Removing AFSPA no reflection on Army: Omar


The proposal to remove the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from some parts of the state was neither a reflection of the role of the Army nor an effort to undermine it, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has said.

In an effort to translate his October 21 statement of revoking AFSPA from certain areas of the state within days into reality, Abdullah in a statement on Wednesday said it "no reflection on the role of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir". He added that it was also "in no way an effort to undermine the role of the army which essentially is playing a major role in the anti-militancy operations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir”.

AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces, was invoked in the Valley in 1990 and Jammu region in 2001. Abdullah has started preparing ground for the revocation of the AFSPA from at least four districts — Srinagar, Budgam in central Kashmir and Jammu and Samba in the plains of Jammu region — before the crucial cabinet meeting in Srinagar on Friday, the last before the government offices close and shift to the winter capital Jammu. He appears to have extended a hand of friendship to the army, which was angry over the statement of National Conference spokesperson Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, insinuating that the grenade attacks in the Valley on Tuesday could have been triggered by the Army.

The chief minister not only distanced the state government from the statement of the NC leader, who also is his uncle, but also praised the Army for the role it had played in fighting insurgency. Sources in the government told IANS that Abdullah might also be speaking to Army commanders in the state on Thursday, especially the corp commanders based in Srinagar and Jammu to sort out the matters and work out the details on the removal of AFSPA. He is also seeking to open fresh communication channels with his party colleagues on the issue. “We have been sounded out; the chief minister’s move would bring political dividends to the party and hence we have been asked to support it in the interests of the party,” a minister told IANS.

The perception is that since the removal of AFSPA has widespread support among people in the Valley, as articulated by many political groups, particularly the main opposition People's Democratic Party, the ruling NC can extract political mileage.

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