Sunday, August 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Kashmir panel pins hopes on APHC
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24
The Kashmir Committee is confident that the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) will participate in the forthcoming Jammu and Kashmir elections in parts if not in toto.

There are indications that PoK-based outfits like Amanullah Khan’s party are keen to contest the elections. A powerful signal is that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who has described the APHC as the only true representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in his August 14 speech, has not repeated this since then.

Sources close to Kashmir Committee’s head Ram Jathmalani said the vibes from the Hurriyat leadership were “quite positive” and the coming week would be crucial for elections and the future of the state.

The meeting of the Hurriyat leadership with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani might be held after all hiccups and the meeting schedule might be finalised by next week.

The fact that some important decisions on Jammu and Kashmir were expected next week was reflected from the fact that Mr Jethmalani, who was scheduled to leave for South Africa tomorrow, cancelled his tour.

Mr Jethmalani, confirmed that he was expecting a written communication from the APHC and the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Shah by Monday in connection with his invitation for talks with the Centre.

Asked if the Hurriyat leaders would participate in the elections, he said, “They may accommodate us or we may accommodate them.”

Mr Jethmalani said he was hopeful that better sense would prevail and the Election Commission would postpone the elections.

He said Hurriyat Chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Shabir Shah were arriving here next week. “I will meet Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani soon and facilitate the talks between the Centre and the separatist leaders,” he said.

He said the Hurriyat’s decision to hold second round of talks on finding an amicable solution to the Kashmir problem was the committee’s great achievement. The Hurriyat’s denouncement of violence was another significant step in the ongoing peace process.

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