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Mufti gets chair, gives on charter

New Delhi, Oct. 27: The Congress handed Mufti Mohammad Sayeed the chief minister’s post in Jammu and Kashmir, extracting in the bargain silence on certain controversial pre-poll promises made by his People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The posts of deputy chief minister, Speaker and chairman of the coordination panel between the partners and a promise to instal a person from Jammu in the chief minister’s chair after three years form the party’s portion of the power cake.

Mufti will stake claim on October 29 and take oath on November 2. The common minimum programme (CMP) jointly issued today skipped the question of inviting militants for talks or holding dialogue with Pakistan. Mufti said it was up to the Centre to do so and from the Congress Arjun Singh said the Vajpayee regime was already talking to militants.

Avoiding naming militants or Pakistan, the eight-page document said: “The new government would request the government of India to initiate and hold, sincerely and seriously, wide-ranging consultations and dialogue, without conditions, with the members of the legislature and other segments of public opinion.... to evolve a broadbased consensus on restoration of peace with honour in the state.”

Mufti’s insistence on disbanding the counter-insurgency Special Operations Group was diluted to the promise of assimilating it in the regular police force.

The PDP had promised general amnesty to the local militants, but the CMP said the new government would review cases of detainees held on “non specific” charges and those who were not charged with serious crimes.

An “ehtisab” (accountability) commission will be set up in consultation with the chief justice and the leader of the Opposition (from Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference), shutting out the threat of vendetta inherent in the PDP’s promise of stringent action against Farooq and his ministerial colleagues for alleged corruption.

On the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Mufti got his way with the CMP categorically saying that the new regime would not use it. Congress governments in other states do not enforce it either.

The PDP, lest its compromises are seen in too adverse a light, said that as head of government, Mufti will be free to implement programmes not in the CMP.

The would-be chief minister said: “Aab goli nahin boli se Kashmir ki problem solve ki jayegi (Instead of the gun, the Kashmir problem would be resolved through talks).”

Congress’ chief ministerial aspirant Ghulam Nabi Azad was not disappointed, hoping that he would be given a Rajya Sabha berth from the state and make a comeback in the AICC as party general secretary.

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