Jamali Openly Backs Geelani Faction Of Hurriyat
23 November 2003
The Asian Age
Islamabad: Breaking its silence over the factionalism in the Hurriyat Conference, Pakistan for the first time said that it recognised the breakaway Geelani faction of the separatist amalgam. 'They (the faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani) were the main active partners, and I think, he (Geelani) is the one who has been very active and very vocal throughout, and I think people respect him in the (Kashmir) Valley also,' Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said in an interview to the Dawn newspaper on his completion of one year in office. This is the first time that Pakistan has officially admitted its backing for the Geelani faction since the split in the Hurriyat nearly two month back. Earlier, Pakistan had maintained that it wanted both Geelani and Maulana Abbas Ansari to patch up, while its official media referred Geelani as the chairman and gave prominence to him only. Also, Pakistan backed Geelani faction's claim to get recognition at the Organisation of Islamic Conference. The announcement by Mr Jamali comes two days after the Hurriyat Conference led by Ansari expressed its willingness to hold talks with the Indian government. 'As far as we are concerned, Geelani is the person,' Mr Jalani said while accusing India of trying to create a 'dent' in the Hurriyat for 'political motivations.' When asked whether it was right for Pakistan to sideline the Ansari-led Hurriyat, he said, 'We have not sidelined them.' In sharp contrast to the foreign office statement, Mr Jamali also said that Pakistan was willing to hold talks with India on the basis of the Shimla and Lahore Accords, but there is no change in the country's policy of insisting on a solution to the 'core' issue of Kashmir first in any dialogue with New Delhi. 'Kashmir is the core problem and it has to be solved. The foreign office is not the last word as far as we are concerned. If somebody has given his opinion, that is something different,' Mr Jamali said in the interview. There is 'no change' in Pakistan's policy on Kashmir, he said when asked whether recent assertions by foreign office spokesman Masood Khan that Islamabad was ready to hold talks with New Delhi on the basis of Shimla and Lahore agreements represented a policy change. Under the Shimla Accord, Kashmir figured last in contrast to Pakistan's insistence that it has to be the 'core issue' and must be solved first. Mr Jamali also rejected Opposition's charge that the present foreign policy isolated Pakistan from the Islamic world and pointed to Islamabad's efforts to remove 'irritants' with neighbouring Iran and Afghanistan while maintaining close relations with other Muslim countries. Mr Jamali said President Pervez Musharraf has no intentions of giving up his uniform and taking over the reins of the ruling PML-Q to resolve the deadlock with the Opposition over his constitutional changes. 'I don't think Gen. Musharraf has any intention or idea (to become the Pakistan Muslim League-Q chief),' he said while responding to a recent suggestion by information minister Sheikh Rashid that Gen. Musharraf could take over as president of PML-Q. Even as he ruled out Gen. Musharraf quitting the Army, Mr Jamali pointed out that there had been incidents in the past in the country when dictators also held political posts. 'There is no bar. There is no bar on anybody. Even Ayub Khan (ex-military ruler) has become the President of the conventional Muslim League,' he said. When asked how he was so sure of Gen. Musharraf's intentions, Mr Jamali said, 'I have been working with him for the last one year and I think that one does know him.' The Prime Minsiter also expressed confidence on striking a deal with the Islamist Muthaida Majlis Amal to end the political impasse resulting from the Opposition insistence that Gen. Musharraf take off his Army cap if he wished to continue as the President.