Jammu-Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept the “hand of friendship” extended by Pakistani PM-in-waiting Imran Khan to end the cycle of violence in her state.

Speaking on the 19th foundation day of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mufti said that the “Centre should respond positively to the peace talks offer made by Imran Khan”.

“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,” Mufti said referring to the first public address of the cricketer-turned politician in which he said that he will be willing to take “two steps if India takes one” for the sake of peace.

“It is my request that he (Modi) should grab the opportunity and respond positively to the offer of friendship by Imran Khan,” Mufti said at the rally held in Srinagar.

Khan, whose party emerged as the single largest in the recently concluded general elections in Pakistan,  said that he 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.

In her address, Mufti reminded PM Modi of the actions of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose “statesmanship” led to peace between India and Pakistan at the border.

“Elections come and go. (Then Prime Minister) A B 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…,” Mufti 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.

At the same time, Mufti said that Hurriyat leaders arrested by NIA on Eid should be released if the government wanted to bring the separatist leaders on the table for a dialogue.

Mufti claimed that she was not allowed to work peacefully since 8 July 2016, when her party joined hands with BJP to form a government in the state.

“Forming an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was like taking poison out of compulsion. But we took that decision in the larger interest of the state and the country,” she said.

She said she had taken two months to decide whether or not she would continue the alliance because “politics for me had begun with my father and I had decided to end my political career with his death”.

“It was because of continued persuasion by my party workers that I finally agreed to head the coalition government,” she added.

PDP leaders skip rally

Six rebel legislators from the PDP skipped the rally that was organised to mark the day in Srinagar. A dissident leader Abdul Majeed Paddar claiming his faction as the real PDP organised a parallel rally in Kulgam in south Kashmir.

The six legislators conspicuously 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.

The rebels appear to have not reconciled even after Mehbooba’s maternal uncle Sartaj Madni quit his position of vice-president of the party.