Friday, August 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Kashmir panel may suggest poll postponement
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 15
Kashmir Committee chief Ram Jethmalani today described as “unhelpful and provocative” yesterday’s speech of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, hoping that the “American friends” would respond to his remarks.

The Kashmir Committee, he said, was distressed at the speech of General Musharraf which amounted to interference and direct instigation for boycott of the forthcoming poll. Mr Jethmalani said General Musharraf’s remarks were anti-democratic and against suggestions of “American friends.” He described Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Independence Day speech as “constructive and helpful” and one that fulfilled all expectations.

He said the Prime Minister had promised free-and-fair elections and had offered promise of sincere dialogue for the resolution of the problems. Mr Jethmalani said while assuring complete security to the voters of the state, the Prime Minister also reaffirmed that fight against terrorism would continue.

Hoping that Mr Vajpayee’s address would have an impact on the situation in the valley, Mr Jethmalani said the committee was striving for a final solution to the Kashmir problem.

“Our talks with the Hurriyat is part of an attempt to resolve the Kashmir problem,” Mr Jethmalani said.

The committee is going on a three-day visit to the valley tomorrow to talk to the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups about participation in the forthcoming poll.

During the visit, the seven-member committee will reach out to a wide spectrum of people , including traders, academics and editors.

The committee, which met today to discuss the logistics of the visit, would also meet Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Party leader Shabir Shah.

Asked about the stated position of the Hurriyat about not participating in the Assembly poll, he said the committee would seek to know the rationale of its decision. “We wish to ask them if they have any rational ground for their opposition and try and meet it.”

On its return from the valley, the committee would make its recommendations to the Centre. Mr Jethmalani said the committee could suggest postponement of the poll if this was a factor which could make the Hurriyat Conference and other groups take part in it.

Asked about the angry reaction of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, who in his speech at Srinagar today, described the Kashmir Committee as “flagbearers of the Hurriyat,” Mr Jethmalani said he would not hold it against Mr Abdullah.

Despite Mr Abdullah’s outburst, the committee members hope to meet him in Srinagar.

The committee is not going to Jammu during its three-day visit to the state. It would be meeting Jammu-based groups in Delhi later. Today’s meeting was attended by six of the seven members of the Kashmir Committee.



APHC open to joint parleys with DFP
Shabir Shah’s letter to Bhat on meeting with Kashmir panel
Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 15
The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has no objection to meeting Kashmir Committee chief Ram Jethmalani along with representatives of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) headed by Mr Shabir Ahmed Shah.

In the light of Mr Jethmalani’s visit to Srinagar tomorrow, Mr Shabir Ahmed Shah had suggested to the APHC leadership that the two should open parleys with the Kashmir Committee chief jointly.

Maulvi Abbas Ansari, a senior APHC leader said: “We will have no problem if Mr Shah is keen to meet Mr Ram Jethmalani in our company”.

He said: “We had suggested to the DFP chief and other political groups to join the APHC. So far there has been no response from Mr Shabir Shah, while several others have already joined our conglomerate”.

He said “our aim is to secure permanent resolution of the Kashmir issue and whosoever joins us in this mission will be welcomed”.

Mr Shabir Shah had sent a letter to the APHC Chairman, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, suggesting that all separatists groups form a panel to initiate discussions with the Kashmir Committee. Prof Bhat has not responded so far to his suggestion indicating that the APHC team would prefer to meet Mr Jathmalani separately, despite the fact the APHC has no problem if leaders of several separatist groups meet him jointly.

Initially, the APHC leadership was in favour of placing before Mr Jethmalani five points as foundations for talks. These included release of all jailed detainees, end to excesses being committed by the security forces and permission to the Hurriyat team to visit Pakistan.

Inside, reports said the APHC leadership had decided not to impose any pre-condition for the talks yet at the same time convey to the Kashmir Committee head that the government should be persuaded to “accept our five-point programme”.

The APHC Chairman has reiterated that the ensuing Assembly poll “is not an issue in which we are interested, as it is no answer to the 54-year problem as has been demonstrated by a series of elections conducted in the past”.

Prof Bhat has maintained: “We are keen to discuss the core issue of Kashmir. We want a peaceful settlement of the dispute so that there is halt to bloodshed. We want India to avoid being narrow in its attitude on the issue”.

However, Mr Shabir Ahmed Shah has said: “Kashmir is the main issue that needs to be resolved. If the talks include elections, I will have no problem discussing it. I will explain that under the present system free and fair poll is not possible and, hence, international observers be appointed to monitor it”.

It is clear that under pressure from the international community, the APHC, the DFP and others have softened their attitude.



4 Pak balloons land in Jammu

Jammu, August 15
Four balloons from Pakistan landed at different places in the Jammu region today when people were celebrating Independence Day.

Official sources said one balloon landed at the Kathua bus stand, triggering speculation among the people of a deliberate Pakistani attempt to dampen the celebrations.

Soon after, another balloon landed at Nagrota, on the outskirts of Jammu city. Two others landed at Sunderbani in the Nowshera sector of Rajouri district and Chadwal in Hiranagar district.

Security agencies have taken cognisance of the matter, the sources added. UNI


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