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Kashmir Leader Quits After Party's Loss

October 12, 2002|From Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India — A day after tallies showed that voters had rejected the ruling party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah submitted his resignation Friday.

He will remain in office until a new government is formed, which officials said could take about four days.

Results released Thursday by the Election Commission showed that no party had won a majority of seats in the 87-seat state legislature, but the opposition Congress Party and People's Democratic Party, or PDP, were likely to form a coalition, with the help of independents and smaller parties.

Before submitting his resignation, Abdullah told reporters that fighting terrorism should be the new government's first priority.

The PDP, likely to have a strong role in the new government, has advocated talking to separatists who oppose Indian control of the Himalayan state, and finding a way for militants to give up their almost 13-year-old insurgency, which has killed more than 60,000 people, by some estimates.

The sharp move away from Abdullah's National Conference party indicates Kashmiris' exhaustion with militancy, death and poverty and their readiness for a new approach. More than 830 civilians, security force members and militants have been killed since the elections were announced in August, police said.

Separatist groups and rebels, who want independence for the Muslim-majority Kashmir region or its merger with neighboring Pakistan, had refused to participate in the elections. Militant groups staged major attacks on each of the four polling days in the last month.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the elections showed that Kashmiris want peace and to remain in India.

Separatists said, however, that the results would not change their demand for self-determination.

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