Centre''s nod to Hurriyat leaders'' Pakistan visit
28 December 2000
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: THE CENTRE is in the process of granting the travel documents to the Hurriyat Conference leaders to enable them to visit Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the middle of next month. Ahead of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee''s departure for Kottayam, the PMO is understood to have directed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to grant passports to the Hurriyat leaders. The leaders who have already applied for travel documents are Hurriyat chairman Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, Abdul Ghani Lone, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Moulvi Abbas Ansari, Yasin Malik and Sheikh Abdul Aziz. As the Centre is averse to playing an indirect role in the composition of the visiting team, it has decided against being selective in the grant of travel papers. In other words, this means that South Block would pay equal attention to similar requests by other Hurriyat functionaries. The Government reportedly felt encouraged to take this stand following the plain-speaking of some Hurriyat leaders against the mercenary-missions of Pak-backed foreign militants active in the troubled State. Official sources said the Centre would not stand in the way of the Hurriyat leaders'' desire to visit Pakistan in pursuit of peace. ''We are not optimistic of any dramatic developments leading to any major shift in Pakistan''s Kashmir policy. But we would not like to be seen as creating hurdles in the way of the Hurriyat initiative,'' they explained. Presently, no Hurriyat leader, excepting Mirwaiz Moulvi Omer Farooq, possesses a valid passport. Recently, Mr Lone was issued a country-specific passport to attend his son''s marriage with JKLF chairman Amanullah Khan''s daughter in Pakistan.