Omar Rubbishes Chopper Claims22 September 2011
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: After hitting the headlines recently for his separation from his wife, J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has landed in yet another controversy. On September 20, going beyond state protocol, Abdullah had provided a state helicopter to Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary, former prime minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), for a personal visit to Pahalgam. Chaudhary, who was in power 1996 to 2001, had come to the state on Sunday to attend the wedding of his close friend Zahoor Ahmed Watali's son. During the four-day visit, he met various separatist and mainstream leaders and had what the state called a 'chance meeting' with the chief minister at Watali's uptown Sant Nagar home. In the microblogging site Twitter, Abdullah wrote: 'Former 'Azad Kashmir' premier accepted the hospitality of the elected CM of the J&K. I am glad he did.' Regarding the trip, he further wrote: 'And for the record, (R) 11 crore figure for the flight to Pahalgam and back is rubbish. I wonder it would cost that even in an A380.' 'In case you are interested, the cost of flying for an hour is Rs 55,000 and the flying time to Pahalgam and back to Srinagar is 45 minutes. Do the maths,' he added. Abdullah's political advisor Devendra Singh Rana said a TV channel has started an 'unnecessary controversy'. The former prime minister was a guest of the people of Kashmir and had come on an authorised visa, he said. 'The chief minister's offering him the state chopper was a goodwill gesture aimed at building better relations between the two parts of Kashmir,' he added. Although Chaudhury described his visit as a private one, he met the media and spoke in favour of complete demilitarisation of both parts of Kashmir, and to declare the whole area as a free trade zone.