'Fear of Consequences' Needed to Stop AFSPA Misuse: Omar

Published: 08th March 2014 03:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th March 2014 04:14 PM   |  A+A-

Omar Abdullah2PTI

There is a need to build a "fear of consequences" within laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) so that they are not misused by the Army, feels Jammu and Kashmir Chief Omar Abdullah.

Talking on wide-ranging issues here today at the two-day India Today conclave, Omar also dismissed suggestions mainly coming from Army that withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will have bearing on Kashmir's internal security.

The Chief Minister, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of AFSPA from areas more peaceful in the state, did agree that as long as Army was involved in internal security duties, it needed a legal cover to operate.

"So long as you are using army for internal security duty, they need legal cover to operate. I think we need to differentiate between legal cover and impunity.

"The sort of cover they get now is they can do whatever they believe without fear of consequences. I think that fear of consequences has to be built back into the system," Omar said.

Omar along with the then Home Minister P Chidambaram had raised the issue with central leaders many a time but even his proposal for partial withdrawal of AFSPA hit a road block from Defence Ministry which, on advice of Army, red flagged it.

Even the Administrative Reforms Committee favoured withdrawal of AFSPA and drafting of a new law with certain checks and balances.

Omar appeared optimistic on the issue. "I am sure we will be able to withdraw some rules," he said.

Omar rejected the suggestion made by Army at various forums that withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will have an adverse impact on his state.

"I don't buy that argument at all. The reason why I don't buy this argument is that so far we have been taking credit for whatever improvement has taken place and now if we are going to blame Americans for the deterioration, then it means that improvement was because of their actions as well, which I refuse to accept," the Chief Minister said.

"Therefore, if the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan, it will have very limited consequences for the state which has been seeing good years on anti-terrorism front." 

On India and Pakistan relations, Omar sought to draw a comparison between the two nations. "I don't think India's relationship with Pakistan is centred around Kashmir" but Pakistan's relationship with India certainly is focused on Kashmir.

"They (Pakistan) have uni-focal dimension sort of relationship with India.... For them Kashmir is everything and everything else is secondary. It is not the same for us.

"While we believe that Jammu and Kashmir is an important issue and it needs to be resolved, it need not be the only issue that dogs our relations. There are host of other issues that needs to be resolved," he said.

 Asked about the lessons learnt during his stint as the Chief Minister, Omar said that "everyday of this job, one learns" but the biggest lesson for him was that no problem is too small to be ignored.

He admitted that at the beginning of his term, he was slightly dismissive of some of the issues and said that the 2010 unrest was the "worst" period of his life.            

"I soon learnt that those smaller problems can quickly accumulate into one grand problem...such as the summer of 2010. That has been for me the worst period of my life I wouldn't even say of my career.           

 "The summer of 2010 pretty much consumed me in every way possible. It did, it did change me. There is still a period of time that I have not gotten over. And I don't ever feel that I will ever.     

"It's not easy to go through that time when you are overseeing administration....but fortunately the good times over that situation prevailed and we had a few good years after that," Omar said and thanked the "good people" around him especially his father and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah who always guided him.   

He said there were times in the state when a person, who left home in the morning, was not sure whether he or she will come back alive in the evening.          

"The normalcy is returning. They are beginning to see a time which again I will say is not normal but we are a lot closer to be normal.... If one can remove that uncertainty from the youngsters that could be the biggest contribution one can make," Omar said.

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