Kasuri Pushes Hurriyat Unity A Step Ahead
6 September 2004
The Asian Age
New Delhi: Pakistan's attempts to unite the disparate factions of the Hurriyat Conference is said to have made some progress. The Kashmiri leaders who met Pakistan foreign minister Khurshed Mehmood Kasuri also stressed that it was time to involve the Kashmiris in the Indo-Pak talks as without their presence the dialogue will have no direction. Mr Kasuri has been holding a series of meetings with Kashmiri separatist leaders. He met Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik and Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabbir Shah on Monday. Both the leaders stressed that the Indo-Pak talks will be futile till Kashmiris are involved in the process. Mr Malik and Mr Shah told Mr Kasuri that Kashmir is a trilateral issue. 'Kashmiris are a primary party and have to be involved in talks,' Mr Shah said after meeting Mr Kasuri. He said while all other issues between India and Pakistan could be bilateral, the Kashmir issue had to be resolved trilaterally. Mr Shah suggested that the government form a Kashmir Committee, headed by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan. Mr Kasuri had four-hour dinner meeting with hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani here on Saturday. In that meeting, Mr Kasuri is learnt to have assured Mr Geelani that Pakistan has been consistent with its Kashmir policy. This was after Mr Geelani said that a shift in Pakistan's Kashmir policy had been evinced in the recent months. Upon Mr Kasuri's impressing Mr Geelani that Kashmir needed to have one political voice, Mr Geelani said he was ready to unite with other leaders but would not align with former Hurriyat chief Maulana Abbas Ansari and spokesperson Abdul Gani Butt under any circumstance. He was amenable to Mr Malik and Mr Shah joining, and said that he was also willing step down from his position to facilitate this, sources said. Mr Geelani had in the last meeting with Pakistan foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar, some weeks ago, said he was 'fed-up' of alliance politics and had indicated he would launch a new front. Soon after, he floated the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and consolidated his political authority in the state. The Pakistan foreign Minister also met Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who, sources said responded positively to effort to bring all leaders under the Hurriyat umbrella. Mirwaiz said India and Pakistan should operationalise a visa and passport free Srinagar Muzaffarabad bus travel. This, he said was the greatest Jammu and Kashmir- specific confidence-building measure. Saying it was time to include the Kashmiris in the talks, he also called for greater intra- Kashmiri dialogue.