West Pakistan refugees issue corners PDP, shadows govt formation

  • Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Jan 13, 2015 22:08 IST

Granting of more rights to West Pakistan (WP) refugees by the Union government has further cornered the People's Democratic Party (PDP), with separatists and mainstream parties pressing it not to form an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The PDP, which is holding parleys on backchannels with the BJP over government formation, has come under attack from hardline Hurriyat over the recent move by the Union home minister to grant concession to WP refugees in jobs and a joint parliamentary committee suggesting voting rights for them.

"Local pro-India parties have adopted a sorrowful policy. Instead of adopting any clear stand on WP refugees, PDP advised (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi government not to take any hasty decision because it can have serious consequences," said hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani.

He accused the mainstream parties of being "solely responsible for the weakening of Article 370."
"If there would have been little bit sincerity in their (regional parties') politics then they could have passed a bill in the assembly to restore the special status of the state but they use these slogans merely for the vote bank politics and deceive people," he alleged.

PDP insiders accept that the issue of the WP refugees, if not handled prudently, may turn into a stumbling block for any PDP-BJP coalition.

Both PDP and BJP have emerged as largest parties with 28 and 25 seats in the 87-member assembly, where the government remains elusive because of failure to cobble up a coalition.

Under fire, the PDP already warned the Centre against a "unilateral move on WP refugees". "There have been different governments run by different parties at the Centre and in the state. But no government rushed through this issue. There is no reason why something should be done in a hush-hush manner now," said PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar.

Awami Itihaad Party (AIP) chief Engineer Rashid, who won assembly elections from Langate constituency, also slammed PDP's stand on the WP refugee issue, accusing it of "hypocrisy and double standards".

"PDP is trying to please BJP and right-wing forces by having a soft stand on the burning issue of granting citizenship and voting rights to these refugees," said AIP spokesman Majid Banday.

"People of Kashmir want PDP to come clean on this issue and make it clear that it's non- acceptable and non-negotiable," he added.

To score a political point, mainstream political party National Conference (NC) has hardened its position on granting more rights to WP refugees, relating it with "plot to change the state's demographics".

"The central government seems like in a hurry to make this happen as soon as possible. We can smell a rat in these recommendations," said NC general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar.

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