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Azad rules out demilitarisation of Valley's border districts

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: March 29, 2007 23:22 IST
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Ghulam Nabi Azad, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has ruled out demilitarisation of the border districts of the Valley as demanded by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, former chief minister of the state. Mufti is threatening to pull out of the government if his demands are not met by the Centre.

"The Central government will make an announcement tomorrow. But we have agreed to set up a committee of officials of the home ministry, state government and the defence ministry. There will be no political component in the committee that will look into the demand of gradual troop withdrawal and the other issues raised by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed," Azad told newsmen who were waiting outside 7 Race Course Road.

Incidentally, Mufti did not show up for the dinner meet called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday night. Dr Singh and Azad had dinner. The two were together for over an hour.

United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also present at the meeting.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that Mufti had not been invited for dinner, thereby indicating that there were massive differences between the Union government's perception of situation in the Valley and that of Mufti and his party.

Azad denied that most of the schools in Jammu and Kashmir were occupied by the army and paramilitary forces.

"They have alternative accomodation so why should they be occupying the school or college buildings?" he asked.

Azad, who flew into Delhi for the dinner appointment with Dr Singh on Thursday, will return to Jammu and Kashmir on Friday morning.

Earlier, the Congress political affairs group meeting was held under the chairpersonship of Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday night to consider the demands of Mufti who has been calling for gradual withdrawal of troops from the Valley and better coordination between the Congress party and People's Democratic Party headed by Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of Mufti.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi