M A I N   N E W S

Stop terror, Hurriyat leaders tell PoK House
K J M Varma

Muzaffarabad (PoK), June 3
Visiting Kashmiri separatist leaders began their political mission to Pakistan today with some sharply critical words for the leadership here for “romanticising” militancy that has cost thousands of deaths in Jammu and Kashmir.

Address to a joint session of the two houses of the so-called “Azad Kashmir” legislature was the high point of the first full day here for Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and six other leaders of the conglomerate as well as for JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, who all crossed the LoC to come to PoK from Srinagar yesterday.

Support for the peace process, demand for participation of Kashmiri representatives in the Indo-Pak dialogue and an end to violence was the central theme of their speeches, a day ahead of their visit to Islamabad where they will meet President Pervez Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders.

In forthright comments, Malik said a “romantic aura” created by the PoK leadership about militancy had attracted very talented Kashmiri youth who later lost their lives. He cited examples of a cement factory owner and a pilot who were killed in the course of the militancy.

As an embarrassed PoK Prime Minister Sikander Hayat Khan watched, one of his ministers sought permission to respond to Malik’s comments but did not have his way.

Farooq said the peace process was “not irreversible” if the basic issue was ignored and added that approaches for resolution of the Kashmir problem could be altered for achievement of the goal.

“We want improvement in relations between India and Pakistan. But the peace process cannot be irreversible if attention is diverted from the basic issue, although there can be trade, cultural exchanges and sports,” he said.

He said though “Kashmiris have a just cause, mere justness of it is not enough and time has come to evolve consensus among themselves.”

“Time has come to define goals of Kashmiri leaders” to enable them to evolve a strategy and change it if necessary to attain their goals,” he said.

Farooq attacked hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has turned down Pakistan’s invitation for the visit, for his consistent refusal to join the effort to find a solution to the Kashmir problem.

Without referring to Geelani by name, he said “some people thought that such an approach was negative. I do not agree with them. Hurriyat has decided to make itself relevant to the peace process and wants to become part of it.”

Going a step further, Farooq even obliquely said his faction was ready to go ahead even without Geelani on board. “Time comes in every movement to take decisions. Not everyone will be on board. There is nothing extraordinary about it.”

Apart from Farooq and Malik, those who addressed the assembly were Abbas Ansari, Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone.

Asserting that he had supported the peace process and talked about flexibility, Malik blamed the Kashmiri leaders on both sides for being hypocritical in toeing the line of Indian and Pakistan governments.

Ridiculing the leaders, he said he wanted to know if any one of them was taken into confidence by the governments of India and Pakistan when the two countries started the peace process.

Contending that “paid servants” cannot change the situation, he said no decision on Kashmir can be “imposed” without consulting Kashmiris and added that “it will not come like that and you have to ask for it.”

Bhat, former Hurriyat Chairman, said Kashmiris were caught between the alleged human rights violation and the killings of top Kashmiri leaders.

Without naming anyone, he said Farooq’s father, the late Mirwaiz, Abdul Ghani Lone and his own brother were among the many who have been assassinated in Kashmir and feared that he could be targetted in future for saying this.

“We need to end the human rights violations in Kashmir.

We want the killings to stop at the earliest. We have to hold dialogue with people holding the guns and ask them to give peace a chance. We want to end violence, insurgency, indignity, humiliation and submission. We want to end them as quickly as possible,” he said.

Calling for change of strategy, Bilal Lone asked the PoK leaders to permit the return of militants who crossed over to this side as they lived in “miserable” conditions here.

“Send them back. We can take care of them and facilitate their return. We will welcome them and do our best to rehabilitate them,” he said. — PTI


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