The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti offer on prisoner panel

New Delhi, Dec. 6: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government has decided to form a screening committee before the release of the next batch of prisoners in Kashmir and has invited New Delhi to put its own nominee on board.

“We are ready to include any person that may be nominated by the Centre into the committee to improve the decision-making process,” Muzaffar Hussain Beig, Kashmir’s finance minister and a leading member of the People’s Democratic Party was quoted by PTI as saying.

“Both the state and the Centre are working towards the same objectives in Kashmir, and it is important that both sides trust each other,” Beig added.

Senior police and intelligence officials of the state are expected to be part of the committee. Although the Centre has not yet decided on its representative, the choice is expected to be a senior Intelligence Bureau officer dealing with Kashmir.

“Nobody will be released by any ad hoc or wholesale method but each case will be studied properly,” the minister said, responding to an earlier criticism by the deputy Prime Minister that proper guidelines have to be followed in cases of release of prisoners in Kashmir.

Beig also reminded the Centre about the Supreme Court ruling that detention of a person beyond the required period is illegal. Hundreds of young men have been languishing in jail without trial. In many cases, even charge sheet has not been filed.

Senior officials, however, have repeatedly emphasised that Delhi was always in the know about the first batch of 24 people released by the government. Eight of those were released by the courts while sixteen bailed out.

“But we don’t want to make a song and dance about it as much of the noise from the Centre was aimed at the Gujarat electorate,” a senior aide of the chief minister explained last week.

However, realising the importance of being attuned to the Centre, the state authorities did not wish to drive home the point, dismissing L.K. Advani’s allegations as election rhetoric. Srinagar’s mood mellowed after the chief minister’s first visit to the capital since taking office.

Both the Prime Minister and his deputy had assured Mufti they were willing to back him to bring Kashmir back on track. Mufti also realises that without Delhi’s support, his government can achieve very little.

The PDP’s coalition partner, the Congress is as keen as the Centre for a screening committee as it does not want to be caught in the wrong foot again. The party looking forward to a clutch of state elections as well as national elections two years down the line want to make sure it is not projected as a party ‘soft’ on terrorism.

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