July 2000 News

Hizbul sings Pak tune, names team for talks

30 July 2000
Times of India

New Delhi: The Hizbul Mujahideen on Sunday named a three-member team that it would like to be present in the proposed talks with the Indian government, even as Syed Salahuddin, the supreme commander of the separatist outfit, said the Kashmir issue could be settled ''only through tripartite talks that include the Kashmiris, India and Pakistan''. The Hizbul, which last week declared a three-month ceasefire in Kashmir, has discreetly started contacting other Kashmiri leaders to discuss their next move. Hizbul sources said it was likely that some Kashmiri political leaders would meet in the United Arab Emirates to discuss a strategy for the rapidly changing scene in Kashmir. ''The contacts have started for a meeting of Kashmiri leaders,'' said one source. In Muzaffarabad, the Capital of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Hizbul spokesman Kalim Siddiqui said Ghulam Ali, Mushtaq Gillani and Mohammad Ali Saqib had been named for the talks. ''There can be other people as well, but these three have raised the issue around the world and we want them in any negotiation between India and the Kashmiri leadership,'' he said. In a late night development, Salahuddin told an Indian news agency in Islamabad that India facilitate a meeting of Hizbul leaders of both sides of the Line of Control to discuss the modalities of talks. But even as it was preparing the ground for participation in talks with the Centre, the outfit threatened to review its ceasefire if pre-conditions were set. ''The beginning of the talks process will be impossible unless India categorically announces to hold unconditional talks. The Hizbul Mujahideen will have no other option but to review its ceasefire declaration,'' Salahuddin said in a statement issued earlier on Sunday in Islamabad. The Hizbul, he said, has already made it clear that the Kashmir issue could be settled ''only through tripartite talks that include the Kashmiris, India and Pakistan''. Hizbul spokesman Saleem Hashmi said, ''We won''t accept any condition which say that the talks should be within the ambit of the Indian Constitution or without involving Pakistan''. He said the Hizbul''s central command council, which met on Sunday, asked India to bring ''flexibility'' in its stand towards Pakistan. The ceasefire offer drew scathing criticism from some militant groups fighting in Kashmir. But other groups are realising they could face difficulties operating in Kashmir without the help of the Hizbul and some militants think that the ceasefire could lead to breakthrough in the dispute over the region. The Hizbul has contacted Kashmiri figures in the US, Canada and Europe after getting in touch with Kashmir''s leading separatist alliance, the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, which has welcomed the Vajpayee government''s ''unconditional'' invitation to talks as a positive move towards resolution of the Kashmir issue. In New Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, asked all other militant outfits to follow the Hizbul example. ''The ceasefire offer should come from all militant groups to bring peace in the Valley. Pakistan should encourage other militant outfits like the Harkat-ul-Ansar and the Lashker-e-Taiba to shun violence... as this would help in holding a dialogue between the two countries,'' Abdullah said. Extending his government''s support to the Centre in restoring peace in the state, he said he was in favour of talks between India and Pakistan, but reiterated the Centre''s stand that dialogue could not be held until Islamabad stopped abetting cross-border terrorism. Asked whether the autonomy resolution ''was part of an effort by the state government'' to stall the dialogue between the Centre and the Hurriyat Conference, Abdullah said, ''Why should I stall it when I expressed my desire to talk to them?'' He met home minister L K Advani during the day and exchanged views on the Hizbul''s offer of ceasefire. Abdullah also discussed the security and political situation in the state and is understood to have asked Advani to continue anti-insurgency operations against other militant outfits.


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