‘My priority DIPR’s vibrancy’

Choudhary Zulfikar Ali, who recently took over as minister for Information and Public Relations held by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti till them, holds the charge of Food Supplies and Civil Services, tells the Kashmir Magazine that the department will be more vibrant and focused on reaching out and dissemination of information to public.

The senior PDP leader from Pir Panjal also talks about politics and running the government in alliance with BJP and says that PDP has been able to protect Article 370 despite being in coalition with a party that always talked about its abrogation.

​Excerpts from the interview​

  1. Zulfkar AliHow vital is the Information Department for government and people?
  2. The information department should be single window information for all the departments. It should disseminate information in fair and transparent manner about government and other departments to the people and media. TV, radio, newspapers and journalists play a vital role in disseminating that information dished out the department to the people. And in think the department acts as a link and bridge.

It is a vibrant department and I as an Independent minister of the department will focus on increasing its vibrancy. Handing the department to an Independent minister shows the seriousness of the Chief Minister towards its upliftment and importance.

  1. What will be your priorities for the department?
  2. There are lot of challenges and priorities in the department. I think the department has not got the attention it needed over the years. My focus will be to give more importance to its upliftment. Be it the accreditation of journalists, advertisement policy, press colony, press club and welfare fund for working journalists; such issues have not be given due attention to. I am working with the department, and my initial efforts have been to give proper accommodation, respect to working journalists.


  1. Newspapers owners say they are not getting fairly the share of advertisements?
  2. A. We will adopt a uniform and fair system of advertisement for newspapers so that nobody has any complaint about discrimination or favouritism. No newspaper is big or small before us. What matters is the circulation, reach out of the newspapers. Our news is a product for us, we will try to sell it as far as we could. We pay newspapers for publishing advertisements and my priority should be that our information reaches as far as possible. The department has formed a transparent advertisement policy in 2016, and we will make sure that the distribution of advertisement to newspapers is based on the policy in fair and transparent manner.
  3. When will journalists in Kashmir get a press club?
  4. Our government last year announced an Aiwani-e-Sahafat for working journalist in Kashmir near Polo view. HB9 at Polo View that housed Employment and ICDS department will be upgraded and converted into a Press Club. And I hope it will be ready after a month as renovation work will be started in it. We will then constitute a committee that will look after the operation of the Press Club.
  5. You are a minister from an important part of the state. Do you think that people in your region feel uncertain about the alliance with BJP?
  6. I don’t agree that minorities in Jammu are feeling uncertain or insecure. They are feeling certain and secure with the alliance. The alliance was formed after the people gave the mandate to PDP and BJP in Kashmir and Jammu, respectively.  No party among the two could have afforded to form a government alone in the state, so the alliance was formed as per the mandate of the people. We had to take think of taking minorities and other sections in Jammu along. Last year, despite provocations you could have seen how fundamentalists and communal people did not react. So this alliance has given stability to the region and the state, particularly to the minorities of Jammu region.
  7. So you are saying that late Mufti Sayeed took the right decision by forming the coalition with BJP?
  8. Whenever a leader takes decision in politics or in government, it is taken as per his/her farsightedness and deep thought. It is not about right or wrong. Jammu and Kashmir is a sensitive state and the difficulties and sensitivities of the people in the state are different. So Mufti Sahab took the right decision keeping in view the sensitivities and the difficulties of the people.
  9. BJP has given controversial and provocative statements which are against the majority of the people…
  10. In democracy, every person has the right to speak. PDP’s alliance is based on agenda of alliance with BJP leadership; both the parties are committed to the agenda of alliance. Those persons who are giving controversial remarks are their individual opinions, and they may not be aware of the agenda of alliance.
  11. Is PDP playing its role in safeguarding Article 370 being in alliance with BJP which always talks about abrogating the article?
  12. You have to appreciate that a party (BJP) which was speaking about abrogating has changed its stance. The party is no more talking of abrogating the article. One has to give this credit to PDP and consider it an achievement of PDP. I think we have been able to protect Article 370 and will safeguard it in future.
  13. Opponents of BJP say that 2016 uprising in Kashmir was because of PDP’s alliance with BJP?
  14. I don’t agree with this view that the agitation in 2016 erupted because of the PDP’s alliance with BJP. There was no PDP-BJP alliance in 2010 when situation was similar to 2016; it was National Conference and Congress coalition. Jammu and Kashmir is a sensitive issue and many movements have broken out since 1947. Sometimes there are gun movements and sometimes public uprisings; such things have been going on and on and the state has seen many such different phases. The agitation and unrest in 2016 was part of another phases and had nothing to do with PDP-BJP alliance.
  15. But Muzzaffar Hussain Baig, senior PDP leader, has argued that the agitation was because of the PDP-BJP alliance and the its advantage was going to BJP in Jammu?
  16. I don’t want to talk about the opinion of Baig Sahab. My understanding is that the uprising is related to the Kashmir issue. Jammu and Kashmir is a sensitive issue and it has no readymade solutions. I think Government of India should take a serious notice of the issue for its resolution.
  17. How is development of the state going on? Is the state being developed equitably or because of volatile situation in Kashmir, Jammu has the advantage?
  18. For development, there should be a feasible and peaceful atmosphere. Last year, we could not construct and macadmise roads or work on the Flyover in Srinagar and other projects because of the agitation. Our whole working season got waste. People should cooperate and coordinate with the government for equitable development of the state.
  19. National Conference and Congress say that PDP has been dented across the state. How do you see PDP performing in the next elections in the state?
  20. 2017 Parliamentary elections are before us. Dr Farooq Abdullah took mere 48000 votes and PDP stood the runner up with 40000 votes, which means in some segments NC took few percent more votes than us amid the low voter turnout. So if there was resentment with PDP, then NC should have taken lakhs of votes and won with a bigger margin.  If PDP’s popularity has been hit, other political parties have not gained anything.
  21. What should be PDP strategy to regain its ground- development or resolution of Kashmir dispute?
  22. PDP’s agenda is fixed. Development and resolution through dialogue should go together. We are firm and committed with our party’s agenda.
  23. PDP’s main agenda is Self Rule, resolution of Kashmir dispute through dialogue, resumption of cross LoC trade, revocation of AFSPA and other issues. But from the last three years no such initiative has been taken forward or spoken up by the party?
  24. There are number of issue in our party’s agenda that we have kept aside. People of the state did not give us a full mandate to push forward or implement the agenda of our party. So we have to work in the given circumstances.  Since we are in alliance with BJP, we are working as per the agenda of alliance for governance. Like BJP has kept aside abrogation of Article 370, we too are not pushing for Self Rule. However, PDP is firm on its party’s agenda for resolution of Kashmir issue.
  25. There is a fear that BJP is pushing its policies through communalism. Do you think PDP committed the mistake by forming the alliance with BJP?
  26. India is a big country and it will be run as per its constitution, which is secular in nature. Any person or party that fiddles with the secular character and its constitution will not survive, and such parties cannot be sympathizers of the country.
  27. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that only Narendra Modi can resolve the Kashmir issue?
  28. Narendra Modi has got a majority and widespread mandate and is a strongest Prime Minister of the country.

​Dr ​

Manmohan Singh was prime minister for ten years but could not visit his home in Pakistan. Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan and met

​PM ​

Nawaz Sharif at his home. So, a strong leader and a prime minister who has a big mandate can resolve the Kashmir issue. A weak leader cannot take do that.

  1. How do people in Pir Panjal region perceive PDP’s alliance with BJP?
  2. People in the region are satisfied with our government as far as the development is concerned.
  3. You met the Prime Minister alongwith some people of your region. How was the meeting?
  4. Rajouri-Pooch has its own issues and local demands, like cross-border terrorism, less business activities. Our difficulties and problems in development are quite different from those of Kashmir and Jammu. We want railway line to the region, four-way highway, tourism development, bunkers of the people living along the border, special recruitment drives for the unemployed youth of the region. We met the Prime minister with these demands and I think in the meeting we got a convincing response from the PM and some development activities have been started.

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