Poonch attack not security failure, militancy still alive in the region: Omar Abdullah

SRINAGAR — National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Sunday said he does not see the militant attack in Poonch as a security failure as militancy was still alive in that region of Jammu and Kashmir.

One soldier was killed and four were injured as militants ambushed an Indian Air Force (IAF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district on Saturday, three weeks ahead of polling in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency.

Poonch is part of Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency which goes to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

“I will not call it a security failure. It is the reality of this place. The BJP made claims of breaking the back of militancy but we have said time and again that they are not ready to accept the truth. And the truth is that unfortunately, the areas which were liberated from militancy we are seeing militancy again in those areas,” Abdullah told reporters here.

The former chief minister was campaign for his party candidate for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi in the Hawal area of the downtown city.

Abdullah cited the example of Srinagar city and Poonch-Rajouri region, which, he claimed, had been cleared of militancy during his tenure as chief minister.

“I will specifically mention two places — the Srinagar city, where repeated attacks have taken place be it on police personnel or minority community, and the Poonch-Rajouri area. In my tenure (as CM), we had almost rid these places of militancy. However, the incident that took place yesterday indicates that the situation there is far from normal,” he said.

On the BJP leaders’ statements on reclaiming Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Abdullah said no one is opposing it.

“I fail to understand who has stopped them? Have you heard anyone saying that they will stop it? Who are we to stop it? However, let them normalise the part which is with us. They are not able to handle this side and they are talking about taking the other part,” he added.

Explaining National Conference president Farooq Abdullah’s statement on the need for a dialogue with Pakistan, Omar Abdullah referred to now-famous quote of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on neighbours.

“He (Farooq Abdullah) is not saying it of his own. What did the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was bestowed the Bharat Ratna by this government, say? He said we can change friends but we cannot change neighbours. Pakistan was, is and will be our neighbour. Some day, we will have to normalise our relations with it. However, we have always maintained that the responsibility for creating conducive atmosphere for talks lies with both the countries,” he said.

The NC vice president expressed hope that after the Lok Sabha polls, the two governments will create conditions conducive for a dialogue.

“A new government has been formed in Pakistan and a new government will be formed here after elections. We hope that both the governments will take steps to make the atmosphere conducive for a dialogue,” he said.

Abdullah said the hatemongering against Muslims during the election campaign has become a regular feature which needs to be stopped.

“Tell me one day when Muslims have not been the target of hatemongering in the BJP campaign. Had this hatemongering been limited to elections, I would not have much issue with it but this will not disappear after polls as well.

“The (second) largest Muslim population is in India and they constitute 14 per cent of the population. How will the nation progress of you spread hate against them?” he said in response to a question. — (PTI)