April 2000 News

Hurriyat tries to emerge as Indo-Pak arbiter

6 April 2000
Asian Age
Seema Mustafa

New Delhi: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference is all set to emerge as an arbiter between India and Pakistan for the proposed tripartite dialogue on Kashmir. “Let us not go to Washington, let us move from Delhi to Islamabad, from Srinagar to Muzzafarabad and through this interaction create a favourable climate for talks,” said Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Butt. In an interview to The Asian Age on Thursday, Professor Butt said, “I want the two governments of India and Pakistan to create conditions where the APHC can use its good offices and talk to both sides. Why go to Washington? If this takes shape a solution to the problem will emerge,” he said. Senior leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani struck a note of caution. “We will not involve ourselves in anything less than a permanent solution to the problem of Kashmir,” he said. The leaders, released recently by the government from prison, ruled out any “bilateral” agreements with New Delhi, pointing out that too many people have died in the Valley and “talks are now not for pleasure but for a specific purpose, we want a permanent solution.” Union home minister L.K. Advani’s statement for talks under the framework of the Indian Constitution was rejected by the Hurriyat leaders. “Conditions will kill the spirit of the dialogue,” said Prof. Butt, going on to brand this particular condition as “constitutional slavery.” Mr Geelani regretted that the deaths of “70,000 people” in Kashmir had not invoked the provisions of the Constitution. The Hurriyat leaders, who hope to leave for Srinagar on Saturday, are clearly reconciled to a dialogue. They are insistent, however, that Pakistan will have to be involved for a permanent solution. “Bilateral dialogue will not yield any results, the participation of Pakistan is inevitable,” according to Professor Butt. In a marked shift in position, he said there was no scope for international mediation at present. “We do not reject it but preferably why go to Washington, don’t we have the capacity to deal with the situation,” he asked repeatedly. The Hurriyat also expects to represent Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir in the proposed dialogue as and when it takes place. Asked who will participate from PoK, the leaders pointed out that the “APHC represents the sentiments of the people of Kashmir.” Professor Butt went a step further to compare the APHC to mass struggle leaders like Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela. Professor Butt said the world knew that the nuclear option was exercised by both India and Pakistan over Kashmir. “The two countries are not going to fight a war over cricket or river waters,” he said. He said that the tension over Kashmir has assumed “alarming proportions,” making it imperative for all the concerned leaders to sit and address the problem “imaginatively and realistically.” Asked why India should trust the APHC, which was seen to be pro-Pakistan, Prof. Butt said, “Every inch of India and every inch of Pakistan belongs to us as well. Neither will trust us but the situation will compel them to accept us.” He said the people in both countries “and in Kashmir” have a great desire for peace and the two governments will have to submit to the will of the people. Mr Yasin Malik is still in jail although he is expected to be released shortly. Mr Geelani and Prof. Butt were unwilling to say why his release had been delayed. Asked about the meeting with Pakistan high commissioner Qazi Ashraf Jahangir, who had called upon them on Thursday with flowers, Prof. Butt said, “He had come with garlands and sweets, we offered him a naked cup of tea. And that was all. There was no discussion.”


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