Omar questions the need for "protection" to Army

Holding that the government has to have courage to take a decision on the issue of AFSPA, Omar Abdullah today questioned the need for "protection" to the army in areas where they have not operated for years.

Jammu: Holding that the government has to
have courage to take a decision on the issue of Armed Forces
Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister
Omar Abdullah on Wedesday questioned the need for "protection" to
the army in areas where they have not operated for years.

"Our endeavour is to remove AFSPA from those areas
where there is no need of army to work. I have never said that
we should remove AFSPA from Baramulla, Sopore and Kupwara
areas", Omar told a press conference here.

He was replying to questions on issues relating to
removal of AFSPA, army`s demand for legal protection and delay
in appointment of a judicial commission on alleged political
payoffs as the secretariat and other offices started working
from Jammu, the state`s winter capital.

"Where the army has not worked for years, what is the
problem in removing (AFSPA) from those areas? When did they
(army) work in Srinagar the last time. When did they last time
work in Budgam", Omar asked.

On the army`s demand for legal protection while operating
in insurgency-affected areas in J&K, the Chief Minister said,
"There are places where Army did not work for years. What is
the need for protection when they have not worked in those

"It is a straight question and (requires) a straight
answer (from the army). It will be taken into consideration",
he said, adding, "If we say we will wait for last gun to fall
silent, then the time will never come to remove these things
(AFSPA or Disturbed Areas Act).

"We have to have courage and take a decision. In
beginning, there would be difficulty but ultimate results
would be good", he said.


The Chief Minister said, "When we removed 40 security
bunkers in Srinagar city, there were the same (army) voices
which had said that it (the Valley) would be hub of
militants and there would be attacks.

"But the reality was totally different. I would like to
talk on this issue and take it forward," Omar said.

On whether it is the right time to remove the operation
of AFSPA from some areas, he said, "Is it the right time or
not Militant activities for past several years are
decreasing. If we wait for last gun to fall silent, that time
will never come".

Asked about objections raised by the Ministry of Defence
on the AFSPA issue and the way to bring them on board, he
said, "There would be an element of consultation which would
continue. There is a meeting of the Unified Headquarters later
this afternoon in which I and the Deputy Chief Minister (Tara
Chand) will take part.

"Subsequently on a future date, yet not decided-- but
not too far away, this matter would come up for discussion
at a Cabinet meeting as well", he said, adding, "I had a brief
discussion with Union Home Minister P Chindambaram over
telephone over the issue yesterday evening."

He said, "So far as I am concerned, necessary process is
going on. Beyond that I am not going to pre-judge what would
be the conclusion".

Omar said, "I did not make any announcement (on AFSPA) at
a public meeting. I made an announcement in this regard on the
intent at Police Commemoration Day at Zewan where the police
high command, heads of para-military forces and the army high
command were present".


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