Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday said rebel commander Burhan Wani would have been given a "chance" had security forces known he was in a south Kashmir hideout where he was killed, triggering a deadly wave of unrest in the Kashmir Valley.
Speaking for the first time about the controversial July 8 shootout, Mehbooba Mufti said security forces told her that "three militants were hiding" in a house in south Kashmir's Kokernag area "but they didn't know who they were".
"How do we know about an encounter? What can I say? I believe that had they known he was there, he (Wani) would have been given one chance as the situation was fast improving in the state," the Chief Minister told reporters.
She seemed to suggest that had anyone known that Wani - a social media savvy rebel commander who was popular among young Kashmiris - was at the hideout, the government would have made proper arrangements to prevent the situation "from turning to what it is today" after his death.
Mehbooba Mufti said the situation turned volatile very fast in the valley and the government did not have the luxury of time to prepare and prevent widespread violence in the aftermath of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander's killing.
She said then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had enough time to prepare security measures when parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi on February 9, 2013.
"When Afzal Guru was hanged, Omar knew (about it). So he made all the arrangements in advance. We knew nothing and we came to know suddenly. But despite that, we tried to impose curfew so that children do not come out," she said.
Wani's killing has sparked the deadliest wave of unrest the Kashmir Valley has seen in years. Nearly 50 people have been killed and thousands injured in the days of violence.
Senior PDP leader and parliament member Muzaffar Beigh earlier sparked controversy saying the security forces had violated the guidelines on Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) laid down by the Supreme Court for any counter-terror operation.
Beigh said Wani had not been given a chance to surrender before he was gunned down in a joint operation by police and the army.