Changing Army officers won’t solve the issue in Poonch: Farooq Abdullah

SRINAGAR — National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday said shunting out army officers will not address the Poonch civilian deaths case and called for an investigation to find out why innocent people were “tortured” to death.

Three civilians were found dead a after they were picked up by the Army for questioning following a militant ambush on two Army vehicles in Poonch last Thursday that killed four soldiers.

“Peaceful citizens, eight of them, were taken away and three were beaten so mercilessly and chilli powder rubbed into their wounds. Three of them could not bear the torture and succumbed. Five others are in the hospital. The brother of one of the victims is in the BSF and has been serving for the past 24 years … now he says that he has got brother’s death in return to his services to the nation,” Abdullah told reporters here.

He added, “The Army Chief has taken Northern Commander also from here to the academy in Dehradun but it will not resolve the problem. There should an investigation into why this happened?”

If innocent people who have nothing to do with militancy are killed “which India are we living in”, he asked. “Is this Mahatma Gandhi’s India where we can live in peace? The hatred has spread so much that Hindus and Muslims think they are enemies of each other.”

The former chief minister trashed the BJP claims about end of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Four years ago, the Home Minister made a speech in Chennai where he said Article 370 was responsible for militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. Now militancy will finish in JK and development is being done.

“Four years later, he made a speech in the Parliament and said he had not said anything like that. This is how much they are lying. Militancy has not ended, it is increasing. Trained (militant) people are coming in and they are not caught. Innocent people are being targeted,” he said.

“I am once again saying that this (militancy) will not end unless an atmosphere is created where talks can be held for finding a way to end it,” he added.

On the suspension of opposition MPs from Parliament, Abdullah, who is one of the suspended members, said all they were asking for was a statement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the Parliament security breach.

“Two persons came in (the Parliament). They raised the issue of unemployment …. However, they came in. How did they come in? Tomorrow, someone can come with a gun. The way they sprayed the gas, it could have been poisonous. Everyone is under threat. We had asked for the home minister to make a statement. We were not to fight him, just wanted to hear from him,” he added.

In response to a question on whether India should hold talks with Pakistan, Abdullah referred to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous statement that “we can change friends but we cannot change neighbours”.

“If we live in friendship with neighbours, we will both prosper but if we live in enmity, then we cannot progress rapidly. Modiji also has said war is not an option now and issues have to be resolved through dialogue. Where is that dialogue?”

He further added, “Leave aside Imran Khan. Now Nawaz Sharief is going to be the PM of Pakistan and he has been saying at top of his voice that they are ready for talks. Why are we not talking? If we do not resolve it through talks, I am sorry to say that we will face same situation as happening with Palestinians in Gaza who are being bombarded every day. Anything can happen. May Allah have mercy on us!” he added.

Asked if the release of former Pakistan premier Imran Khan from jail will impact the situation, Abdullah said it is welcome thing.

“Thanks to Almighty, he (Imran) was not killed. I hope that he takes part in the elections and work for betterment of people and Pakistan. They are our neighbours,” he said. — (PTI)