August 2000 News

Salahuddin Ready To Resume Talks

17 August 2000
Times of India
Law Kumar Mishra

Srinagar: Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin is willing to resume the dialogue with the Centre that fell apart when he called off ceasefire negotiations on August 8 seeking Pakistani participation. This was revealed here by Fazal Haq Qureshi, chairman of the People''s Political Front and the principal negotiator appointed by the Hizbul Mujahideen last month. Qureshi told The Times of India on Thursday that Salahuddin had telephoned him from Islamabad expressing a desire to resume ''comprehensive'' talks with the Centre. But it is possible that the fresh dialogue may include all the militant groups and not the Hizbul Mujahideen alone, as Salahuddin had insisted on earlier. Qureshi said Salahuddin was already working out his comprehensive talks proposal. He said resumption of talks was possible if the Centre gave an assurance that at a later, crucial stage, Pakistan might also be involved in the negotiations. At least, the Centre should give an indication to this effect, Qureshi added. Qureshi said the offer had come from Salahuddin and the Centre should respond to it seriously. The contradictory stand taken by the Centre, which compelled the withdrawal of the ceasefire by the Hizbul Mujahideen, should be avoided now, he added. Qureshi regretted that in the initial days of the ceasefire, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Union home minister L.K. Advani and national security advisor Brajesh Mishra had issued contradictory statements. ''I wish there would be just one word from the government now,'' he added. The methodology for the talks should be worked out and the government should speak in one voice as Salahuddin had promised to ''come out with a comprehensive offer'', Qureshi said. Bureaucrats, who were involved in the previous round of talks, should be replaced by political leaders like Vajpayee, Advani or foreign minister Jaswant Singh, he added. Decisions must be taken at the political level, he said. Asked why Salahuddin withdrew the ceasefire, he said the Hizbul leader felt compelled to do so as the government had no clear agenda and an impression had been created that Pakistan was not in the picture at all. Qureshi said he would not blame the All-Party Hurriyat Conference for sabotaging the talks. There was no scope of including them then, but could join now, he said. Meanwhile, the Hizbul Mujahideen, in a statement issued here, has assailed Hurriyat leaders and asked them to either join the militant ranks or abdicate from leading the ''movement''. ''By issuing press releases and shedding crocodile tears, the Kashmir problem cannot be solved,'' the statement said. Hurriyat leaders had changed their stand thrice in a fortnight and now they were silent on the ceasefire withdrawal, it added.


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