Jammu: Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday told the Army that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has to be partially withdrawn from the state.
In a nearly three-hour-long meeting between the Army and J&K Chief Minister, held at Unified Command Headquarters, the Army gave a presentation highlighting the importance of AFSPA in fighting militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources privy to the meeting said, during the meeting the Army made it clear that any partial withdrawal of the act will be detrimental to the security apparatus.
“The Unified Command Headquarters meeting was chaired by the Chief Minister during which the overall security scenario in the state was reviewed,” a spokesman of Jammu and Kashmir government came out with a brief release saying.
"The meeting which was also attended by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand discussed in detail the partial removal of AFSPA from different parts of the state and the various constituents of the UHQ gave their view point on the issue," it said.
Ahead of the crucial meeting Abdullah told reporters, “There is a need to remove the AFSPA from some areas of Jammu & Kashmir". The peace dividends of the summer of 2011 in Kashmir must flow to the people, he said.
The Chief Minister has asked the Corps Commanders of Jammu and Srinagar Corps as well as Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda and Home Secretary BR Sharma to hold meetings on the issue of withdrawal of Disturbed Areas Act at the earliest and hand over their report to the state government.
Abdullah had constituted two core groups comprising Khoda, Home Secretary Sharma Corps Commanders of 15 Corps and 16 Corps separately to review the Disturbed Areas Act.
The move is seen as a as a prelude to withdrawal of AFSPA from four districts -- two each in Jammu and Kashmir Valley.
The J&K Chief Minister and Union Home Ministry are in support of revocation of the AFSPA from some parts of the state, which has been in force for more than 21 years in the state. AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces, was invoked in the Valley in 1990 and Jammu region in 2001.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had said in his recent monthly press conference that if the Disturbed Areas Act was withdrawn by the state government, AFSPA will be revoked automatically from those areas. This was followed by an announcement by Abdullah at a police function hinting at partial withdrawal of AFSPA from a few areas.
However, the idea is being strongly opposed by the Army and Defence Ministry as they feel it is not the right time to do so and the revocation of AFSPA might increase the risk in anti-insurgency operation in the state.
At a time when Omar’s ruling National Conference Party is strongly pressing for the removal of AFSPA, its alliance partner Congress has expressed its displeasure at not being consulted on the issue. The state Congress chief Saifuddin Soz articulated the anger of his party, saying the Congress has not been consulted on the issue.
On its part, the Army has suggested that the armed forces be removed from some parts of the state while retaining AFSPA. It further suggests that Police and Para-military forces take charge of those areas but permit the Army to enter whenever required. Same arrangement is currently force in Assam.
On the other hand, the J&K government has proposed removal of AFSPA from select police station areas in the state while retaining provisions of the AFSPA provision around the Army garrisons and installations.