The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti target behind MLA attack

New Delhi, Dec. 21: The honeymoon is over for the People’s Democratic Party. The gunning down of Abdul Aziz Mir, the first PDP man to fall prey to militants, is an ominous sign of things to come for the ruling PDP-Congress coalition in Kashmir.

Intelligence officials in New Delhi are not surprised, as they believe that Pakistan cannot afford to allow the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government to function. “Mufti’s move to wean the people away from militancy is dangerous for Pakistan. The ISI will ensure that guns continue to enforce obedience in the Valley,” a senior official explained.

The PDP has taken over the Hurriyat’s space in Kashmir, and is making them totally irrelevant. “If Mufti’s political gamble pays off, he will be able to isolate the Pakistan backers. This is why Mufti cannot be allowed to succeed,” he said. Intelligence agencies believe attacks on the PDP will accelerate as the Mufti government settles in.

Though militant strikes continued in the state after Mufti took over as chief minister, there had been no attacks on PDP leaders or workers. Mir’s death appears to signal a change and is likely to lead to a hardening of stand against militants.

The chief minister has already dubbed those behind Mir’s killing enemies of the people. “By killing a God-fearing and dedicated worker, militants have targeted the will of the people which Aziz represented,” Mufti said in a statement today.

“These attacks on innocents are basically designed to derail the peace process,” Mufti said. “But such incidents of violence can lead militants nowhere.” The politically-savvy chief minister is walking a tightrope and hoping to mobilise support against senseless violence.

By targeting an MLA who was loved by the people, the militants have made a mistake and helped the state government. Mir was popular and had a squeaky clean image. He had also nursed his constituency well.

In fact, he was responsible in getting the government to announce a drought relief package for the saffron farmers of Pampore. Mir was basically a National Conference man, who switched sides after the party refused him a ticket.

“The killing of an MLA, who was coming out from the mosque after offering prayers, unfolds the magnitude of the challenge confronting the government.... The forces inimical to peace would be fought and isolated with people’s support,” Mufti said.

Statements by all PDP leaders have subtly made the point that the terrorists are anti-people. Muzaffar Hussain Beig, finance minister and party chief's statement stresses the same point. `` Militants have deprived people of their true Messaiha,'' Beig said, ``It was Mir's mission to help the people in distress and targeting such persons amounts to anti people act,'' he added.

At the meeting of the National Development Council, Mufti spoke passionately about the problems of Kashmir and the urgent need for development funds. But he digressed from the subject of economics to give a detailed brief about the problems and difficulties of Kashmir. He also made it plain that yesterdays killings will not change his government's desire to heal the wounds of two decades of strife.

``Our policy of healing touch is intended to win over the hearts and minds of the people, where the battle of ideas has to be fought and won. We have to remove the supportive causes of militancy and terror and isolate the forces of hatred and destruction,'' Mufti told the assembled chief ministers. Prime Minister Vajpayee and his deputy L.K.Advani have both extended the centre's full support to Mufti. eom

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