Mehbooba for unconditional dialogue on Kashmir


New Delhi: Mehbooba Mufti, president of Jammu and Kashmir’s principal opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Wednesday that the central government should start an “unconditional dialogue on Kashmir” and the state government should free civilian protesters who had been arrested.

Support TwoCircles

She sought the immediately release of youths booked under the Public Safety Act and asked the government to “lift the siege” laid to the Kashmir Valley.

Speaking to reporters after participating in the all-party meeting on Kashmir chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, she said he should start an unconditional dialogue with the separatists in the Valley as was done by the Vajpayee government.

“There were three rounds of talks (with the Hurriyat Conference). The process stopped somewhere,” she said, adding that the dialogue should be unconditional from both sides.

Asked about the National Conference demand for withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of the state, she said it will be a cosmetic measure.

“Not cosmetic changes but revocation of the act matters. When the PDP raised the demand for revoking the AFSPA, there was vast improvement in the situation. Today, it has become a national issue,” she said.

The PDP leader said that revocation of the act should have been the “natural consequence” of the high turnout in the assembly polls. “We feel cosmetic changes to the act will not make a difference,” she said.

Asked about the performance of the Omar Abdullah-led state government, she said: “I don’t think you need an astrologer to say that the state government has failed.”

Answering a query, she said that the party had not demanded removal of Omar Abdullah at the all-party meeting. “It is a matter between the Congress and the National Conference who are running a coalition government,” Mehbooba said.

The PDP leader said that the government should reach out to the people in the Valley. “Somebody has to be accountable for 88 killings (of civilians in firing following clashes with police in the past three months),” she said.

“There should be a comprehensive package. It is late, but better late than never,” she said.

She said people had experienced good governance under the coalition governments of which the PDP was a part from 2002 to 2008.

“The people expected better and felt all confidence building measures will be taken forward. Nothing happened. In fact, the reverse happened and the situation in the state is back to the square one,” she said.

Referring to media reports, she said her party had received an invitation for the all-party meeting from union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal and not Congress president Sonia Gandhi.