‘AFSPA can be easily revoked, political will needed’

Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: As debate continues over the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA), legal experts say the state government can simply revoke it by making recommendation to Governor that the law was not required in J&K.
The experts say removal of Disturbed Areas Act (DAA), a pre-requisite before notifying an area under AFSPA, too had made the ground feasible for the government to revoke the AFSPA.
“Revocation of AFSPA is now a matter of political decision,” senior High Court lawyer, Zaffar Shah told Kashmir Reader. “The local government can revoke it by making suitable recommendations to the Governor that they don’t need the Act in the state.”
Shah said the recommendation would carry the assessment report of the ground situation where the continuation of law is not needed besides taking on board various stakeholders.
“Earlier the decision to impose AFSPA was taken in challenging circumstances,” said Shah, adding, “But now situation has improved and its continuation is now being based upon events.”
“Just take the case of Kathua which recently witnessed an armed attack. The opposition and stakeholders (armed forces) are making it a base for the continuation of AFSPA in the state,” Shah said.
He said there was no justification for the law to continue as the government itself admits that militant attacks have come down sharply.
Police had earlier stated that there were around 100 militants active in the state while around 100 militants were killed in 2014.
AFSPA empowers troops including Army, BSF, CRPF and other federal forces “to kill anybody if they deem so. The lack of accountability should end. It would end only when AFSPA is withdrawn,” said Shah.
Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed told the Assembly this week that he would proceed with phased removal of the AFSPA after consulting the army. The army has, however, in the past resisted any move of the local government on AFSPA revocation.
“It is a paradox that the Chief Minister is pressing on the need to take army along to revoke AFSPA,” said Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a law professor. “He is the head of the Unified Headquarters. He does not need the permission of the army to go ahead.” The Unified Headquarters is an apex grid consisting of top brass of police, army, paramilitary forces, and intelligence agencies.
Besides, a pre-requisite before enforcing AFSPA in a given territory, that is DAA, has already been revoked by the government in 1998.
“The removal of DAA shows the situation is deemed to be normal by the state,” Hussain said. “Now as the area has been de-notified as disturbed area, the state government can simply shot a letter to Governor, asking him to remove the central legislation of AFSPA. It is a simple process.”