NC supports honourable return of KPs
JAMMU, Sept 20: National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah today said the onus lies with Pakistan for creating a conducive atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir for the resumption of dialogue with India.
He expressed concern over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of a “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist leader in Canada in June and said “this runs the risk of damaging a very strong bilateral relationship” between the two countries.
The former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said it will not be possible for his party to unilaterally support the Women’s Reservation bill tabled by the BJP-led Government in Parliament, given the major flaws in it including the timeline for its implementation.
“We have always supported dialogue between India and Pakistan but a conducive atmosphere is needed for the resumption of the talks between them. It is not only the responsibility of India but the onus is on Pakistan to make that atmosphere conducive for dialogue,” Omar told reporters at his party headquarters here.
Referring to the killing of Army and police officers in recent encounters, he said the incidents in Rajouri, Kokernag and Srinagar cannot help in creating the conducive atmosphere needed for the dialogue.
Omar said he has not seen any step from the neighbouring country so far which would help in creating the conducive atmosphere necessary for the dialogue.
“I always remember the words of (former Prime Minister) A B Vajpayee that you can change your friends but not neighbours. That country (Pakistan) will remain our neighbour whatever we do. But for talks to start, there is a need to make the atmosphere conducive and that country needs to work towards it,” the NC leader said.
Asked about the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister, Omar, a former Union Minister of State for External Affairs, said if he has evidence let him present it before the international community.
“…He claims that it is based on an ongoing investigation. It would have been appropriate for him to wait for the investigation to complete because he has now pre-empted the findings of the investigation.
“If he has evidence to support his claim, then I would humbly suggest to him that he share this evidence with the international community otherwise the relation with Canada has always been very good and this (his statement) runs the risk of damaging a very strong bilateral relationship. That will be very unfortunate,” the former Chief Minister said.
On the Women’s Reservation bill tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, he said that given the draft of the bill it will take at least 10 years to get it implemented.
“The bill is talking about delimitation and census before its implementation. That means there is no hope before 2029 and every possibility it will go by 2034. What was the need for convening a special session (of Parliament) when we had to wait for at least 10 years to implement the bill. It could have been brought during the winter session,” he said.
Omar said they were hoping that the bill would be passed immediately and implemented forthwith.
“There are flaws in this bill and we would work to get those flaws corrected. I don’t see how it will be possible for us to unilaterally support a bill that we believe still has gaps in it,” he said.
On the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, he said the National Conference always supported their honourable return.
“Who is going to object to that (return and rehabilitation of migrant Pandits). I have always said that you won’t need to drag them back. They left from there (Kashmir) because of the feeling of insecurity. You restore that sense of security, they will return,” Omar said.
He said shifting them from one camp to another camp does not mean anything. “The situation needs to be made such that they return willingly and live wherever they want. We want to see that happen,” he added.
Omar asserted that the INDIA bloc should have an alliance on seats where the BJP “hopes to win”, a suggestion he made at the recent Delhi meeting of opposition parties that reportedly left the PDP miffed.
National Conference currently holds all three Lok Sabha seats of Kashmir valley, while BJP represents two seats of Jammu and one of Ladakh.
Although Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP, which along with the NC is part of the INDIA alliance from Kashmir, did not come out with any official statement on Omar’s suggestion, PDP sources said their leadership is not happy with the National Conference leader’s view.
The PDP believes that it was an attempt to sideline them and also undermine the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a grouping formed in 2019 for the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the sources said.
But Omar today said he will not backtrack from his suggestion.
“Should I not put forth my viewpoint? I have given the viewpoint of my party and it is my right. I have not forced my opinion on anyone. I have not walked out of or boycotted the meeting,” the former Chief Minister said.
He was responding to a question about reports suggesting PDP’s unhappiness over his remarks on the seat-sharing formula at the INDIA alliance coordination committee’s first meeting in Delhi last week.
“I have only said that when you are talking about seat sharing, there should be a formula…if our goal is to defeat the BJP, we should have an alliance on those seats where BJP hopes to win. I do not think the BJP is getting any seats from Kashmir. I have only put forth my viewpoint,” the NC vice president said.
He said to accept his suggestion or not is up to the alliance and “I am not backtracking from my suggestion.”
Omar refused to comment on the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s statement that he saw a scope for a third front.
“I will not like to speak for any third front, I will speak for the INDIA alliance… Owaisi can have his single-party alliance also,” he said.
Omar slammed the BJP-led central government for giving “contradictory statements” and “misleading information” on holding assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir and regarding the abrogation of Article 370.
The former Chief Minister said the recent seven-day long gunbattle in Kokernag woods in south Kashmir and spread of terror activities to peaceful areas, including Rajouri and Reasi, is evidence of the prevailing security situation in the Union Territory.
“We are living in strange times where one does not know whom to believe. One thing is said in the Supreme Court and another outside it,” Omar said, referring to Centre’s deposition before the five-member constitution bench during a hearing of the petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370.
“They (BJP) are speaking about holding of Urban Local Bodies and Panchayat elections (later this year) but I doubt their intentions. They do not want to face the angry people,” he said. However, Omar asked the party cadre to remain prepared.
He also questioned the logic behind replacing digital metres with smart metres triggering protests by consumers and was critical of administration’s job policy, growing unemployment and property tax.
“Some people protesting against smart metres were booked under Public Safety Act, even as peaceful protest is our democratic right,” he said, assuring the protesting daily wagers that if his government comes to power, they will be regularised.
Omar said the security situation is before everyone. “Seven day long encounter in Kokernag claimed the lives of our four officers and they are talking up the G20 (meets in the UT) and the visit of Miss World (to the Valley).”
Questioning BJP’s claim about development and good tourist turnout he said, “They have opened wine shops in every nook and corner and handed over their contracts to outsiders.
In a lighter vein, Abdullah objected to party colleagues addressing him as a “youthful leader” and said, “I have turned 53 years and a government employee at this age is just seven years away from getting pension.” (PTI)