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Published in the 1-15 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT

Kashmiris receive talks with hope, caution

By Wajahat Nazki

The Milli Gazette Online

Srinagar: The recent Indo-Pak joint declaration issued at New Delhi which emphasized among many measures the need to adopt a joint framework on Kashmir, has evoked mixed response from a cross section of society in the Valley. While some, like mainstream politicians, hailed the effort, others such as Hurriyat Conference components have responded cautiously. 

It was on 18 April that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a joint statement after the talks at New Delhi agreed on a series of measures to discuss Jammu & Kashmir in a 'sincere and purposeful manner' to resolve the issue. The shift in stance when it comes to this sensitive issue is quite noticeable, as previously, Pakistan only talked about Kashmir and India talked about trade-related issues. But this time both countries balanced their talks and deliberated about Kashmir and economy at the same time. Good omen and signs indeed. This fresh air of peace which is blowing across these two nations, is creating a healthy scenario, which could infuse a sense of harmony amongst people here.

Militants say Musharraf surrendered before Delhi

Srinagar: Four militant outfits on Monday accused Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf of surrendering before India and trading the Kashmir issue for tourism, trade and culture. 

"The person described as hero of Kargil war, has surrendered before India. And in the history of Pakistan there is no such example," Samir Abdullah, who claims to be a joint spokesman of the four outfits Al-Nasireen, Al-Arifeen, Save Kashmir Movement and Farzandan-e-Millat, said in faxed statement here. 
He said the meeting of the outfits was held on Sunday to discuss the issue in threadbare. The meeting, he said, has decided to continue "jihad till we achieve our goal." 

The meeting, he added, described the recent statement of Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin regarding Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus as cowardliness. He said Hizbul Mujahideen was following its parent organization Jamaat-e-Islami’s path of "abandoning jihad." 

The statement however praised Syed Ali Shah Geelani for his unwavering stand on Kashmir issue. 

It also praised Kashmiri Muslims "for their love and affection towards Pakistan," and called upon people of Pakistan to show "same feeling for suppressed Kashmiris. (greaterkashmir.com)


Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed while terming the recent developments between India and Pakistan as 'mind-boggling,' has said that in the recent past no one could have imagined this sort of development to take place. He further said that with peace and reconciliation process gaining momentum in Jammu & Kashmir, the challenges ahead would have to be faced with ideas and not the gun. Acknowledging the role of the Congress and other political parties in the state in bringing about a change in the situation, Sayeed said that only a fringe element within the Valley is refusing to recognize the emerging situation and thereby disregarding the sentiments and wishes of the people.

The other main political party in the Valley, National Conference, while welcoming the joint declaration said it's a step in the right direction. While some parties like the state unit of BJP seemed more interested in crediting themselves with the latest developments, others like Jammu & Kashmir state Congress Committee president Peerzada Mohammad Sayyed described the declaration as historic. The state unit of the BJP, while welcoming the latest confidence-building measures, stated that the credit for it should go to former prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. The party, however, added that caution should be observed in showing flexibility, taking the national interest in mind. The state Congress president Peerzada said, the sincerity and spirit of the leaders from India and Pakistan to continue the discussion on Kashmir issue in a purposeful manner for final settlement and the determination of these leaders would positively bring everlasting peace and prosperity for the people of both the countries, particularly Jammu and Kashmir state.

The Hurriyat faction lead by Syed Ali Geelani seemed to be most upset by these developments. It said that there is nothing for the Kashmiris in this declaration that would make them feel any relief. Geelani took Pakistan to task, accusing it of softening its stand on Kashmir. However, he said, he is open to the idea of working out a comprehensive ceasefire in J&K after 'India sends its troops back to barracks, withdraw cases against separatist leaders, revokes various counter-insurgency laws and releases prisoners'.

One of Geelani’s aides Nayeem Khan endorsed the peace process with certain reservations, saying that they believed the peace process was sacred but it can’t yield the desired results unless the people in Kashmir experience a sense of achievement rather than a sense of defeat.

Speaking on the same issue, Mirwaiz Umar leading the other faction of the Hurriyat, said that 'let us talk to militant leadership in Azad Kashmir'. He further said that Pakistan president Musharraf had endorsed his concept of 3-way talks and asserted that these talks would pave the way for the involvement of the Kashmiri leadership in the decisive phase of Kashmir talks.

Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yaseen Malik’s views concurred with those of the Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabbir Ahmad Shah. Yaseen Malik said that as long as the third seat on the dialogue table remains empty, no CBM, howsoever great, would help bring peace to the Valley.

Most of the militant groups didn't mince words in expressing their displeasure over the manner in which according to them Musharraf succumbed to India. Claiming that Pakistan president had surrendered before India, they said that he traded Kashmir issue for tourism, trade and culture.

For the ordinary people the general mood was that there is at last some headway and the situation on ground should change for better now. "People of Kashmir have always prayed for Indo-Pak friendship as it would pave way for long and lasting peace in the region. Who else can understand the importance of Indo-Pak friendship other than Kashmiris, some people were heard saying. People here have suffered at the hands of two neighbours. Now that the two countries have decided to resolve their differences the woes of the Kashmiris must also end," said Rizwan an engineer by profession - a view echoed by many here. 

With the peace process expected to gain momentum in the coming months, the reaction to the further developments in enhancing confidence building measures will be watched very closely by all quarters. For the time being, lets keep our fingers crossed.
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