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Hurriyat leaders in Islamabad
Recognition of Kashmir’s disputed status: Pervez
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, June 4
Giving a twist to India’s gesture in allowing Kashmiri separatist leaders to travel to Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf today said it was a recognition of the “disputed status” of Kashmir by both countries.

Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and eight other separatist leaders from the Kashmir valley were flown from PoK into the Pakistani capital by helicopters around the time the Pakistani ruler was leaving on a three-day visit to the UAE and Qatar. He will meet them on his return here.

The visit of the separatist leaders had “great political significance because they have not come on Indian passports and visas issued by Pakistan,” the General was quoted as saying by the state-run APP news agency at Chaklala airbase before his departure.

So, he said, “it is the recognition of the disputed status of Kashmir by both countries.”

India had expressed reservations over travel by the separatist leaders beyond PoK on special permits but later issued them passports to facilitate it. However, it made it clear that onus for travel by them beyond PoK would be on Pakistan.

Describing the visit as “a very important confidence building measure,” Musharraf said “this is a great leap forward in understanding flexibility being shown by both sides.”

This, he said, should now lead to discussion for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. “The option is open — we hope that it leads on to that.”

After their arrival, the separatist leaders attended a lunch hosted by Pakistan’s Kashmir Affairs Minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat.

“All parties must work together to resolve the (Kashmir) problem,” moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a brief encounter with the media on arrival here.

The Mirwaiz also stressed that Kashmir “is a political issue and all such issues should be resolved through negotiations.”

The Pakistan Prime Minister will host a lunch for the leaders tomorrow while President Musharraf will meet them on his return from the foreign tour on June 6. — PTI, UNI


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