Farooq hopes Indo-Pak. talks would begin
5 January 2001
New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, today expressed the hope that the next step to the peace initiative by India and Pakistan would be talks between them. But before that Islamabad must control fundamentalist elements, he told presspersons at the Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia. Asked about a time-frame to start dialogue, Dr. Abdullah said 'this process cannot be time-specific and moreover I am not the right person to be asked this question'. killing of civilians had increased after the ceasefire announcement. The Centre was assessing the situation every week but the State Government had also taken 'preventive measures' against such killings. Pakistan's military ruler must take effective measures to control fundamentalist elements there before claiming that Islamabad was ready for holding talks with New Delhi. On extension of the ceasefire, he said 'had we not extended it, people would have said that we did not give Pakistan enough chance to react.' Asked about criticism of his move to hold local body elections when crucial steps were being taken for resolving the Kashmir issue, Dr. Abdullah said 'for me it was always a double edged sword....If I had not announced them, then also I would have had to face the sweet words of my adversaries.' Asked whether all Hurriyat leaders should be given passports to travel to Pakistan, he said 'I am not going to open my mouth and put everything in jeopardy.' Acrimonious exchange There was an acrimonious exchange between Dr. Abdullah and the People's Democratic Party leader, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, over the release of militants in exchange for Ms. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Ms. Mehbooba, who was also one of the invitees to the press conference, alleged that Dr. Abdullah's administration had indulged in gross violation of human rights, misgovernance and never cared for the people. She was supported by the Kashmir Samiti president, Mr. Chamal Lal Gadoo, and the chairman of the All-India Kashmiri Samaj, Mr. J.N. Kaul. However, the entire scene turned in Dr. Abdullah's favour when a reporter asked Ms. Mehbooba whether she termed as a right step the release of militants in exchange for her sister. 'No, I do not support the move but what harm did it do when the State had already released 170 militants,' she asked. This angered Dr. Abdullah, who said 'I prefer to go on record that I never released the 170 militants but it was the then Union Home Secretary and Intelligence Bureau who initiated this move.' About the release of five militants in exchange for Ms. Rubaiya, he said 'two Union Ministers, including the former Prime Minister, Mr. I.K. Gujral and Mr. Arif Mohammed Khan, had come to Srinagar and threatened to sack my Government if I did not release the militants.' 'I was prepared to quit but that would have sent a wrong signal to the world outside.' On the charge of misgovernance, Dr. Abdullah said, 'when I had taken over in 1996, the bank overdraft during the President's rule was Rs. 700 crores, including an additional burden of Rs. 700 crores due to implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission.' 'The situation as on day is that the overdraft is only Rs. 100 crores. Besides, the collection of power tariff has increased to Rs. 300 crores from Rs. 48 crores. The tax revenue has increased from Rs. 150 crores to Rs. 700 crores,' he said. 'If this is what is called misgovernance, then I am happy with it.'