PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to respond positively to Pakistan Tekreek-e-Inssaf leader Imran Khan’s offer of dialogue on the Kashmir issue.

Addressing a rally on the 19th foundation day of PDP in Srinagar, she said, “Pakistan is getting a new government, a new prime minister. He has made an offer of friendship. I want to appeal to PM Modi to respond to the offer positively.”

She also stressed that no solution to the Kashmir problem could be found without talking to Pakistan and the valley-based separatists. “The only way to save Kashmir is to stop bloodshed and initiate dialogue with stakeholders as no amount of financial grants and investments will bring peace in Kashmir”.

Mehbooba urged the government to release all separatists who have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges of funding terrorism with money received from Pakistan through hawala sources. These separatists were arrested during the PDP-BJP regime when she was Chief Minister.

In a dig at the BJP, Mehbooba compared her two years of tie-up with the BJP like drinking a cup of poison. The alliance with BJP was forged only to safeguard the interests of people of Kashmir. “During those two years I never smiled as I was under tremendous pressure”, she said

In an effort to reconnect with the people of the valley, she said that when pellets were fired at the agitating youth by the security forces during the agitation in 2016 she felt as if the bullets were hitting her.

Rejecting the Opposition’s allegation that she compromised everything for the sake of retaining power, Mehbooba said, “I didn’t compromise for anything during my two years of tenure as Chief Minister. As many times I met PM Modi, I asked him to initiate dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat Conference”. She added, “I asked the Centre to release Hurriyat leaders from NIA custody so that peace prevailed in Kashmir”.

Mehbooba said Article 35A is a challenge for all political parties and urged all parties to set aside their differences to defend the constitutional provision.
She faced some embarrassment as six rebel PDP legislators skipped the rally.

A dissident leader, Abdul Majeed Paddar, claiming that his faction was the real PDP organised a parallel rally in Kulgam in south Kashmir. The six legislators absent from Mehbooba’s rally were Haseeb Drabu, whom she had sacked as finance minister, Imran Reza Ansari, Majeed Padroo, Abid Ansari, Abbas Wani and Javeed Baig. This indicates that the resignation of Mehbooba’s uncle Sartaj Madni as vice-president of the party has not pacified the rebels.

Omar’s jibe

In a jibe at Mehbooba’s claim that aligning with BJP was like having a cup of poison, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah asked her why she waited to be thrown out of power by the BJP if that was true.

Omar tweeted; “She was a willing participant in their ‘partnership of crime’. If it was as poisonous as she now claims why did she not leave the alliance instead of waiting to be sacked? She was quite happy to poison the people of Kashmir with her toxic opportunism”.