Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed courted fresh trouble on Monday after he pledged to a phased and gradual repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the state, according to reports. But Sayeed conceded that the Army will be consulted before repealing AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces in disturbed areas.
"Keeping in view the improving security scenario, the state government will examine the need for denotifying 'disturbed areas', which have been free from militancy-related incidents for quite some time," IBNLive quoted Sayeed as saying. "Any move to withdraw AFSPA will be a gradual one after taking everyone on board, including the Army," he said.
Sayeed was reading out sections from the Common Minimum Programme in the Legislative Council and stressed the importance of dialogue with all stakeholders, including the Hurriyat.
India and Pakistan were back to sparring over Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat leaders' confabulations with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit, with New Delhi making it clear that there was no role for a third party. Basit, who has held meetings with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and other separatist leaders and also invited them to the Pakistan National Day celebrations here, said that India was not against these interactions.
"I don't think Indian government is objecting. I would rather suggest my media friends not to make an issue out of a non-issue," Basit said on the sidelines of an event here to mark the Pakistan National Day. However, India hit out, saying "the Government of India prefers to speak for itself".
Sayeed also said that firing from across the border was a great challenge and he would leave no stone unturned to ensure peace at the border with Pakistan. He said there was no violation of ceasefire from across the borders in Jammu region from 2002 to 2010. "We have to solve the problem and ensure peace for the border residents.
"Our border farmer is a big sufferer because his crops get damaged and lives are in danger because of firing from across the border. "We will engage Pakistan for peace and I will ensure that peace returns to our border areas," Sayeed said during a debate on cross border firing on the international border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts of the Jammu region.
Bilateral ceasefire signed by India and Pakistan in 2003 held well till the last two to three years bringing in a modicum of normalcy into the lives of thousands of villagers living on the two sides of the international border and the LoC in Indian and Pakistan administers parts of divided Kashmir.
Since 2013, Pakistan troops have frequently been targeting Indian border guards and civilian populations on the international border which often forces hundreds of villagers to abandon homes and agricultural fields to seek shelter at safer places away from the live of Pakistani fire.
"During our rule, we impressed on Gen N C Vij, the then Army Chief, to ensure fencing on the borders and there was full fencing... They (Pakistan) were not allowing us to construct the fence," he said. "That was effective in checking infiltration. Now they (militants) have found out ways to cut into the fence. There is some technique wherein you can cut the fence (for infiltration)," he said.
Accused of being soft on separatists, Sayeed had yesterday condemned the two back-to-back terror attacks in the state, terming these as a "conspiracy" to derail the peace process and had asked Pakistan to rein in the terrorists. (With inputs from agencies)