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Letter relieves Hurriyet
By Javed Matjee, Srinagar

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s letter has relieved the All- Parties Hurriyat Conference leadership of the tension which had gripped it in the wake of the recent developments. The amalgam’s highest decision-making body, the central executive, met here on 5 July to discuss the letter. Gen. Pervez Musharraf in his letter, dated 3 July, has expressed his keenness to meet the Hurriyat leaders during his forthcoming visit to India. Addressed to the Hurriyat chairman Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, the letter was faxed to him on 4 July.

New Delhi, on the other hand, is cool to the idea put forth by Hurriyat chairman that the amalgam leaders want to meet Prime Minister AB Vajpayee. But the Hurriyat chairman Prof. Abdul Ghani, is still reiterating that the conference leaders should meet the two heads of State before or after the summit. Prof. Bhat explained that ‘we are the principal party to the Kashmir dispute, hence our inclusion into the talks is necessary.’

The earlier stand taken by Islamabad over the issue of meeting between Gen. Musharraf and the Hurriyat leaders differs from the tone adopted in the letter sent to the Hurriyat leaders. Observers point out that the visiting Pakistani authorities have time and again made it clear that a meeting between the Hurriyat leaders and Gen. Musharraf was subject to New Delhi’s approval. The Pakistan government had also made it clear that any meeting between the Hurriyat leaders and President Musharraf should not affect the atmosphere ahead of the Agra summit.

On the other hand some of the goodwill gestures taken by Prime Minister Vajpayee are believed to be a reply to Pakistan’s stand that Kashmir was the core issue. It is generally felt that on one hand Mr Vajpayee has given the impression that India was keen to normalize ties with Pakistan and on the other hand the idea was to concentrate on issues other than Kashmir.

But Hurriyat’s worries have not come to an end with the General’s reply. The main talk of the past few weeks was isolation of Hurriyat and its being relegated to the sidelines. There were detailed deliberations within the amalgam to counter the attempts to sideline it. Pakistan’s role had discouraged many of the Hurriyat leaders. One of the senior leaders, Abdul Ghani Lone, openly criticized Pakistan by saying that both India and Pakistan had their eyes on the land of Kashmir and had no sympathies with its people. Lone came under sharp criticism in the 5 July central executive meeting for this statement. He, however, was not present in the said meeting. The Hurriyat leadership has not given up the hopes to get a similar reply from the Indian premier too. A senior leader of the amalgam told MG that they expect a reply from Mr. Vajpayee after the Agra summit.

The central government had offered the conference unconditional talks with the center’s interlocutor KC Pant. But the conference refused to talk to Mr Pant and insisted instead on the inclusion of Pakistan in the talks. This attitude of the Hurriyat is believed to have annoyed the center a lot and it opted for a fresh track by inviting Pakistan president for talks.

The government of India has now taken the view that Hurriyat has no role to play in the negotiations between India and Pakistan. The Hurriyat, on the other hand, argues that it enjoys the basic position in the Kashmir dispute and its inclusion into talks at any stage cannot be ignored. Sources in the conference told MG that its leaders will be joining the high tea party being hosted at Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. Hurriyat has taken the plea that the central government has no basis to object to Hurriyat leaders’ participation in the said party saying that they have been attending such parties in the Delhi-based Pakistan mission. In addition to attending national day functions, Hurriyat leaders have been visiting the Pakistan high commission to have frequent meetings with the high commissioner.

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