New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz on Friday courted controversy by saying that he agreed with former Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf’s assessment that Kashmiris would want to be independent if given a choice.
His statements come a day after another Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, also invited controversy by saying that the Indian Army is killing more civilians than militants in Kashmir, during an interview with News18 India.
Speaking to ANI, Soz said, “Musharraf said Kashmiris don't want to merge with Pakistan, their first choice is independence. The statement was true then and remains true now also. I say the same but I know that it is not possible.”
“Vajpayee and Musharraf had a conversation, then Manmohan-Musharraf had a discussion. Unfortunately, Musharraf went out of the system. He wanted dignified peace with India. Today, I am telling Kashmir that independence is not possible. India and Pakistan should talk,” he also said.
In his forthcoming book, 'Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle', which will be launched next week, Soz said, "Musharraf had explained that if Kashmiris were given a chance to exercise their free will, they would prefer to be independent. In fact, this assessment of Musharraf seems to be correct even today."
His statements were met with criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its estranged ally, the Shiv Sena. Several politicians from the BJP and the Shiv Sena hit back, suggesting that he relocate to Pakistan.
Rajya Sabha MP, Subramanian Swamy offered him a one-way ticket to Pakistan.
“As central minister he (Saifuddin Soz) benefited from Centre's power when his daughter was kidnapped by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). There's no use helping these people. Whoever wants to stay here can stay abiding by the Constitution, if they like Musharraf we'll give them a one-way ticket (to Pakistan)” he said.
BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi condemned the "irresponsible" statement by Soz and said that one should not give any such remarks that boost the morale of separatists and terrorists in the Valley.
"Kashmir is itself a critical issue. The Separatists and the terrorists have hijacked the growth, development, and peace of Kashmir. We all must come together forward to defeat such powers. One should not give any such statements that will boost the morale of separatists and terrorists in the Valley," Naqvi said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande echoed similar sentiments, stating that Saifuddin Soz should consider migrating to Pakistan if he has so much affection for the country.
“Congress President needs to reply on Saifuddin Soz's statement and if Congress vouches for his statement. If he has so much affection for Pakistan and Musharraf then he should consider migrating to Pakistan and become his servant,” she said.
LeT supports Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s remarks
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also came under increasing criticism after Pakistani terror outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), on Friday issued a statement backing his comments that the Indian Army is killing more civilians than militants in Kashmir.
According to reports, Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi, the spokesperson for the group, said that they are of the same opinion as the expressions of Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad condemned the Congress leader’s remarks and called it “very embarrassing, unfortunate, and irresponsible.” He added that Azad had insulted the Indian Army” with his comments.
“LeT is supporting the language that the Congress leaders are speaking today,” he added.
“In Jammu and Kashmir, 72 terrorists were killed in 2012, 67 in 2013. In June'14 we came to power. 110 were killed in 2014, 108 in 2015, 150 in 2016, 217 in 2017 and 75 have been killed till May'18. So Azad, you can see difference between your and our government. LeT is supporting what the Congress says,” Prasad said.
Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted, “Congress poses a serious threat to India's sovereignty by backing Anti-India voices on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. Their hatred for BJP has led them to stand with those who want to break the country.”
BJP leaders have also taken to Twitter to criticize these statements using the hashtag “CongLeTGathbandhan”.