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'SAARC free trade regime on experimental basis'

Written by: Staff

Srinagar, May 14: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today hoped that business via Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road will become an experiment for launching SAARC free trade regime, saying such steps were imperative for achieving economic self-reliance and lasting peace in the state.

He also urged militants to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue by declaring a ceasefire and asked the ultras to play a positive role in ongoing negotiations to make the peace process a success.

Addressing a public rally at Magam in Badgam district as part of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) statewide celebrations to highlight the benefits and significance of cross-border trade, Mr Sayeed thanked the UPA government as well as the previous NDA regime for liberal financial assistance to the state in terms of re-construction plan.

This attitude helped in bringing the change at the grassroot level in the form of balanced development of all the three regions of the state, he said and urged India and Pakistan to take more bold initiatives in respect of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Sayeed, who is the PDP chief patron, also hailed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's help in building a nationwide consensus on 'any solution' by taking along all shades of political opinion.

He called for respecting aspirations of the people of different regions of Jammu and Kashmir as it would further strengthen the state's unique character and constitutional status.

India has shown tremendous flexibility on the Kashmir issue and it was necessary to consolidate that initiative by mobilising public opinion, Mr Sayeed said, adding the PDP will continue to play a pioneering role in facilitating its peaceful resolution and never shirk from making any sacrifice.

He reiterated that the PDP-Congress alliance was value-based and the coalition parties were governed by a Common Minimum Programme devised in consonance with the state and central leadership.

Mr Sayeed expressed satisfaction over the performance of the coalition and said the PDP would always strive hard to strengthen its alliance with the Congress. The alliance has significance and is needed both at the state and the national levels for the interest of the people, he added. In her speech, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said her party's policies of 'healing touch' and winning the hearts and minds of the people has withstood the challenges of time.

The previous PDP-led coalition government ensured that there was relief to the people in terms of the security situation, she said, adding that the security forces fully cooperated with the state government in this endeavour.

However, Ms Mufti called for withdrawal of laws such as Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces (Special) Forces Act, saying the move will give a message of not only improved situation in the state but of heightened people's trust in democratic institutions.

She demanded handing over the state's internal security to the police which was trained to handle such situations. Ms Mufti also unveiled the broad contours of the PDP's proposal of self rule, saying it included measures for achieving economic self-reliance in the form of compensation for Indus Water Treaty and other issues.

Addressing the gathering, Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig expressed the hope that separatist groups, including the Hurriyat Conference, would respond to the people's yearning for peace and in good faith join the Srinagar round-table conference.

Stressing for considering measured reduction in the involvement of the armed forces in carrying out security operations within the state, he said, adding the PDP would put forth its proposal at the round-table conference here on May 25.

Mr Baig claimed that the performance of coalition government so far was 100 times balanced than that of 50 years rule of previous regimes in the state.


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