London: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that he did not see the danger of “militants coming into Kashmir in a big way” after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, and that the argument of 2014 was being exaggerated so that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remains in vogue in the state.
Omar was answering questions in BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ programme with its well-known anchor Stephen Sackur.
On the AFSPA, the Chief Minister said that the Army required legal sanction for internal security duties but there was a difference between that and “a sort of carte blanche that is being offered by the AFSPA”.
Asked if he was suggesting that armed forces were exaggerating the threat, the Chief Minister responded with “in part, yes” before going on to say that the argument of 2014 had largely been used so that AFSPA can remain as it is.
Refusing to get into the issue of the number of Indian armed forces personnel in J&K, Omar said the 6 lakh or 7 lakh number “that gets thrown around more often than not from Pakistan, is incorrect”.
He disagreed with Amnesty International’s view that there had been “systematic” human rights violations in the state. He accepted that in the course of 25 years of insurgency there had been incidents of human rights violations “but these were not systematic”.
Asked about his “promise” of setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Omar said he had never committed to that but had floated the idea when he was in the opposition. In his view setting up of such a commission had to come from governments of India and Pakistan as a confidence building measure for the people of the state.
“The answers that are required are required from both sides of the LoC. The problem is that we often want to hold the Indian side responsible for what has happened. We don’t want to ask questions to the other side of the LoC. I am all for a TRC,” he said.
Asked if the state was “like one of the most dangerous places in the world”, Omar replied, “no, certainly not. Not from an internal perspective, not from an external perspective”.
He said he did not see the danger of “militants coming into Kashmir in a big way” after the US completely withdraws from Afghanistan this year.
When the interviewer referred to al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahri’s call for a new jihad in Kashmir, Omar told him, “I don’t see that happening from all the intelligence that is available to me” but there was need to be more cautious.
“As a result of militancy, we have Bosnians, we had Chechens, we had people from the US, we had people from Sudan, we had people from the UK. So it is not as if this sort of image that you are trying to project that Kashmiris are out to get me and I have to be protected from my own people is not true. There are handful of people, yes, but not the majority,” Omar said.
To a question about proof of Pakistani support for militancy in the state, he said that there were militant training camps, launch pads near the LoC and actual footage showing militants being facilitated across the border.
Asked about a possible deal on J&K talked about during the regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, Omar said that a great opportunity had been lost with the General.
But if the current Nawaz Sharif government accepted Musharraf’s four point programme “we would be much closer to a solution”. Sharif was talking about trade and bilateral relations but “not one word about Kashmir that is any different from their previous stated position”. He said he had seen no evidence of “Pakistan’s good faith” in negotiating a permanent settlement.
The interviewer reminded Omar about his remark over the death of a youth by Army in Baramulla earlier last year when he had asked, “Is this why we are holding the flag of this country so that again and again I have to answer for every bullet?”.
“Yes, but that does not mean that I am advocating a solution outside the Constitution. What I was asking for was accountability from the security forces.”—PTI