Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept the “hand of friendship” extended by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan for ending bloodshed in the state.
Cricketer-turned politician Khan, in his first public address after leading his party to victory in the general elections, had said Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India and his government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through talks.
Khan, whose party emerged as the single largest in the National Assembly elections, had asserted that the blame game between the two neighbours should stop.
“I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A new government will be formed in Pakistan and there will be a new prime minister, who has extended a hand of friendship towards India. He (Khan) spoke of dialogue. He (Modi) should respond to it positively.
“It is my request that he (Modi) should grab the opportunity and respond positively to the offer of friendship by Imran Khan,” Mehbooba said at a rally here to mark the 19th foundation day of her Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP president said the forthcoming elections should not become an impediment in starting the reconciliation process with Pakistan.
“Elections come and go. (Then prime minister) AB Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan and also entered a ceasefire on the borders. This is statesmanship, such leaders do not think about elections but about the people. Jammu and Kashmir is the biggest challenge for the PMs of our country...," she said.
She said the prime minister who resolves the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and ends bloodshed in the state will have his name written in "golden letters" in the history.
"The PM who resolves the Jammu and Kashmir issue within the ambit of humanity, ends bloodshed in the state and improves relations with Pakistan, his name will be written in golden letters in the history," she added.
Mehbooba said during her tenure as the chief minister, she called on Modi and discuss with him the need to hold dialogue with Pakistan as well as the people of the state.
Asserting that she appealed to the Prime Minister for the release of the Hurriyat leaders arrested by the NIA on Eid, Mufti said the move would come as a goodwill gesture if the Modi-led government wanted the separatists to come to the dialogue table.
Reacting to the civilian killings during her tenure as the chief minister, Mufti said there were clashes every day which led to killings.
“There was nothing in my hands. What was in my hands I did. We got the Centre to announce a ceasefire and the killings stopped.”
On the challenge to special status to Jammu and Kashmir, she said while her party succeeded in getting the BJP to make a commitment that “Article 370 will not be touched”, there was a need for all parties to unite to protect it.
“There was challenge to Article 35A. It was because of our efforts that the Attorney General told the Supreme Court to defer the hearing on the case as the Centre had appointed a special representative for holding dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir.
“I appeal to all parties — both from mainstream and the separatists — to set aside differences and come together to defend Article 35A, which is a major challenge,” she added.
The former chief minister alleged that she was not allowed to work peacefully. "There has not been a day since 8 July 2016 that we were allowed to work peacefully," Mehbooba said.
The last two years have been a headache for me as there was always some issue or the other to deal with, she added.