Wednesday, August 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Jethmalani seeks release of detained leaders

New Delhi, August 13
Kashmir Committee Chairman Ram Jethmalani today met detained JKLF Chairman and senior Hurriyat leader Yaseen Malik and later demanded the release of all detained leaders to make the forthcoming elections in the state transparent, free and fair.

After meeting Mr Malik at AIIMS for nearly one hour, Mr Jethmalani said: “If we want all elements to participate in the forthcoming elections, they should be set free. Nobody wants to contest elections from jail and if they remained in jail during elections how would the world term the elections as free and fair.”

On his meeting with Mr Malik, the former Law Minister said the JKLF had reservations about the elections and “I will not pretend that I have overcome them.”

Advocating free speech to all elements, Mr Jethmalani said “We must allow them full freedom of expression even if they have views against us. Liberty of speech is not for airing a thought similar to the one the government has.”

“Give them freedom to oppose the elections. The world will then say they are running away from the elections but we will establish our credentials,” he said.

The Kashmir Committee is set to open a formal dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference and the Peoples Freedom Party (PFP) of Mr Shabir Shah from August 16 in Srinagar on the electoral process in Jammu and Kashmir and to find an amicable solution to the imbroglio.

A high-level delegation of the Kashmir Committee, led by its Chairman Ram Jethmalani, will meet the separatist leaders to enlist their support for the peaceful conduct of the coming Assembly elections in the state as well as ending the current cycle of violence.

The decision to send the team to Srinagar was taken after the Hurriyat Conference and PFP leaders expressed willingness to talk with the committee members yesterday.

Hurriyat Chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat said: “We will talk to the Jethmalani committee because it is a non-governmental group. We thought we should not shy away from talking and the Hurriyat would strive for better relations between India and Pakistan.”

PFP Chairman Shabir Shah also showed keenness to meet the committee members.

Meanwhile, the ruling National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir has conveyed strong disapproval of the Kashmir Committee’s demand for the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state ahead of the forthcoming poll.

The Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah met the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani and members of his unofficial team last evening and expressed resentment over the demand. The Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Forum (JKDF) today welcomed any move to initiate talks between the Hurriyat Conference and the Kashmir Committee but cautioned that some people were bent upon derailing the peace process in the state. PTI, UNI

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