Sunday, August 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Hurriyat sticks to poll boycott decision
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Srinagar, August 10
The Hurriyat Conference today ruled out participation in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, but decided to convene a meeting of its general council on Monday to discuss the invitation for talks extended by leader of the Kashmir Committee Ram Jethmalani.

“Today’s executive committee meeting was a routine one but the issues discussed were extra-ordinary, delicate and sensitive in nature. We decided to convene a meeting of general council day after tomorrow to decide about our response to the invitation for talks”, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat told reporters here.

Briefing reporters about the four-hour-long executive committee meeting, he said the meeting decided to announce “no more talks on elections”.

“We are not going to participate in the elections”, Bhat said.

Bhat said “our position on election was clear... not to participate in the polls.”

The fairness of the coming elections was evident as people are being forced to obtain identity cards, he alleged and claimed this “was one of the ways of rigging the elections.

Stating that imposition of Governor’s Rule in the state was not on the Hurriyat’s agenda, Bhat said it was for the political leaders to decide.

The Hurriyat chief said the Kashmir Committee was a non-governmental organisation and “we have no problem in meeting it”. He made it clear if the response to the invitation for talks was decided “we will talk nothing beyond Kashmir” with the committee.

He said, the Hurriyat was in the process to know more about Jethmalani Committee.

On its stand for tripartite talks involving Pakistan, Bhat said, “We have not withdrawn from our principle stand. We still persist that India, Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir have to join heads and hearts together to solve the Kashmir issue but if we talk to India first that will not mean we have deviated from our stand.”

On poll boycott campaign, Bhat said “we are discussing the issue and will come up with positive response.”

Asked when will the Hurriyat launch its poll boycott campaign as notification for the first phase of elections in the state was expected soon, Bhat said “ it (the notification) does not matter. We hope that ban on public meetings of Hurriyat will be lifted and we are allowed to meet the people”.

He said the deteriorating health conditions of detained executive committee members, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mohammad Yaseen Malik, also came up for discussion at the meeting and steps needed to be taken were discussed and deliberated upon. A decision will be taken shortly in this regard, he added.

When asked if poll boycott was also discussed in today’s meeting, he said the Hurriyat was not bothered about the elections. We are not in haste to issue a poll boycott call, he said.

The Hurriyat was not participating in the elections which, he said, was as good as boycotting the elections.

He said a statement would be issued at an appropriate time about the poll boycott.

If elections are held to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue once and for all, we are ready to participate, Prof Bhat told UNI ahead of a meeting of the APHC’s seven- member executive council meeting here today to discuss the latest situation in the state.

The executive committee of the Hurriyat Conference here today decided to extend the term of its chairman, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat for one year.

“Because of the prevailing situation in the state, the executive committee has decided to extend my term by one year”, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat told waiting mediapersons after the day-long meeting of the committee this afternoon. His two-year term as chairman of the conglomerate ended on July 22 last.

The extension of chairman’s term comes when most of its top leaders are out of the scene. Three top executive committee members, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammad Yasin Malik and Sheikh Abdul Aziz are under detention. The former Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is on his foreign trip. Former top APHC leader and chairman of the Peoples Conference, Abdul Ghani Lone, was assassinated on May 21 last.

Chairman, Abdul Ghani Bhat and the senior executive committee member, Moulvi Abbas Ansari are among the top leaders of the APHC present. Other organisations in the seven-member executive committee are represented by second rung leaders.


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