Despite Militant Attacks, AFSPA Debate Continues

Despite Militant Attacks, AFSPA Debate Continues

28 May 2013
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Majid Jahangir

Srinagar: Last week when Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was in south Kashmir, he once again advocated the partial revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain parts of state. “We are trying to take the Army on board and sorting out whatever reluctance they have regarding the revocation of AFSPA. Hopefully, we will be able to break the ice on the issue,” Omar had said in Shopian, 50 km from Srinagar. Only a day after Omar’s assertions on AFSPA, Srinagar’s old city witnessed a gunfight after a long time in recent years in which Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Hilal Moulvi was killed on May 23. The Omar government wants AFSPA to go from Srinagar and Budgam districts in the first phase. And while security forces were claiming to have a achieved major success against the LeT after the killing of Moulvi, militants ambushed an Army patrol in south Kashmir’s Tral area, 35 kilometers from Srinagar and killed four soldiers on May 24. A local militant of Hizbul Mujahideen was also killed. Additional general secretary of the ruling National Conference Mustafa Kamal said the revocation of AFSPA was not related to incidents that take place every now and then. “It (AFSPA) is related to the situation that was there in 1990, which no longer exists. It is high time that AFSPA went as our police is capable of handling any situation,” Kamal told The Tribune. “There are surely efforts on part of the people to sabotage the partial revocation,” he added. While mainstream parties in the state have been demanding the revocation of AFSPA, in the past there have been incidents of violence whenever the ante for the revocation of AFSPA has been raised. As per the J&K Government plans, it wants a phased rollback of AFSPA from districts of Srinagar and Budgam on a test basis due to the vast improvement in the situation. The Army has not been involved in any counter-insurgency operation in the two districts. The Army, however, says it is not the right time to revoke AFSPA ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. “There will be a looming threat after the US withdrawal, so the Army has to be on alert. The soldiers who are fighting in J&K on ground zero need protection under AFSPA,” said an Army officer who wished anonymity. In 2011, the Army had stated that if AFSPA was withdrawn “J&K may secede from India soon after the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan”.