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AFSPA revocation: I don’t set deadlines
Syed Salahuddin changing his tune: Omar | 73rd amendment row: Hints at amendment in J&K constitution | `No personal protection to all Panches, Sarpanches’
JAMMU, Nov 5: Bitten more than once on the issue of setting deadlines for Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), the cautious Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today refrained from the act, stating, “I do not set deadlines” and guardedly remarked that the “work was in progress.”

The Chief Minister, who was talking to media at the reopening of civil secretariat and other Durbar move offices in the winter capital this morning, however, had a palpable balancing act on the issue of flip-flop act of the coalition government on the thorny issue of incorporation of 73rd Constitutional amendment into J&K Panchayati Raj Act.

Omar hinted at amendment in J&K Constitution to incorporate “good provisions of 73rd constitutional amendment”, a demand vociferously raked up by the coalition partner, yet in the same breath, he asserted, “73rd amendment would not be brought into J&K.”

On the question of protection to Panches and Sarpanches, the Chief Minister, however, stuck to his guns stating that personal protection would not be provided to all Panches and Sarpanches and it would be available only on the basis of threat perception.

Regarding recent HM threat to Panches, Sarpanches, Omar wondered as why Syed Salahudin changed his tune and suddenly joined the “bandwagaon of issuing threats” contrary to his earlier stand about Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

However the Chief Minister said that from time to time, the state government was doing necessary threat assessments and all necessary steps would be taken.

On the issue of threat about Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray’s threat to hold protests at the venues of Indo-Pak cricket matches, Omar’s take was, sports should not be linked to politics.


FLIP-FLOP ACT OF COALITION GOVERNMENT ON INCORPORATION OF 73rd CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IN J&K PANCHAYATI RAJ ACT: In response to a query pertaining to flip-flop act of the coalition government on the issue of incorporation of 73rd Constitutional amendment into J&K Panchayati Raj Act as initially the government projected Article 370 as hindrance in the way and later it agreed to incorporate its provisions, he denied there was any flip-flop on the issue of 73rd Constitutional amendment.

“There’s no flip-flop. The coalition government has been very clear that 73rd amendment will not be brought into J&K. (Yet another point on) what we’ve been very clear also is that we’ve the unique distinction of having our own constitution in the state. Why should we incorporate central constitutional changes when we can make our own constitutional changes here and amend our own Panchayati Raj Act,” he said.

NO PRESSURE TO BRING IN 73rd CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, NO DISCORD BETWEEN PARTNERS : Regarding the question as whether his government agreed to incorporate provisions of 73rd Constitutional amendment under pressure from the coalition partner, his response was, “Even before the Panchayat elections were held I’m on record as having written to the president of the J&K Pradesh Congress Committee with copies to the high command in Delhi telling them that we’ve every intention of reviewing our own Panchayati Raj Act to incorporate those provisions of 73rd amendment that would be beneficial to our Panchayati Raj Institutions. But at no point, has there been any pressure to bring in the 73rd amendment nor has it been a matter of any sort of discord. What we’ve done and I think that is something that the coalition is entitled to do. Any state government here is entitled to do, it has to amend its own laws and its own Constitution and that’s what we intend to do.”

LATEST DEADLINE FOR AFSPA REVOCATION: Response to a pointed query on this account, his response was, “I don’t set deadlines. It’s an ongoing discussion on which some forward movement is being made. Beyond that it won’t be appropriate to share any details. I had a very fruitful discussion on this subject during the recent visit of the Union Home Minister and as I’ve said – it’s work in progress.”

NO PERSONAL PROTECTION FOR ALL PANCHES, SARPANCHES: Omar stuck to his guns vis-à-vis demand of personal protection for all Panches and Sarpanches, as he ruled out security for all Panchs and Sarpanchs.

“We’ve never said that every Panch and Sarpanch will be given personal protection. We’ve stated that we’ll take all desired steps wherever necessary after threat assessment,” he said.

The Chief Minister remarked that in the present scenario to provide personal protection to all Panches, Sarpanches was not just impossible rather it was not necessary.

“Majority portion of Jammu province is free from militancy so there’s no question of threat to Panches, Sarpanches. In Jammu province, only in three districts, there would be 30-40 militants. Given this scenario, there’s no question of providing personal protection to every Panch and Sarpanch. In Kashmir Valley, where some areas are still militancy affected, there the Central and state intelligence agencies make on the spot assessment of the threat perception and on that basis, action is taken accordingly. But no public announcement is made on this account,” he said.

ATTACKS ON PANCHES, SARPANCHES & SYED SALAH-UD-DIN’S THREAT: The Chief Minister’s statement in an interview to a foreign journal that attacks on Panches and Sarpanches in J&K apparently did not appear to be an act of terrorism prompted Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salah-ud-Din to react that attacks would continue. In the light of recent reaction of HM supremo, did the Chief Minister still believe that attacks on Panches and Sarpanches were not an act of terrorism?

Faced with this query, Omar’s take was, “(Regarding) the previous attacks, nothing has changed, what I’ve said. In terms of what Syed Salah-ud-Din has said regarding Panchayati Raj Institutions, unfortunately his own tune is changing. If I remember correctly after the first few phases of elections, he was the one who said -‘there will be no threat made to Panches and Sarpanches and that these elections can go ahead without any sort of threat.’ I do not know now why he has suddenly jumped on this bandwagon of issuing threats. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve geared up to deal with any eventuality.”

He said from time to time, the state government was doing necessary threat assessments.

“And wherever any steps need to be taken, they’ll be taken,” he added.

WHAT WAS GOVT DOING TO INSTILL SENSE OF SECURITY IN THE WAKE OF THIS THREAT?: “Obviously you don’t expect me to announce what we’re doing in a public forum like this except to say that whether it is the uniformed forces or intelligence agencies, we’re seized of the matter and we’re doing whatever is possible under the circumstances to ensure that Panches and Sarpanches get the best possible environment where in they can carry out their duties and responsibilities.”

In a related query about security arrangements for village heads in particular reference to his statement daring militants to target him following the killing of a Naib Sarpanch in Baramulla in September, Omar said the context of his statement was that he knew they were resorting to selective killings.

“They selectively target those persons who can not take on their might and are soft targets. This is too apparent,” he said.

AFSPA NOT LINKED TO PROTECTION OF PANCHES, SARPANCHES: Will the protection of Panches, Sarpanches fail his mission of “AFSPA revocation” to reduce footprints of army as then more security personnel are required?

Omar’s take on this account was, “There’s no link between AFSPA and (personal) protection. We’ve never used army to protect anyone till date. Army has been used for anti-insurgency operations and that will continue.”

BAL THACKERAY’S THREAT TO PROTEST AGAINST INDO-PAK CRICKET SERIES: Posed with a query about Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray’s threat to hold protests at the venues of Indo-Pak cricket matches to register party’s disapproval to the decision of union government as 26/11 cases were still unresolved, Omar stated that the threat won’t affect the State as no match between India and Pak would be played in J&K.

“However this may affect the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan and on that account, we firmly hold this view that the sports should not be linked to politics. We would like them to come here and play matches in a congenial ambience. True sportsmanship spirit should decide the winner, whosoever it is. This is political compulsion of Bal Thackeray and his party that they rake up such issues though the fact remains the same this is not for the first time after November 26 (2008) that the two nations are playing cricket. The venue may be different yet they’ve played. If Indo-Pak cricket matches really bothered them (Shiv Sena), they should have objected to them (matches) that time also,” Omar stated.

He said he believed that wherever these matches would be played, adequate security arrangements would be in place and they would evoke an overwhelming response among cricket lovers.

WHOSE BABY IS BALIDAN STAMBH, LYING IN UTTER NEGLECT? : Why is ‘Balidan Stambh’, war memorial in Jammu, which was handed over by the then Army Chief to the state government in 2009, lying in a state of utter neglect? Why was state government not sharing burden of its maintenance with the army? Why did tourism department of J&K fail to promote it as a tourist destination?

Faced with a volley of questions on this account, the Chief Minister said that there was some thinking within the government that given this was a war memorial constructed by the army it should be looked after by the army.

“That having been said within the constraints of resources that we’ve, we’re doing whatever is necessary both to maintain as well as to promote it,” Omar said.

Earlier the Chief Minister said after six months, the secretariat offices started functioning in Jammu on Monday. “We’re grateful to the people of Jammu for warm welcome accorded to us and for their everlasting cooperation. It will be our persistent endeavour to well utilize this period of six months and redress the grievances of people on account of whimsical weather or any other reason. While it will be a great responsibility to maintain tempo of development works, at the same time, all out efforts will be made to sustain existing conducive, peaceful atmosphere and communal amity in J&K. He also sought support of media also in these endeavours.

After few months, during budget session, the performance of coalition government in the current fiscal would be brought to the fore for critical appraisal by the people besides revealing our plans for the next fiscal for public approval. “All efforts will be made to fulfill our commitments made during assembly elections in 2008 and later after forming coalition,” he said.

“Since some people won’t want the existing phase of peace and stability in the State to continue as such some elements in Jammu as well as Kashmir continue with their nefarious designs to vitiate atmosphere by whatever means. For achieving that purpose they don’t mind using, at times, the card of religion or caste or for that matter even bringing in regional politics and thus their only objective is to pitch Jammu against Kashmir, Kashmir against Ladakh and Ladakh (Leh) against Kargil. Their nasty efforts will continue. So far we’ve been able to fail these reprehensible acts with the persistent and full support of people. I as well as my all ministerial colleagues hope to receive similar unflinching support of masses so that we can devote our full time to serve them and can dedicate ourselves for their development,” Omar said.
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News Updated at : Tuesday, November 6, 2012
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