Senior PDP leader takes up Pakistan refugee issue

In an overnight communication, senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig ruffled many feathers within the party over the issue of granting permanent residentship rights to Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a five-page letter released to the media, Baig said the settlement of Pakistan refugees is a humanitarian issue and not a political issue as it is being made out to be.

Baig, who was the deputy chief minister during the PDP-Congress alliance in 2005 and represents the north Kashmir Baramulla constituency in the Lok Sabha, said the Pakistan refugees came to the Jammu region after the India-Pakistan conflicts of 1947, 1965 and 1971.

He said that they are already voting in the country’s Lok Sabha election as citizens of India and the issues of granting them voting rights in the state assembly election as well as providing them with permanent residentship rights in Jammu and Kashmir need to be considered as human issues.

Baig asserted in his communication that since PDP President Mehbooba Mufti and her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed (party patron) are the “only two persons who take all the important decisions in the party, they should decide firmly whether an alliance with the BJP would be really beneficial for the people of the state.

“Such an arrangement should not be simply to obtain power in the state,” said Baig, who is a strong votary for the alliance.

He reiterated in his communication that whatever decision the PDP takes, the party’s adversaries would oppose it but that should not deter the PDP from taking a decision that would be in the best interests of the people here.

“If any other alliance is possible, the PDP should come out with it. I have sent a communication to Mufti sahib requesting him to submit my resignation from the parliament to the speaker if my intentions are suspected,” he said.

“A whisper campaign has been going on which gives an impression that I am pushing for a PDP-BJP alliance for some personal benefit,” Baig added.

The PDP has been opposing the grant of citizenship rights to Pakistan refugees since it believes these people were not basic residents of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed before the accession of the state to India in October 1947.

In contrast to all other states of the country, Jammu and Kashmir has a constitution of its own test that runs concomitant with the Constitution of India in the state.

PDP chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar told IANS the views expressed in the communication represent the personal opinion of Muzaffar Hussain Baig and they do not represent the party’s stand on the issue.