Peace package for J&K on cards

Leaders discuss Omar Abdullahs proposal for partial lifting of AFSPA

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top leaders of the party discussed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's proposal to amend the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or to partially lift it from the valley.

Abdullah had made the proposal to make the allegedly draconian AFSPA more humane during a meeting with the prime minister last Thursday. He had also proposed to partially withdraw the much-criticised Act that gives sweeping powers to the security forces when imposed in a troubled area.

According to the sources, the package that the Congress top brass deliberated upon on Friday also included special compensation to the families of the 69 civilians killed in police actions against the protesters over the past three months and release of the incarcerated agitators and withdrawal of cases against them.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel were present in the meeting that took place at the Prime Minister's residence at 7 Race Course Road here.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is a senior leader of the Congress from J&K, and the party's state unit chief Saifuddin Soz were specially called to take part in the meet and give their opinions. Also present in the meeting were Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, who oversees the Congress's affairs in J&K.

 Congress top leaders also discussed the implications of the package on its prospects in the state, where it shares power with the National Conference. 

The Union government had earlier announced its decision to set up a committee to recommend ways to create more job opportunities for the unemployed youths of the State.

But Abdullah is understood to have told the prime minister that the Centre might need to do more to distract youths from the separatist movements and provide the “healing touch” after three months of unrest that saw pitched battles between stone-pelting agitators and security forces.

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