May 2005 News

Geelani turns down invitation to visit Pakistan

29 May 2005
The Daily Times

Srinagar: Syed Ali Geelani, leader of the hardline faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), on Sunday declined Pakistan's invitation to visit the country and Azad Jammu and Kashmir along with other Hurriyat leaders on June 2.Hurriyat sources said the decision was taken at a Majlis-e-Shoora (advisory council) meeting by a majority vote (11 in favour and five against the decision). Fourteen leaders of other parties of Jammu and Kashmir attended it. Geelani told reporters in Srinagar that the Hurriyat meeting had rejected Pakistan's invitation. The moderate APHC faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, head of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, accepted Pakistan's invitation to come to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan for consultations with Kashmiri and Pakistani leaders.Sources said Geelani was against travelling to Pakistan either through Muzaffarabad or any other route because he believed that travelling and talking to Pakistan was futile and that Kashmir could only be resolved through a plebiscite or tripartite talks. Geelani said, 'Pakistan's present leadership is deviating from that country's basic stance on Kashmir. We have decided not to go to express our resentment of it.'Last week, Islamabad invited the moderate and hardline APHC factions to make their first visit to Azad Kashmir using the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service started April 7 as part of a 16-month peace process between the South Asian rivals. The invitation was for Thursday's fifth run of the bus service. The Hurriyat, Kashmir's main separatist alliance, is split between moderates who seek independence for Kashmir and hardliners such as Geelani who seek a merger with Pakistan and who had previously opposed the new bus service linking both Kashmirs.Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met both factions in New Delhi in April during a visit to discuss Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. President Musharraf urged them to 'use your brains' to become part of the peace process. Hurriyat leaders have long expressed their desire to visit Pakistan to discuss the Kashmir dispute. They have also demanded to be included in talks between India and Pakistan over the territory, which is held in part but claimed in full by both countries. India has been reluctant to let separatists travel to Pakistan. In the recent past it has refused to issue passports for the journey. However, travel by bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad only requires a state- issued permit. The separatists also wanted to visit cities in Pakistan, but have been warned by the Indian government the bus travel permit is invalid for travel outside Kashmir. agencies


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