Hurriyat Visit Will Lead To Peace: Musharraf
4 June 2005
The Hindustan Times
Islamabad: Calling it 'a great leap forward', Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday said he was confident that the visit of separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir would lead to peace in the region. Speaking to reporters here, Musharraf said it was notable that the Kashmiri leaders had neither come on Indian passports nor with Pakistani visas. 'It shows the understanding by both sides. 'This is a great leap forward ... I am confident it should lead to a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.' Musharraf's comments came as leaders of the separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference from Jammu and Kashmir arrived here Saturday, saying they planned to discuss peace proposals with the leaders of Pakistan. The Hurriyat leaders arrived in the Pakistani capital a day after making an impassioned plea in the Pakistani half of the Himalayan state to give peace a chance after 15 years of insurgency. 'We have brought some solid proposals that we want to share with the political leadership here,' said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of the top leaders of the moderate wing of the Hurriyat. His colleague, Abdul Ghani Bhat, said the delegation had come with 'ideas we will discuss with Pakistani leadership and you'. But they declined to go into details. Farooq said there would also have to be a dialogue with 'those who hold the gun' and asked Kashmiri militants based in Pakistan to 'give peace a chance'. The visit is the first open interaction between politicians from Indian Kashmir and 'Azad Kashmir' since the state was cut into two zones in 1947-48 after the subcontinent's partition. Farooq and his colleagues in the nine-member delegation reiterated their call for the participation of Kashmiris in the dialogue process between Pakistan and India. 'It is also in the national interest of India and Pakistan to give this role to Kashmiris,' said Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik. 'This is the collective voice of the Jammu and Kashmir people.' Malik expressed his support for the India-Pakistan peace progress. Though the Hurriyat leaders came by bus from Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, they did not confine themselves to 'Azad Kashmir' - as the bus permit condition demands - but travelled to Islamabad. Malik said they had invited 'Azad Kashmir' political leaders to visit Jammu and Kashmir to erase 'artificial distances and lines' separating them. He wondered why Kashmiri politicians should be stopped from meeting each other while people of Pakistan and India visited each other's country. The visiting delegation includes Moulvi Abbas Ansari, Bilal Ghani Lone and Mohammed Abdullah Tari.