PDP ministers continue boycott of cabinet meetings
9 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Jammu: The political crisis in the Jammu and Kashmir government deepened further with ministers of ruling coalition partner People's Democratic Party (PDP) continuing to boycott the cabinet meeting for the second time Friday over their demand for withdrawal of troops and revocation of special powers to the security forces.The four PDP ministers Abdul Aziz Zargar, Qazi Mohammad Afzal, Tariq Hameed Karra and Dilawar Mir did not participate in the cabinet meeting.Official sources said the government had to take some vital decisions in the cabinet meet, but could not do so due to the absence of the PDP ministers. The PDP has 18 MLAs in the state legislature.The PDP had also abstained from the previous cabinet meeting on Feb 28. The PDP and Congress have been at logger-heads over the former's demand for de-militarisation of the state.The PDP has been urging Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to write to the central government to withdraw troops from the state and abolish the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Disturbed Area Act in the state.Finance Minister Tariq Hameed Karra said that his party stands by its commitment that it would like the process of troops withdrawal to be initiated, but after it is discussed at the cabinet meeting. 'We believe it is the most appropriate forum for discussion on the issue,' he told newsmen.The PDP is asking for withdrawal of troops in a phased manner and scrapping of the AFSPA. Former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti have termed this as an 'article of faith' for their party.Meanwhile, welcoming the central government's move of pulling out 11,000 Border Security Force personnel from the six towns of Kashmir valley, the PDP Friday called for phased reduction of troops from internal security duty in the state.Mehbooba Mufti said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's and union Home Minister Shivraj Patil's assertions in parliament that there is a visible improvement in the state's security situation need to be complimented by sustained troop reduction, revocation of AFSPA and vacation of civil properties by the forces so that people feel the change. She said it is the most appropriate time to empower the civil society institutions in the state and bring about the much-needed turn- around in the situation. The process for withdrawal of forces initiated initially in six towns - Waripora, Qasbanagam, Sopore, Tral, Pulwama and Chrar-e-Sharief - must be extended to the other areas of the state, she said.