Amnesty to Kashmiri militants in Pakistan accepted: government

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) In a big confidence building measure for Jammu and Kashmir, the central government has accepted the state’s proposal of amnesty to Kashmiri militants in Pakistan who want to return home without weapons and want to join the mainstream, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Thursday.

‘The idea of granting amnesty to Kashmiri youth in PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) has been accepted. The idea must be translated into action now,’ Chidambaram told reporters here.

The home minister said that the government was now considering how to carry out the process of their return which involves many points to be looked into.

‘There are many points for their travel back. Like identification, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration into the system,’ he said.

The announcement will bring cheer to hundreds of families in the Kashmir Valley and other Muslim-dominated areas in Jammu region whose male members had crossed over to Pakistan-administered Kashmir for arms training in the early 1990s and were now willing to return without weapons.

In Pakistani Kashmir they are living in pathetic conditions, doing petty jobs, many of them even begging, according to people who visit the area. They are craving to return home if government gives them amnesty but are fearing legal action in India.

Chidambaram said the government was willing to facilitate their return.

‘They may have gone there for more than one reason but if they want to return we will facilitate,’ he said.

The home minister said the government would hold discussions with various political parties on the issue.

‘Process of wider consultation would be carried and we will consult leader of the opposition and two main political parties in Kashmir,’ he said about the ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The home minister thus put to rest a row that had erupted after central Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad opposed Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s call for rehabilitation of Kashmiri militants.

‘PoK (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) is an Indian territory, otherwise why should anybody question the idea,’ Chidambaram said about the controversy that had even threatened the coalition government of the Congress and National Conference.

Abdullah in Delhi last week proposed that a surrender and rehabilitation policy may be framed for the Kashmiri men in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

But Azad, a former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, during his visit to Jammu Tuesday said the surrender of the militants on their return from Pakistan could pose a serious danger to security in the state.

The idea to rehabilitate them on humanitarian basis was first floated in May 2006 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held the second roundtable conference on Kashmir in Srinagar.

Manmohan Singh had listed this issue as one of the subjects to be looked into for addressing the internal dimension of the Kashmir issue, and at his press conference May 25, 2006, he had stated that talks would be held with Pakistan on this issue.

A working group headed by M. Hamid Ansari, now vice-president, had recommended that the government should initiate talks with Pakistan to rehabilitate these youth.

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