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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Visiting Kashmiri leaders seek trilateral talks

By Wajahat Nazki

The Milli Gazette Online 

Srinagar: As the Hurriyat conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other separatist leaders including JKLF’s Mohammad Yasin Malik, crossed the line of control through Uri by the 5th trans-Kashmir bus on June 2, the outcome of such a visit is still doubtful as the United Jihad Council (UJC), an amalgam of militant organizations operating from Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK), issued a statement in which they refused to meet these leaders, thus dampening the spirit and hope which this trip had generated.

Hurriyat (A) leaders in PaK: Mirwaiz, Lone, Bhat and Abbas

Hurriyat (A) leaders in PaK: Mirwaiz, Lone, Bhat and Abbas

Earlier Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference faction led by him, had also turned down an invitation of Pakistan government to visit that country. In an effort to build consensus among the separatist leadership in the Valley, chairman of the other Huuriyat faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, had hectic backdoor meetings to re-unite all the two factions and to motivate them to get involved in the present dialogue process. That bore little fruit as Syed Ali Shah Geelani announced his decision not to take the bus to Pakistan after a 6-hour marathon meeting of his faction’s executive council.

Geelani described the Hurriyat decision as resentment against the flexible stand of Pakistani government over Kashmir issue. He asked Pakistan to remain firm on its traditional stand. Saying that Pakistan has been a friendly nation and has supported the Kashmir cause since 1947, Geelani did not spare the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf for his flexible stand and suggested new proposals to solve the Kashmir issue. "Kashmir is not a border dispute between two countries. It directly concerns ten million people," Geelani said after the meeting attended by 16 constituents of his faction. Saying that the visit to Pakistan would not serve any purpose, Geelani said that "Pakistan has always supported our cause, even went to war over Kashmir. What are we supposed to tell Pakistanis when they are already supporting our demands, and the visit is not going to give us freedom. We are demanding the right to self-determination and Pakistan government and its people have all along supported it." For those who accepted the invitation, Geelani said that if they return with something, which will give us Azadi or pave way for the implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir dispute, we would be the first to welcome them.

Geelani described the Hurriyat decision as resentment against the flexible stand of Pakistani government over Kashmir issue. He asked Pakistan to remain firm on its traditional stand. Saying that Pakistan has been a friendly nation and has supported the Kashmir cause since 1947, Geelani did not spare the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf for his flexible stand and suggested new proposals to solve the Kashmir issue. 

Doubting the utility of Hurriyat visit to Pakistan, and the other part of Kashmir, UJC has decided not to meet the visiting leaders as a forum. Though Mirwaiz Umar said in Pakistan that in spite of the refusal of the UJC he would try his best to establish contact with them and talk to them about the recent developments concerning Kashmir. Another leader of Hurriyat, on visit to Pakistan, Fazal Haq Qureshi, has said that the time is ripe for another ceasefire-like situation from all sides, which will help the ongoing dialogue process.

Earlier, after crossing into PaK, Hurriyat leaders were given an exceptionally warm welcome. The delegation comprised of seven members including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Bilal Ghani Lone, Fazlul Haq Qureshi, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat and Mohammad Yaqoob Vakil. Other leaders, including JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik and Mohammad Abdullah Tari are outside the fold of Hurriyat. Two other leaders, Shahidul Islam and Nazir Ahmad Ronga, whose travel documents were verified by PaK authorities were already in Pakistan joined their colleagues in Chakoti sector.

PaK “Prime Minster” Sardar Sikandar Hayat, leader of the opposition in PaK assembly Barrister Sultan Mehmood, PaK ministers, MLAs, heads of over a dozen political and religious parties and other dignitaries including Pakistan Muslim League (Q) president Chaudary Shujaat Husain and secretary general Syed Mushahid Hussain received the Kashmir leaders. Over a hundred boys and girls queued up on both sides of the road in PaK with bouquets, garlands and flower petals which they presented and showered upon the visitors. Around 100 doves and 500 balloons were released on the occasion in a symbolic gesture of peace and joy soon after the leaders entered the PaK territory.

During their stay in Pakistan the Kashmiri leaders are scheduled to meet main political leaders in Pakistan and PaK, including Pakistan president Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Addressing a press conference soon after arriving in PaK, Mirwaiz Umar said that the Kashmiris should not be left out of the present dialogue process if the dispute is to be resolved amicably. He added that the conglomerate fully supported the efforts of Pakistan leaders to settle the Kashmir dispute. "From the battle field, the Kashmir issue has come to the dialogue table", Mirwaiz said, adding that Kashmiris had to be included in the dialogue process in order to end hostilities between India and Pakisan. Proposing trilateral talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris, he said that so far bilateralism has always failed on Kashmir issue. He made it clear that no movement could be crushed by use of force and durable peace could only dawn on the region with the peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue. The leaders threatened that if Kashmiris were not included in the process, then they would start a ‘non-violent’ agitation on both sides of Kashmir.

"We have some solid suggestions and we would like to share them with the AJK and Pakistani leadership during our visit," said Mirwaiz in his address to the members of PaK legislative assembly. However, he did not divulge these proposals at what was an informal session held at MLAs hostel.

JKLF chief Yasin Malik pointed out the need to develop a sense of responsibility among the Kashmiri leaders saying that they could not absolve themselves of whatever situation was obtaining in the region. He particularly came down heavily upon the PaK leadership alleging that it was responsible for the killing of 100,000 people in Kashmir. He further added that Kashmiri youth had not crossed into PaK out of joblessness. "They were talented more than you," he said. Malik lamented that the leadership was not reflecting the true voice of the people due to insecurities and fear of losing power. Saying that it was in the interests of India and Pakistan to give a role to the Kashmiris in their talks, he said "Let it be clear that any solution that is against the wishes of the Kashmiris cannot be imposed upon them. Therefore, it’s better to involve Kashmiris in the peace process and find out the solution through it."

Mirwaiz too blamed the PaK leaders of romanticising the militancy. He further said that UN resolutions did not achieve a settlement of the Kashmiri issue and now new avenues should be tried.

In another development hours before the separatist leadership was to roll out for the visit to Pakistan, senior leader and DFP chief Shabbir A Shah was not allowed to travel. After a little suspense around Shah being allowed to travel as a "Kashmiri", his plea to be declared a citizen of J&K as against "Indian" in the travel papers was rejected.

The coming days would make the picture more clear as to what difference the visit of these leaders makes. But for now, the situation on the ground stands to be same with the miseries of the people increasing alarmingly.
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