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CM should be from Valley: Mehbooba

In an exclusive interview with Arun Joshi, the PDP president pitches for self-rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 14:51 IST
Arun Joshi

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti has asserted that her party's self-rule was "neither an Indian nor a Pakistani agenda, but an expression of the will of the people" and "those criticising it on the two sides of the fence have failed to understand it".

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, she made it clear that self-rule pitched for an elected governor on rotational basis from Jammu and Kashmir region. But as far as the chief minister was concerned that would have to be from the region having majority of the seats. "By virtue of the number of the (assembly) seats, the chief minister has to be from the Valley."

"The only exception was this time," she said referring to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who though having ancestors from Kashmir, belongs to Jammu region.

The PDP has come under strong criticism from almost all political and separatist quarters after former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed laid out the outline of the self-rule at a public meeting in Srinagar on October 28, on the eve of his departure for the United Nations, as head of the non-official Indian delegation.

Mufti Sayeed had said that self-rule was the only solution to the Kashmir issue and that it meant restoration of people's rule.

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen supreme commander Syed Salaha-ud-Din has rejected it and called it "an Indian agenda and a document of slavery", while the BJP in Jammu region has demanded Mufti's arrest for his "anti-national activities and utterances."

While Mufti Sayeed has left for the United Nations, Mehbooba is holding the fort and responding to all criticism.

"We don't want everyone to say: yes, yes, yes to our idea. If Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and BJP have come together in criticising the concept of self-rule, they are within their rights to do so. But let me make it clear that it is neither Indian nor Pakistani agenda, it is people's agenda."

On electing a governor on rotational basis from the two main regions of the state, PDP chief said: "This is basically to negate the forces of disintegration and to keep all the regions together. This is to have a balance of political powers. The chief minister is from the Valley and to balance that we have suggested a mechanism for a governor on rotational basis."

"As far as the chief minister is concerned, the power centre will have to be where the majority of seats (of the assembly) are. That is from the Kashmir Valley. All along we have had the CM from the Valley, excepting for this time."

Asked to explain the contradiction in the regional federalism that PDP espouses and her father's suggestion for the Kashmiri rule on the pattern of 16th century ruler Yusuf Shah Chak, Mehbooba said: "Mufti Sahib never said so."

"Those who have heard his (October 28) speech, he has nowhere mentioned Yusuf Shah Chak. He simply said that for the past 200 years, Kashmiris have either been ruled by outsiders or insiders imposed by outsiders. We want the real government of our people. What is wrong in that," she asked.

Then why is she defending the Yusuf Shah Chak references made by National Conference? Mehbooba replied: "I am just answering National Conference. I am reminding them of their history. Sheik Abdullah had visited the grave of Yusuf Shah Chak in Bihar."

Mehbooba, however, conceded that the position paper on self-rule is not ready yet. "The rough sketch is there. But it is yet to be given a final shape. It would be finalised once Mufti Sahib returns from the United Nations. That is around December."

Will Mufti Sayeed speak of his self-rule proposal at the UN? The PDP chief said: "I don't know. I think he would speak on larger issues for Indo-Pak peace process, rather than one particular issue. To be very frank, I have no fair idea as to what he would be speaking there."

On Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's observation that PDP could have better utilised the option of placing its self-rule proposal at the working group on centre-state relations, rather than going public on the issue, she explained: "Both the things have to go together. We had placed our self-rule idea before the two round table conferences, which were attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I don't think there is a greater power than the prime minister in India."

And it was our duty to tell our people what we were talking with Delhi. We need to keep our people informed as to what we are doing. We have to move side by side on these two fronts - talking to Delhi and informing the people. We first held conventions and then public meetings. I think what we did was right."

The PDP had sought the cooperation of the Hurriyat Conference but the Hurriyat cairman said PDP could not be part of the power politics and at the same time asking for Kashmir solution.

"The PDP needs to part ways with power," Mirwaiz said.

Mehbooba retorts: "Let me tell everyone that our being in power, or being part of it has facilitated the peace process and also the solution seeking exercise. Mirwaiz needs to look through this prism."

Mehbooba defends her criticism of National Conference's autonomy theme. "That is an emotional slogan. What I wanted was that they should make the people know what does autonomy mean. We have gone to the people, explained to them our self-rule concept."

"For a common man, autonomy is mere restoration of the titles of Sadr-e-Riysat instead of governor and Wazir-e-Azam or prime minister instead of chief minister. That is all emotional. People don't know what exactly does autonomy means."

On being told that National Conference President Omar Abdullah said that he could send you a copy of the autonomy report so that you woke up to the reality, Mehbooba said: "Omar needs to educate the people first."

First Published: Nov 01, 2006 11:06 IST