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More pro-India turncoats join Peoples Conference, Sajad says restoration of special status a ‘long battle’

In an expected political development, Peoples Conference led by Sajad Lone Monday received a boost as top some pro-India leaders joined his party.

Addressing the press conference, Sajad said that he welcomes Syed Basharat Bukhari, Peerzada Mansoor Hussain and Khurshid Alam in the party fold with an open heart and is hopeful that their political experience will help the People’s Conference serve people in a better way.

“I welcome three top political leaders into the PC, which is a caravan of change,” Sajad, the son of late pro-freedom leader Abdul Gani Lone, said.

While Bukhari began his political career with the Peoples Democratic Party and then joined the National Conference, Peerzada Mansoor Hussain and Khurshid Alam were considered to be close aides of Mehbooba Mufti before quitting the party last week.

Many senior pro-India leaders have jumped the ship to join Sajad, especially after he quit the People’s Alliance of Gupkar declaration, a coalition of National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, which seeks restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kupwara-based Sajad said that Bukhari, Mansoor and Alam will help PC deal with the prevailing “extraordinary situation” and also play a constructive role to navigate through troubled waters. “They have been ministers, MLAs and MLCs. I am hopeful that PC will gain a lot out of their experiences,” a visibly upbeat Sajad said.

To a query about the restoration of Article 370, Sajad said that he doesn’t believe in lies and rather likes to speak candidly. “Let me tell you honestly that there are only two ways of getting Article 370 back—Judiciary or the Parliament. We were the first party to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. That seems to be a long battle. Beyond this, we can’t even dream of getting it back. On the other hand, we need to engage with the people of India by removing all bottlenecks of miscommunication. We need to meet opposition, people in government and civil society,” the PC chief said. “There is a space. The mission is difficult but not impossible.”

Last week former deputy chief minister of J&K and the senior-most PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh also joined the PC.

Speaking on the occasion, Bukhari and Husain said they were happy to join PC. “I want to say here that I had a great experience of being part of NC for almost over two years. I was happy there, but at times you are being made accountable to even your own family members. There is nothing wrong in moving from one party to another for growth,” Bukhari said.

Mansoor termed Sajad as a man of principles, who has “out of box ideas.” “I met Sajad in jail and had a great time to understand him. Perhaps I am the first person to join PC from South Kashmir,” said Mansoor.

Years ago, after taking an oath on the Quran in public that he wouldn’t switch sides and never leave resistance politics, Sajad had surprised many by entering the pro-India political fray. His brother Bilal Gani Lone, however, remains part of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

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