Pak Trip First, Talks Later: Mirwaiz
16 November 2004
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Kashmir's chief Muslim cleric and leader of the Hurriyat Conference faction assumed to be moderate, said on Tuesday holding talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian political leaders was possible only after he and the others in the amalgam were allowed to travel to Pakistan. The Mirwaiz was reacting to reports in the Indian media that said he had agreed to meet and talk to the Prime Minister during his maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir beginning Wednesday. No such decision has been taken by the Hurriyat Conference, he said. Mirwaiz Umar confirmed that he and other Hurriyat leaders would soon apply for travel documents to visit Pakistan. 'The Indian home minister had said during his recent visit here that the government was not averse to our visiting Pakistan and that we should go through the proper methods to get the travel documents for that,' he said. Asked who else would like to visit Pakistan, the Mirwaiz quipped, 'Aes sari (All of us).' The Hurriyat faction's central executive, he said, would meet here on Thursday to work out strategy for the proposed visit and other important issues and developments. Meanwhile, Hurriyat faction spokesperson Shahid-ul- Islam, in a statement issued here on Tuesday, expressed dismay and surprise over what he alleged was a baseless and fabricated proclamation attributed to the Mirwaiz. The spokesperson particularly castigated All-India Radio for spreading the 'falsehood', which, he alleged, has been done on numerous occasions by it in the past too. He claimed that the Mirwaiz, while speaking to the BBC's Hindi service the other day, had only reiterated the Hurriyat Conference stance on the issue - that the amalgam would hold the third round of talks with the Prime Minister and other prominent Indian political leaders only on their return from Pakistan. 'He (the Mirwaiz) said we have held two rounds of talks on Kashmir with India and wish to go to Pakistan to talk to its government and political leadership, both there and in Azad Kashmir, besides the militant commanders. If the Indian government allows us to travel to Pakistan, we shall on our return hold the third round of talks with the Prime Minister and other prominent Indian political leaders,' he said. Meanwhile, tight security arrangements are being made for the Prime Minister's visit. Dr Singh is to address public rallies in Srinagar and Jammu, inaugurate some official projects and address the first convocation of the Sher-i-Kahmir Institute of Medical Sciences (a deemed university) at a convention centre here. He is also to review the latest political and law and order situation with local civilian and military officials, said government sources. Mainstream and separatist political parties are eagerly watching the visit. Speculation is rife that the Prime Minister will announce some political concessions, besides a comprehensive economic package, for the strife-torn state.