Farooq backs ‘boss’ Omar on AFSPA

New Delhi : Union minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah Thursday said his son, Omar Abdullah as the chief minister is the “boss” of Jammu and Kashmir and his views on repealing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from parts of the state should be considered.

“If the chief minister feels conditions are better and things have improved (in terms of security in the state), we should take his views,” the senior Abdullah told reporters on the sidelines of a book release here.

“As chief minister, I am the boss. I get the inputs from all the agencies. Today, if the chief minister (Omar) feels that conditions are better and our relations with Pakistan are improving, then I feel that we should take his view,” said Abdullah, who has been the chief minister of the state thrice in the past.

He said he too felt that the time had come when the state was on the mend and from some of the areas, the AFSPA should be removed “because people feel that things are getting normal”.

He said he was the person who invoked the AFSPA and created the Unified Command Headquarters when Kashmir was in the grip of Pakistan-backed insurgency in 1990.

The idea, he said, was opposed “tooth and nail” by the then army chief Gen Shankar Roychowdhury.

“But that was then. When I recently went to Kashmir, the flight to Srinagar was full of visitors. The situation in the region is much better,” he said.

At the same time, he said that it was a sensitive issue and any decision regarding it would have to be taken carefully.

“We have to be very careful. Whatever steps have to be taken, they have to be taken with great care with all the things being understood carefully, then only one must take steps forward,” he added.

Referring to Omar Abdullah’s meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior ministers in his cabinet and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the union minister for renewable energy said: “I am sure good discussions have happened,” he said,

Abdullah didn’t name the Indian Army, which vehemently opposes the idea of revoking the act that gives sweeping powers to armed forces in fighting militants.

He said opposition to the proposal would always be there.

“There was opposition when we mooted the idea of lifting security pickets from Srinagar. Today, Kashmir is much more peaceful. Tourists are coming,” Abdullah told IANS later.

Despite opposition, he said, “The AFSPA will gradually have to go”.

Omar Abdullah has been persisting with the idea of partial lifting of the act.

He was recently in Delhi to meet the prime minister, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the army chief, General V.K. Singh.

The meetings with members of the Cabinet Committee on Security proved inconclusive. He was asked by the central government to take the army on board before taking any decision on the act.

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