Kashmiris Mixed On Musharraf Proposals To India
26 October 2004
Muzaffarabad: Kashmiris gave a mixed response on Tuesday to Pakistani proposals to move forward peace talks with India but insisted they must be involved in efforts to resolve the dispute over their divided land. President Pervez Musharraf called on Monday for a debate on options to resolve the dispute over the divided Himalayan region that has bedevilled relations with India for more than 50 years and caused two of the nuclear-armed neighbours' three wars. Pro-Pakistani militant groups blamed by India for a bloody revolt in its part of Kashmir in which tens of thousands have died since the late 1970s, have yet to comment on Musharraf's proposals and representatives said they were being studied. But Amanullah Khan, leader of the pro- independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, thanked Musharraf for accepting complete independence of the state as a possible solution. 'It is the first time since the death of (Pakistan leader) Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1948 that the head of the state of Pakistan had accepted this basic right of Kashmiris,' he said in a statement. But he said it was 'painful' that none of the options proposed by Musharraf were based on the wishes of Kashmiris. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads a hard-line faction of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference seeking Pakistani rule of all Kashmir, said India would not respond positively. 'In the past, Pervez Musharraf proposed such things, but the Indians did not respond....Our stand is very clear: People of suppressed Kashmir who have given unlimited sacrifices should be given right to self- determination.' Abdul Gani Bhat, leader of the moderate faction of Hurriyat, praised the proposals: 'The two countries will have to introduce an element of flexibility in their approach and I am glad that they have started doing it,' he said. Both factions of Hurriyat, which groups about two dozen political groups, have been demanding a U.N.-mandated plebiscite to decide if Kashmiris want to merge with India or Pakistan. Some ordinary Kashmiris welcomed Musharraf's comments, but remained cautious about the prospects of a settlement. 'I think this is the best opportunity to solve the complex issue of Kashmir, but the question remains: is this acceptable to India?' said Mohammad Yaqoob, a businessman in Srinagar, the largest city in Indian Kashmir. But pro-militant student Khawaja Raisuddin said Musharraf had hurt the cause of those people fighting Indian forces in Kashmir. 'India and Pakistan are nobody to decide our future. The international community and United Nations should not leave Kashmiris to the mercy of India and Pakistan,' he said.