Mon, Nov 07, 2011 - Page 4 News List

Indian army chief disputes revoking 1990 Kashmir act

AFP, SRINAGAR, India

A top Indian army official said harsh emergency laws in Indian Kashmir should not be revoked until Pakistan ends its “interference” in the revolt-hit region.

India has long accused Pakistan of fueling the insurgency in its part of Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies. The nuclear-armed rivals each hold part of the scenic Himalayan region in part, but claim it in full.

The draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act was introduced in 1990 to give the army and paramilitary forces sweeping powers to detain people, use deadly force and destroy property.

Indian Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said last month that the law would be withdrawn in certain areas, but later appeared to go back on that under pressure from various groups, including the army.

The act enables “the army to carry out counter-terrorist and counter-infiltration operations,” Indian General K.T. Parnaik told reporters late on Thursday near the de facto border that splits Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

“Unless we’re able to neutralize the [militant] infrastructure and unless we’re able to remove interference from Pakistan, it may not be correct for us to revoke it [the legislation], even partially,” he said.

Parnaik is India’s army chief for northern areas, including Kashmir.

Abdullah’s pledge was hailed as a significant step in normalizing life in the Indian part of Kashmir, where the legislation is detested by locals.

However, after facing stiff opposition from the army and pro--India political parties, Abdullah said last week he had only announced an “intention” to revoke the laws and “didn’t announce a decision.”

Abdullah said he would consult the army and top ministers before deciding on whether to partially withdraw the tough law.

Violence is at its lowest in Indian Kashmir since the start of the insurgency that has so far left more than 47,000 people dead by official count.

The region’s top Muslim cleric and moderate separatist, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on Friday criticized the army over its stand on the act.

“The government forces have developed vested interests in Kashmir and hence oppose the revocation of draconian laws,” Farooq told a congregation at the region’s biggest mosque in Srinagar.

“Our struggle is 100 percent peaceful and indigenous and there is no need for such laws,” he said.

Farooq heads the moderate faction of the region’s influential separatist conglomerate, the Hurriyat Conference.

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