PDP patron said, “The two parties are involved in track-two dialogue. Once the ground is clear for formulating a Common Minimum Programme and consensus evolved on core issues, we will move forward with structured dialogue. Depending upon the areas of convergence, a coalition would be formed on the basis of Common Minimum Programme.”
Assuring that his party will not compromise on the “basic issues on which people have reposed their trust”, Mufti said, “We may differ in our agenda and priorities but an attempt is being made to find a common ground so as to evolve consensus on all issues to carry forward the peace process and political and economic agenda”, he said.
He said his party will not rush into government formation. “Our alliance will not be for the sake of alliance alone. We will not do what Omar Abdullah did in 2008. He (Omar) got a call from Delhi and immediately the alliance was announced without even formulating any programme for governance.”
“We will have to agree on basic issues and move forward for transforming Jammu and Kashmir into politically stable and economically developed state for which peace is the pre-requisite”, he said, adding that Common Minimum Programme will form the basics of governance in Jammu and Kashmir for which negotiations were on with BJP.
He said that decisive but fractured mandate has thrown up one of the biggest challenge for his party but “PDP will take up the challenge only if I feel that by entering into an alliance I will be in a position to connect people of all the regions and work for the welfare of entire state”.
“We have the necessary material and capacity in the form of our leaders and policy makers to take up the challenge and do what people have voted us for. Our administration is best in the entire country and we are confident that we will achieve the distinction to give a stable, accountable and representative government”.
Reiterating his stand that peace was the pre-requisite for economic stability in Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti said that Government of India will have to address Kashmir issue by holding meaningful dialogue on both internal and external fronts. “We have to address Kashmir issue and engage with people with differing opinions”, he said adding, “This issue  (Kashmir) cannot go away unless it is resolved. It cannot be resolved either by force or through economic packages. It has to be understood that this issue cannot go away even if you pave the streets with gold or use every bullet in the gun but it will be resolved only through negotiation and reconciliation”.
“We have time and again reiterated that neighbors can’t be changed and it is the time when we must engage Pakistan in negotiations to ensure peace in the sub-continent.”
“We do not want to dictate terms as it is under the ambit of Prime Minister’s power to decide on the foreign policy matters. However, it is also clear that hostility between India and Pakistan has a direct impact on Jammu and Kashmir and its people. We want that peace should prevail on the borders and within the state. We want to bridge the gap between the two neighboring countries for ensuring peace in the region”.
He said that PM Narendra Modi had made the right beginning by inviting PM of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif to India but unfortunately this positive initiative was stalled soon after by calling off the talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries.
Mufti described the present mandate as a historic opportunity for BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to play their role in settlement of Kashmir issue, pending since 1947. “The real essence of India lies in its diversity and not in `Gharwapsi’. We are part of secular India – the country which is democratic and secular. We must be treated as the part of nation and our grievances addressed at par with the citizens of other states in the country.”
He said that democracy being a battle of ideas has vast space for divergent views and opinions. “When I was Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir the then Union Home Minister asked me to put separatist leader Sayed Ali Shah Geelani behind bars for his repeated controversial statement. I refused and told him categorically that I will not do what my conscious does not allow me.”
Mufti said that PDP had shown the way even to its former ally Congress after the two parties entered into an alliance in 2002. “We have shown them (Congress) the way and brought the state out of mess and chaos, restored faith and dignity of people and ensured peace on borders. However, they (Congress) failed to carry it forward and instead resorted to what we call changing horses in mid stream”.
Mufti said that country’s leadership has to respond and respect the faith reposed by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in democratic process. The best way to do that, he said, is to remove the impression that Jammu and Kashmir is being governed by military law. This, he said, is a source of embarrassment for our country even at the national level and the continues use of special powers for security forces compromises the dignity and personal liberty of the common people who must have the same benefit and rights as enjoyed by any citizen in the country.
Calling for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in time bound manner, Mufti said that the requirement of such special powers to the forces no more exist in view of the drastic decline in militancy. When such laws give adverse impression why should we have them”, he said adding that PDP was clear on the issue that it does not want just an assurance for the sake of assurance on this subject but a proper plan to see that the law is repealed at the earliest.
He said that the Kashmiri youth were facing problems in pursuing their studies outside the state. “The youth have become a particular victim of trust deficit between the state and rest of the country”, he said adding that his aim was to restore the dignity of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir whose loyalty to the country is suspected and who are required to prove their patriotism in every matter including finding a job, getting a passport or finding a residence outside the state. “It is the blot on the fair name of our country that even after 70 years of independence Kashmiris have to prove their credentials and trust worthiness”, he said adding that PDP wants to relieve the people of this embarrassment.
The PDP patron further said that his party will insist for the returning of NHPC run power projects, especially Dul Hasti and Salal, to Jammu and Kashmir as per the recommendations of Rangarajan Committee. “The state of Jammu and Kashmir has suffered due to the Indus Water Treaty as the interest of state were not taken care of when such agreement was entered into”, he said adding that rivers being one of the biggest resources of state will have to be utilized for the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir and its people.
Mufti further sought strengthening of cross-LoC trade and travel in the coming days. LoC travel was envisioned to be a facility to everyone wanting to visit each other’s country and not to remain confined to the divided families. He said that travel across the LoC after 2005 has helped in removing many misconceptions about our state, its development and the right enjoyed by the people in the state among those who come from other side of the LoC.
Jammu and Kashmir, he said, has to be developed as a showcase of the country and we should not shy in allowing the people to come and feel the difference. “Similarly, the trade that was started on Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote route has to grow beyond its barter character and it need to be institutionalized by providing banking facilities so that people of all the regions of state benefit from free trade”. He said that PDP remains committed for opening of other routes as well.
The PDP patron further spoke at length about the party’s plan to put a curb on corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in the government sector.
He said PDP would also pursue with great resolve the rehabilitation of the flood-affected and creating job opportunities for the unemployed youth.
One of the objectives of the new government, he said, must be to meet the growing challenge of unemployment. “We have best skilled and educated youth who are second to none. We just need to channelize their energy and capabilities for which immediate measures need to be taken”, he said.