Saturday, August 31, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Shabir’s volte-face on poll
Tribune News Service

Kashmir Committee Chairman Ram Jethmalani with a delegation of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party
Kashmir Committee Chairman Ram Jethmalani with a delegation of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party led by Shabir Ahmed Shah after their meeting in New Delhi on Friday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, August 30
In a volte-face, Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah today ruled out his party’s participation in the forthcoming poll in Jammu and Kashmir, hours after he had agreed to take part in the democratic process subject to some pre-conditions.

“Let me make it clear that we are not participating in the forthcoming Assembly elections... The elections are a meaningless exercise for us... The Centre is once again imposing Dr Farooq Abdullah and his son on the people of Kashmir... there is a nexus between the BJP and the National Conference,’’ Mr Shah said after his meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh was also present at the meeting.

Accompanied by Kashmir Committee member Ashok Bhan, he ducked all questions about his earlier statement at Committee chief Ram Jethmalani’s residence where he had said that he would be taking part in the poll after some conditions were met.

Asked whether he demanded postponement of poll, Mr Shah said the question should be asked to the government. “I have now made my stand crystal clear.”

To a question whether his contention that Kashmir was an international issue was the reason for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani refusing to meet him, he said : “This is their problem. We were here on an invitation of the Kashmir Committee. If Kashmir was not an international issue, then why did Mr Vajpayee go to Lahore or call on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to Agra, he asked.

Mr Shah said it was “unfortunate” that the Centre had even refused to listen to the committee’s suggestion which had been authorised by none other than the Deputy Prime Minister himself.

Earlier, Mr Shah created a flutter over the DFP’s participation in the polls after he issued a joint statement with the Kashmir Committee, agreeing to take part in the poll on certain conditions. Mr Shah said they had agreed in principle to participate in the elections to prove their representative character.

“We whole-heartedly agree with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that elections alone can identify true representatives of the people of the state for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.”

The confidence-building measures suggested by the DFP for its participation in a “free, fair and meaningful’’ elections included release of those illegally jailed, honourable and dignified return of migrants, end to alleged custodial killings, facilitation of an intra-Kashmir dialogue and greater accountability of the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and other anti-insurgency groups.

The ice was broken during the marathon five-hour talks Mr Shah and his party representatives held with the committee members today.

“After two rounds of talks with the Kashmir Committee, the DFP led by Shabir Shah has in principle agreed to participate in the elections,” said the joint statement read out at the end of the meeting. The talks began early in the morning after last night’s talks remained inconclusive.

Besides Mr Jethmalani, the committee comprised senior editors Dileep Padgaonkar and M.J. Akbar, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, Mr V.K. Grover, Mr Javed Laiq and convenor Ashok Bhan.

The DFP was represented by Abdul Salam Rather, Salim Geelani, Mr Harbans Singh Khalsa, Prof G M Sheikh, Mr Abdullah Tari besides Mr Shah. He criticised the Centre saying it did not have a concrete policy on Kashmir and said the ball was in the Centre’s court and it was for it to take a decision on the seven confidence-building measures specified by his party.


APHC drops talks conditions

New Delhi, August 30
In a significant development, the Hurriyat Conference today expressed its willingness to enter into a constructive and meaningful dialogue with the Centre for permanent resolution of the Kashmir issue, without any pre-conditions.

“The time has come where we need to have a fresh approach on the whole issue and the means for its resolution. Giving up rigid postures, serious efforts are needed to find a lasting solution to the vexed problem — a resolution that is just and honourable,” senior Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq said in a statement here.

“We, in the Hurriyat, firmly believe that the resolution of the Kashmir issue is possible through a peaceful and meaningful dialogue among the parties and use of violence from any side can complicate rather than resolve the issue,” he added.

The Mirwaiz said the Hurriyat was also aware of the changing global scenario in J&K. UNI

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