The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party, govt at odds on release

New Delhi, Nov. 12: The BJP and the Centre have taken divergent positions on the release of political prisoners by the new Jammu and Kashmir government.

While the party says a screening committee should be set up to assess each case before a prisoner is freed, the Prime Minister is believed to be of the view that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s initiative could put the state on the road to normality.

Sources close to Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the Centre regards the free and fair conduct of the recent polls as a stellar achievement. So, if the new government is taking initiatives to sustain people’s confidence in the democratic process, it has to be given time and no snap judgements should be passed.

Defence minister George Fernandes also said there was nothing “wrong” in the new PDP-Congress coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir releasing JKLF and Hurriyat leaders as part of its efforts to restore peace in the militancy-hit state.

The BJP, on the other hand, expressed “serious concern” about what it termed a “terror-friendly” exercise. “It is understandable for any government to state that there is no misuse of police power against innocents,” a statement released by party spokesman Arun Jaitley said. “For this purpose, the least that is expected is an objective screening committee to be set up in order to review any case which is considered doubtful or vindictive.”

Jaitley, however, alleged that the People’s Democratic Party-Congress government was releasing prisoners without screening. “These releases being undertaken are not based on a detailed assessment of each case but appear to be the act of political reciprocity by the Congress-PDP government. This is legally impermissible and would undermine the entire effort to fight insurgency and terrorism,” he said.

Jaitley slammed the Congress for endorsing the move “after it fought the elections on the plank of freeing the state from terror”.

But sources close to Vajpayee said the “peace” course being charted by the state government would be an effective answer to Pakistan’s efforts to propagate the azaadi theory and blunt its efforts to use cross-border terrorism. “It will strengthen India’s case internationally and further expose Pakistan if it persists with cross-border terrorism,” the sources said.

Vajpayee, they said, was also of the view that with the Congress being part of the government, things would be on course. “The Congress’ Kashmir perspective is wholly nationalist and we are certain that the government will do nothing against national interest,” they said.

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