I have ended Sheikh familyís rule in Kashmir: Qazi Afzal
13 October 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: 'It did not sink in for two hours,' said a modest Qazi Mohammad Afzal on his victory over National Conference (NC) president and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah from the prestigious Ganderbal constituency in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections. 'I could not understand what I had done. I did not know what had happened. It was only after two hours when my supporters told me of my achievement that I became normal,' Mr Afzal told UNI here. 'Frankly speaking I still do not remember what I told newspersons who had gathered at my house in Laar (Ganderbal) for my reaction over the victory,' he said. 'But now I am a happy man. I am responsible for bringing an end to the 27-year-old dynastic rule,' a jubilant-looking Mr Afzal said. The 60-year-old politician had lost all the previous elections he contested and the win from his home constituency this time was what he calls 'a major victory for me since 1947 when Maharaja rule ended in Kashmir'. A close associate of Omar Abdullahís grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Maulana Masoodi, Mr Afzal joined the erstwhile Janata Party just before the 1977 elections when the NC participated in the polls after more than 22 years following the 1975 Sheikh-Indira accord. In the 1977 elections, Mr Afzal was defeated by Mian Bashir Ahmed of the NC from the Kangan constituency. In 1979, he joined the Congress under the leadership of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Mr Afzal failed to make it to the State Assembly yet again in 1983 and 1996 elections. NCís Sheikh Abdul Jabbar humbled him in the 1983 elections and Mr Farooq Abdullah defeated him in the 1996 polls from the Ganderbal segment. Mr Afzal joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999 when it was formed by Mr Sayeed after leaving the Congress. His association with Mr Sayeed has been for over 23 years. 'I have avenged my defeat. I would have enjoyed my victory more had it been Dr Abdullah instead of his son. But father or son revenge is a revenge,' he said. On his plans for Ganderbal now, Mr Afzal said the focus will be on the development of the constituency. 'The people in Ganderbal have unlimited problems. Though I do not carry an Aladdin s lamp in my hands I will continuously strive for finding solutions to their problems and redress their grievances,' he said. 'I want to serve my people and will do my best to heal their wounds. I will make all efforts to fulfill my promises and keep my words.' He attributed his victory in Ganderbal to the policies and programmes of the PDP. 'The people were disgruntled with the NCís policies and supported our programmes. The NC had ruined the lives of the people of the State,' Mr Afzal said. On disbanding Special Task Force and Special Operation Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and repealing POTA, he said the PDP was committed to fulfill all its promises. 'We stand by our words...There is no going back on that. We will work for good governance and stability.' On the Kashmir problem, Mr Afzal said the PDP will make all efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the issue. 'We favour talks between India, Pakistan and the representatives of the people of the State for finding an amicable and permanent solution to the Kashmir issue,' he added. He also favoured talks with separatists. 'Several people have accused us of toeing the Hurriyat line. We want an end to more than 13 years of bloodshed and if involving separatists in the talks will help in resolving the Kashmir problem, there is no harm in that.' When questioned about the reason for the inordinate delay in Government formation, Mr Afzal said the PDP will never compromise with its policies. 'We are ready to shake hands with those who accept our policies and programmes. We will never divert from our policies and are willing to sit in the opposition rather than part with our principles.' But he added that the Congress had not put any condition on Government formation. 'These are my personal views...There are no conditions from the Congress on Government formation,' he said. On the PDPís Chief Ministerial candidate, Mr Afzal said the party has many senior and capable leaders. 'I am not in the contention. I am a humble and a disciplined worker of the party and will follow the directions of the high command...I am ready to serve at any position,' he said.