Mehbooba Mufti questions arrest of people for holding anti-Israel protest

Express News Service
SRINAGAR: The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Political Affairs Committee (PAC) would be meeting on Sunday to discuss the Centre’s invitation for talks on June 24.

Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, who headed the PDP-BJP coalition government from 2016 to 2018, said she received a call from the Centre for the meeting in New Delhi on Jammu and Kashmir.

The Prime Minister is likely to chair the All Party Meeting (APM) of J&K political leaders in New Delhi to discuss the restoration of statehood, delimitation process and elections, sources said.

PDP spokesman Suhail Bukhari said the party has not yet received any written formal invitation for talks. “However, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has been informed about the meeting through phone.”

He said the PDP’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) would be meeting on Sunday. “The meeting to be chaired by Mehbooba will discuss the proposed meeting in Delhi. It will be decided what should be the strategy of the party and how we should go ahead.”

“The decision on participating in the talks will be taken in the PAC meeting,” Bukhari said.

Senior CPI (M) leader and former MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami told The New Indian Express that he has not received any phone call or formal invitation for the proposed all-party meeting.

He, however, urged the Centre to inform the parties about the agenda of the meeting. The mainstream parties, he said, have never closed their doors on dialogue with the Centre.

Apart from Mehbooba, the invitation for the talks may be extended to Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Sajjad Gani Lone of the Peoples Conference and Altaf Bukhari of Apni Party, sources said. “BJP and Congress leaders will also be invited for the APM,” said a source.

Abdullah and Mehbooba were among a dozen mainstream leaders booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) following the scrapping of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K state into two Union Territories (UTs) by the Centre on August 5, 2019. Sajjad Lone was also among the mainstream leaders detained after the Article 370 revocation.

The NC, Apni Party, Peoples Conference and Congress have not received any invite for the talks so far.

The BJP and Apni Party have called on the Centre to hold a dialogue with political leaders of J&K on restoration of statehood as there is unanimity among parties over its restoration. Even the six-party Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), which met recently, had said it was ready for talks and kept its doors open for dialogue.

Political commentator Noor Mohammad Baba said the Centre’s change in Kashmir policy may be prompted by both internal and external factors.

He said something positive is being considered after some persuasion and some work has been done.

“There has been improvement in relations between India and Pakistan. Both countries are strictly adhering to the border ceasefire now and there have also been some other developments,” he said, adding, “There is also the China factor now.”

According to Baba, India wants to build closer ties with the US, which might have some concern on the internal front in India, especially in Kashmir.

On the internal front, he said after August 5, 2019, the Modi government planned to sideline and discredit J&K politicians.

“It tried to make them redundant and create new leadership. But they have not succeeded in creating an alternative brand of leadership in J&K,” he said.

Asked whether the change in the Centre’s K-policy is linked to the BJP’s defeat in the West Bengal polls, Baba said, “I don’t think so. If that had been the case, they had all the reason to play tough in Kashmir.”

“There are more strategic factors. Kashmir is not like any other place in India. It is being watched. There are external agencies. The UN agencies are also keeping an eye on the situation,” he added.