Amendments in AFSPA under consideration: PC

Amendments in AFSPA under consideration: PC

29 June 2012
The Daily Excelsior


New Delhi: Home Minister P Chidambaram today said his position on controversial AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir has not changed and the Centre is considering three amendments proposed by his ministry to the Act. The Home Ministry has proposed three amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is considering them, Chidambaram said. 'There is no change in the position. MHA’s position is that the Act must be amended and we have proposed three amendments to the Act which is under consideration of the CCS,' he said. There is a growing clamour for the Act, which gives special powers to Army, to be amended or withdrawn and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is leading the campaign for its revocation. 'Position of several people is that the Act must be repealed,' the Home Minister said. Chidambaram also said that the State Government wants some areas in the State, which are designated as disturbed areas under the Act, to be withdrawn from the purview of the Act before the amendments take place. 'The position of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir is that pending the amendment of the Act in respect of some areas a notification declaring those areas as disturbed areas should be withdrawn. So these are well known positions. So we have to see how to go forward,' he said. Omar has been strongly advocating that the process of revoking AFSPA be started by lifting it from peaceful areas where the Army has no operations. The Chief Minister has proposed districts like Jammu, Samba and Kathua in the Jammu region and Srinagar and Badgam in the Kashmir valley, where from the start can be made. Army is against any move to change the status quo on the Act. Chidambaram expressed sadness over destruction of the 200-year-old Dastageer Sahib shrine in Kashmir and offered Centre's assistance in re-building it. The shrine named after 11th century preacher Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, popularly called as Dastageer Sahib, at Khanyar in downtown Srinagar was completely destroyed in the fire on June 25. 'We are deeply sorry that such a revered shrine should have been virtually destroyed in fire,' Chidambaram told reporters here. He assured the State Government of full support in rebuilding the shrine. 'Both Chief Minister (Omar Abdullah) and Farooq Abdullah (Union Minister) have told me that it is their intention to rebuild the shrine and I have told them that Government of India will fully support their effort to rebuild the shrine. 'And I think already INTACH (Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage) has been asked to give a design... help them in rebuilding the shrine,' he said. Chidambaram said that the central agencies working in the State are cooperating with the State authorities in ascertaining the cause of the fire. 'I think the intelligence agencies present in Srinagar are working with the State Government. The cause of the fire is to be established,' he said. Declining to comment further, he said, 'It is only investigation that will reveal the cause of fire.' India believes that LeT founder Hafiz Saeed was with 26-11 key handler Abu Jundal in the control room set up in Pakistan with some kind of 'state support', Home Minister P Chidambaram said today. 'Such a control room could not have been set up without some kind of State support,' he said at a press conference here. Jundal, 30, arrested here on June 21 on his arrival from Saudi Arabia, had found a 'very safe haven' in Pakistan, he said. Jundal is being interrogated by Delhi Police and security agencies to ascertain all aspects of the conspiracy behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead including some foreigners. About the presence of others in the control room and whether Saeed was also there, Chidambaram said 'Yes, others were present and we think one of them was Hafiz Saeed.' He termed Jundal's arrest as an 'important development' as far as the investigations in the 26-11 Mumbai terror case were concerned. 'In fact many of the missing pieces of the 26-11 conspiracy are now known to us through interrogation of Abu Jundal. He was a key operative; he was assigned the key responsibility of putting the 10 terrorists to intensive training and the customs followed by Mumbaikars. 'He was the key person who briefed the 10 persons including (Ajmal) Kasab and he had an important role in the control room,' he said. Taking a potshot at Pakistan's Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik that Jundal was an Indian, he said, 'I agree with Rehman Malik that Abu Jundal is an Indian and perhaps he was radicalised in India. I admit that. 'Equally, Pakistan should admit that Abu Jundal did go to Pakistan, that Abu Jundal was part of the group which trained and prepared Kasab and nine others and that Abu Jundal was in the control room and one of the masterminds and handlers of the attack. 'Just as we admit the facts Pakistan too should admit the facts,' he said. Asked to share some information about Jundal's interrogation, Chidambaram said the security agencies had come to know that training was given at one place while the control room was established at another place and infrastructure was provided. 'All this indicated that these activities could not have been carried out without some kind of State support. That is a logical inference we have to make. It is only when investigation is complete, his interrogation is completed we will come to know who gave what support. At the moment he is being interrogated,' he said. The Home Minister dismissed reports of rift within security agencies and police forces of various States and said Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal was a suspect or an accused in several cases. These included the Ahmedabad Railway Station blast of February 19, 2006, the Aurangabad arms haul of May 2006 and the German bakery blast case. 'No one is fighting anyone. At the moment the custody of Jundal has been given to Delhi Police and investigation agencies and intelligence agencies have joined Delhi Police in interrogation. 'I have told the Chief Minister of Maharashtra in due course with the permission of court he will be made available to the ATS Mumbai and to the Maharashtra Police in the Mumbai and Aurangabad cases,' he said. Chidambaram said Jundal would be in due course made available to Gujarat Police in the Ahmedabad Railway Station blast case. Asked about reports that Jundal was planning a strike at Mohali during a cricket match between India and Pakistan, he said the match was fully secured. 'There was no threat, I repeat there was no threat either to the Prime Minister of India or to the visiting Pakistani dignitary,' he said. Home Secretary R K Singh said Pakistan should admit that they have given to Jundal passport, two identity cards and that they claimed that he was a Pakistani. Asked about the initial confusion that he was Abu Hamza, Chidambaram said 'Abu Hamza, Abu Jundal, these are pseudonyms. In fact, there are many people who use the same pseudonym in different times. Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley had worked with an American Government agency before defecting to Pakistan to turn a terrorist and India will discuss the issue of his extradition with the US, Chidambaram said . He said India had got access to the 50-year-old Pakistani American during which sleuths of Indian security agencies had met him in the US, besides getting other reports on Headley. 'I think the further question is whether we will get further access to Headley, whether he would be extradited to India...These are matters to be discussed with US authorities,' he added. Headley, who had recced the Mumbai terror attack targets on behalf of LeT, is currently in the custody of the US authorities and awaiting sentence after his conviction in a 26-11 case registered in America. Chidambaram said Headley was working with the US Drug Enforcement Agency and he had subsequently defected to Pakistan and turned an LeT operative. The Home Minister said whenever there would be an opportunity, India would take up with the US Government the issue of Headley’s extradition. 'As you know, Headley has been convicted by a US court pending sentencing. Only after that exercise is completed, can we say whether Headley will be extradited to India. I am pretty confident that Headley will be given a long sentence in the US,' he said. Taking a serious note in delay in submission of mandatory annual immovable property returns (IPRs) by 550 Indian Police Service officers, Chidambaram advised them to submit the documents immediately. 'The IPS cadre has a strength of 3,325 officers. Of these, property returns for the year 2011 of 550 officers have not yet been received by Ministry of Home Affairs, although the due date of January 31, 2012 is long over,' Chidambaram said. He said the State Governments concerned had been requested to secure the property returns of these officers. 'In some cases, the officer concerned has informed the MHA that he or she had already submitted his or her return to the state Government and it is the state Government which had apparently failed to forward the returns to the Central Government. 'Hence, the MHA is advising the officers through an announcement on the website that if they had already submitted their returns to the State Government, and yet their names appear in the defaulting officers’ list, the officer concerned should submit a copy directly to the Central Government,' the Home Minister said, adding that all IPS officers who have not submitted their property returns 'should do so immediately'. According to All India Service Rules, every member of the IPS shall submit his or her return of the property by January 31 every year in respect of the previous year. Several senior officers, including in CBI, have failed to submit their IPRs for 2011. According to MHA’s website, Uttar Pradesh tops the list of defaulting IPS officers with 81 of a sanctioned strength of 317 having not submitted their IPRs while Odisha has an outstanding of only eight IPS officers out of 107, who have failed to provide the information. Among other States, there are 76 defaulters from Karnataka, 33 (Jharkhand), 29 (Andhra Pradesh), 26 (Jammu and Kashmir), 23 each from Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh, 20 (Himachal Pradesh), 18 (Gujarat) and 17 (Tamil Nadu). The MHA has already informed the officials that they would be denied vigilance clearance for future postings in case they fail to submit their IPRs on time. It has also directed the officials to ensure that phrases such as 'same as previous years', 'no change' or 'no addition' should not be used in filing these returns and, instead, full particulars of immovable property (inherited, owned, acquired or held) should be furnished.