Track II diplomacy: Pak Ulema to visit
24 May 2001
The Indian Express
New Delhi: MAULANA Fazlul Rehman, chief of Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Islam, the patron organisation of dreaded Pakistan-based militant groups like Harkat-Ul- Ansar and Jaise Mohommad among several others, is expected to visit India as part of the voluntary involvement of religious leaders from both the countries in the ongoing track II diplomacy on Kashmir. Rehman had earlier visited New Delhi to help the Indian Government’s search for five missing Western tourists who had been abducted and presumably killed in captivity by the Al Farhan militant group in Kashmir. He enjoys considerable clout among most of the Pakistan- based militant groups other than the Lashkar-e-Toiba and had been chairman of Pakistan’s foreign relations committee during Benazir Bhutto’s regime. Official sources confirmed that Rehman had applied for a visit and it was under consideration. Sources said Rehman’s visit was to reciprocate the one by Moulana Assad Madani, leader of the Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Hind to Pakistan last month. Madani, whose organisation owes allegiance to the Deobandi school of Islamic thought, had annoyed hard-liners in Pakistan through his remark that what was happening in Kashmir was not jehad. Sources said the plans to involve the Islamic scholars from both India and Pakistan to explore peace possibilities between the two countries was mooted at an Islamic meet at Peshawar a few months ago. Scholars had then expressed concern at the growing tensions between the two countries over Kashmir and the involvement of religiously-inspired militants in the region. The meeting was organised to celebrate 150 years of Deobandi school of Islamic thought.