Kashmir Solution A Time Consuming Process: CM
22 March 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The Legislative Assembly today unanimously passed a resolution welcoming decision of the Government of India to resume traffic on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road from April 7 with Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed declaring that a delegation of all recognised political parties will also travel to Muzaffarabad in the bus. Mr Sayeed said a solution to Kashmir is a 'time consuming process' and will be possible through 'evolutionary process.' He also reiterated his demands for holding talks with the separatists and said the Hurriyat delegation could board Muzaffarabad bus 'as a matter of right'. The House on the initiative of Mr Sayeed also incorporated an amendment of leader of Opposition Abdul Rahim Rather in the resolution seeking affective steps to re-open Suchetgarh-Sialkot, Poonch-Rawlakote, Mendhar-Mirpur, Nowshera-Kotli and Kargil-Askardu roads. However, CPM leader Mohd Yusuf Tarigami didn't press for voting after the Chief Minister announced that he (Mr Tarigami) had withdrawn his resolution demanding that Government of Pakistan should also be hailed for the decision to start the bus and conditions be created for wider interaction and expansion of trade and commerce between the people of two parts of Kashmir. While Mr Sayeed said Mr Tarigami has agreed to withdraw the resolution, the CPM leader, whose party extends outside support to the coalition Government, said he would neither press the resolution for voting nor withdraw it. 'You can draw your own conclusion from my statement', he said. However, Speaker Tara Chand treated the resolution as 'withdrawn' and accordingly secured approval of the House. Mr Rather's amendment was accepted by the House. Last week, 'PoK Assembly' had passed a resolution opposing travel of non-Kashmiris in Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus. Mr Sayeed moved the resolution after the Question Hour in the Assembly. The resolution placed on record its appreciation for the decision taken by the Government of India to resume traffic on Jhelum Valley road between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad from April 7 and expressed confidence that this step will lead to positive results and bring peace to the State as a permanent feature of its social, political, cultural and economic life. The resolution reads: 'this House also recognises trust and confidence that the Government of India has reposed in the people of J&K. The decision represents a consensus among different shades of opinion in the country and the people of J&K express their wholehearted support to such measures which address humanitarian and economic aspects of their life'. The resolution also appreciated the statesmanship displayed by the country's leadership under the guidance of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in rising above technicalities and procedural wrangles to focus on the need for an element of compassion and understanding in facilitating the travel on Jhelum Valley road. 'The House believes that the landmark decision contributes to strengthening the peace process between our country and Pakistan and leads to friendship, amity and mutual co-operation between people of the two nations', the resolution added. Replying to about one and a half hour long debate on the resolution, the Chief Minister proposed sending a delegation of all recognised political parties in the bus to Muzaffarabad. Saying that the separatists were also in favour of the bus, he asserted that the Hurriyat Conference leadership can board the bus and travel to Muzaffarabad 'as a matter of right'. 'Whosoever wants to travel on the bus including the Hurriyat Conference can go. There are no restrictions', he declared amidst repeated thumping of desks by the treasury benches. Regarding apprehensions of security concerns raised by BJP MLA Jugal Kishore, he said the Government will have full particulars of those travelling in the bus. Moreover, he noted, those who want to come for terror won't come with valid documents. Reiterating his call for 'national consensus' on all Kashmir issues, Mr Sayeed observed that an ultimate solution to the issue can't be found in just one meeting between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on April 17. 'It is a time consuming process but we can't sit idle till then', he asserted. He said a solution to Kashmir will be possible through 'evolutionary process' and added that talks should be held with the separatists. He recalled that the Prime Minister has also declared his commitment to hold talks with the militants if they leave the gun. 'How the Hurriyat Conference can spurn unconditional offer of talks when they have already held two rounds of dialogue with former Union Home Minister (L K Advani)'? he asked. 'While we call Kashmir as our soul, they (Pakistan) call it as their lifeline. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had rightly said that both countries shouldn't stick to their fixed position and show flexibility', he averred. Countering NC's autonomy demand with 'fiscal autonomy', Mr Sayeed said:'autonomy and funds crisis can't go together'. He asked:' what we will do to the autonomy, if we have 'kashkol' (a begging bowl) in one hand'? He also agreed with NC leader Ali Mohd Sagar that situation on terrorism front had started changing after 9-11 events which led to fall of World Trade Centre (WTC) in the United States. 'It's true that US also realised after 9-11 what the terrorism means. Gen Musharraf also followed the world perception. A situation was created against terrorism', he said pointing out that even the largest militant group Hamas, fighting in Palestine for 50 to 60 years, has also expressed its willingness to join democratic process in July this year. In Jammu and Kashmir also, there is a thaw in the situation. A voice has been raised for peace, he asserted and described the decision to start Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus as 'historic decision in last 57 years'. He added that Rs 140 crore would be incurred on upgradation of Srinagar-Uri road and create wayside facilities. Asserting that justice hasn't been done with J&K in Indus Water Treaty, he said the State Government has urged the Centre to return the profits earned by the NHPC from the State projects. Describing Jammu and Kashmir as 'miniature of India', the Chief Minister (without naming the NC) observed that when they talked of autonomy, they should think what they mean by it. Rejecting Pakistan's protests on the construction of Baglihar project, he declared that the project will be completed on schedule. 'If there is no electricity for the people, we have no right to stay in the Government', he declared. He said the State has a wealth of money and 'we will request the Centre to provide us funding and give all power projects to the State'. Concurring with Mr Rather that Jammu and Kashmir has a special position including a separate Constitution and separate flag, the Chief Minister, however, asserted that the NC never talked of autonomy or Muzaffarabad road between 1975 and 1987. They had only spoken about Rawalpindi road in 1977 election. Earlier, initiating debate on the resolution, Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma said it was the Congress led Government at the Centre which showed flexibility in running the bus despite obstacles created by Pakistan. Without naming any party, Mr Sharma regretted that some members in the House spoke as they represent a neutral country. 'We, the people of J&K, are part and parcel of India. There are only two parties to Kashmir-India and Pakistan. There is no third party. We should keep this in mind', he said, adding the confused statements by some leaders encourage the anti-national elements. His statement drew a flak from NC leader Sharief-ud-Din Shariq, who wanted to know as to whom the Deputy Chief Minister was referring to. Mr Sharma said Sheikh Mohd Abdullah had accepted all laws made applicable to the State till 1975. He said the opening of Suchetgarh-Sialkote road will also be first priority of the Government. 'A good beginning has been made with Muzaffarabad bus', he said, lauding the initiative taken by the Chief Minister. Leader of Opposition Abdul Rahim Rather regretted that the resolution was drafted hurriedly without taking the Opposition and even the coalition partners into confidence. 'That is why, I and Mr Tarigami have proposed amendments to the resolution', he pointed out. Mr Rather said the opening of other roads should also be part of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). 'I don't say open these roads tomorrow but they should be part of the CBMs', he asserted. Referring to Resettlement Bill, introduced by him in the Assembly in early eighties, he said he was dubbed as 'communal' by the same people who are today celebrating proposed launch of the bus. 'That was our stand that divided families will benefit with people to people contact'. Referring to Mangat Ram Sharma's remarks that some House members speak as they were part of a neutral country, Mr Rather observed: 'we must admit that Jammu and Kashmir is a special State'. 'Which other State has a separate Constitution. Which other State got terms of membership negotiated with Union of India and was given Article 370'? he asked and charged Mr Sharma with adopting 'double standards' saying the Congress also supported Article 370 but at the same time didn't want to name J&K as a special State'. Mohd Yusuf Tarigami (CPM) opined that the Assembly should praise both the Governments of India and Pakistan saying it would be injustice to praise one Government. His statement was, however, objected by the Deputy Chief Minister, who said 'let the Government of PoK hail the Pakistan Government. Why should we'? 'Should we come to this level'? Mr Tarigami asked and said the bus shouldn't be confined to divided families but should also be used for trade. Dr Mehboob Beg (NC) rejected statement of the Deputy Chief Minister that Sheikh Abdullah had accepted all laws made applicable to the State till 1975. In fact, he recalled, Sheikh Abdullah had formed a committee to review all those laws which were made applicable to the State by putting popular leadership in jails. Referring to Deputy CM's suggestion to 'some House members' not to behave like 'members of a neutral country', Dr Beg claimed that Mr Sharma had told the PDP members to be 'clear and categoric.' 'Those who used to criticise the NC on opening of road are now toeing our line. The NC had foresighted such a situation about 40 years back', he asserted. Calling for talks with separatists in Jammu and Kashmir on the pattern of Naga rebels, Dr Beg, in his hard hitting brief speech, cautioned that alienation will increase if the talks are not held. 'Blood has been spilled in every area of Kashmir during last 15 years. Those who have created revolt are still out of process. They have to be satisfied. Talks must be held with them', Dr Beg observed. Mian Altaf (NC) said the people of India and Pakistan want friendship. 'We were surprised when Mr Vajpayee spoke of friendship with Pakistan. Today, this has turned out to be reality', he said, hailing the initiative of Mr Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh and Mufti Sayeed. NC leader Ali Mohd Sagar supported the amendments of Mr Rather and Mr Tarigami to the resolution. He said it was the Mufti, who as a Home Minister of the country, told the then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah in 1989 that Jagmohan has to be posted as Governor of the State and powers of seizure given to the BSF. 'The Mufti had then spoken of 10 bullets for one bullet. Now, he says bullet is no answer to bullet', he said but added that he didn't want to score political points. Mr Sagar said it was after September 9, 2001 that the militancy scenario had changed worldwide. Everyone had to change his opinion. Even President Pervez Musharraf was forced to say that he won't allow his land to be used by the terrorists, he pointed out. Hailing the initiative of Muzaffarabad bus as a 'very important step' towards Kashmir situation, he said the Sher-i-Kashmir had visualised such a situation years back. Ashwani Sharma (Independent) said security concerns should be addressed before launching the bus. He added that security forces personnel and innocent people, who were killed in the State during last 15 years, should be remembered. He called for settlements of the issues of West Pakistan and PoK refugees. Peer Mohd Hussain (PDP) described the proposed launch of bus services as 'biggest CBM towards peace'.