Farooq: They released Masood & they are national
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Friday questioned the release of Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar in Afghanistan by the then BJP government in 1999 in exchange for the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 despite his opposition.
He strongly opposed the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami and said the time has come when banning should end and meeting with these outfits should start.
“Who released Azhar and who took him to Kandahar (Afghanistan)? The Centre should reply. When I told them not to release Azhar, they did not listen to me (at that time). Today I am anti-national and they are national,” Abdullah, who was the chief minister during the hostage crisis in 1999, told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.
Azhar was arrested on February 11, 1994, at Khanabal Chowk in Anantnag district of south Kashmir but was released in exchange for the passengers of IC-814 on December 31, 1999, by the then BJP government. Two other terrorists were released along with Azhar.
Asked about the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdullah said: “Banning is not the way out because the minute you ban anything, they go underground and they become more vicious. The time has come when it is not (about) banning, it is meeting them (recognised/unrecognised entities) politically, that is important. Unless you meet them politically, you are never going to be able to sort out these people.”
The Centre had last week banned the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for five years under the anti-terror law on the ground that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and was expected to “escalate the secessionist movement” in the state.
A notification banning the group under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was issued by the home ministry after a meeting on security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Asked about the involvement of the Hizbul Mujahideen terror outfit, considered the Jammat-e-Islami’s militant wing, in Thursday's grenade attack in Jammu which left two persons dead and 31 others injured, the National Conference leader said: “I do not know whether the group is really the Jamaat-e-Islami’s militant wing.
“I do not know.… I have been chief minister and I have never had any such input that they belong to the Jamaat-e-Islami. I think this brigade (responsible for the grenade attack) is the one that is run by Salauddin from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” Abdullah said.
In response to another question on the Centre’s ban decision, he said: “I am not in power now. Information on them will be available only with the intelligence and the governor who rules (the state) today. I have no intelligence input about them now.”
He said when Jagmohan was the governor, the Jamaat-e-Islami schools were banned and those teachers were inducted into government schools.
“Did he do right or did he do wrong? The same people then met the Prime Minister and the home minister so that we could find a way out,” he said, referring to the Hurriyat leaders’ talks with the Centre. “Look at the history, you have to meet them, not ban them or put them in jail. You have to meet them by talking to them and finding out why are they not part of this nation. What stops them from being part of this nation. That is what we need to do,” he said.
Abdullah said his party never questioned the air strikes by India in Pakistan on February 26.
In a separate event organised to welcome prominent persons from the Basholi area of Kathua district into the party fold, the National Conference leader called for isolation of divisive forces and maintaining of harmony, saying the politics of divide is against the ethos of the nation and the state.