September 2005 News

Musharraf assures Mirwaiz of unchanged Kashmir position

28 September 2005
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, though disappointed at the absence of any reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the joint statement issued in New York after the Musharraf-Manmohan meeting, says he was subsequently assured by President Musharraf that Pakistan's position was 'very clear' in that it wants a settlement in keeping with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.In an interview given to India Abroad, the 32-year old Hurriyat leader said the pace of the Indo-Pak dialogue process is 'on the slower side', and it needs to be speeded up. The issue is complex and it will take time, 'but we feel content now that Kashmiris are figuring as far as the process is concerned; we are talking to India and we are talking to Pakistan. It is not a bilateral affair anymore.' He said the process has not stalled and is 'very much in motion'. There are 'hiccups', he said, but his delegation's talks in New Delhi with the Indian prime minister indicated that 'there is a realisation in India that you cannot have a solution of Kashmir through force or intimidation.' The Indian leader has said that a 'political problem needs a political solution', he added.Mirwaiz said the parties need to get more serious, 'especially the Government of India'. He explained that 'we are not talking now in terms of a solution; we are talking about consolidating and mechanising the process.' He said a solution would come out of the process itself, 'rather than out of preconceived ideas of notions.' In the past, he recalled, India always thrust its opinion on the Kashmiris and has never been serious in addressing the concerns of the people of the State. He said that it was necessary for the people of Kashmir to 'feel the change' but that has not yet happened. There have been no Kashmiri-specific confidence building measures (CBMs), and although there is a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC), the Kashmiris are still being killed. India clearly has to take some measures so that the common Kashmiri can see something good coming out of the dialogue process and sees a change in the moods and attitude of the Indian forces in the State.Asked if he had a specific strategy in mind for the immediate future, the Mirwaiz replied that the Hurriyat was focused on the dialogue process and at the same time focusing on how the situation on the ground can be improved. Many things can be done, such as the release of political prisoners, human rights of civilians and the abrogation of emergency legislation. These steps would send a good message to the Kashmiris. He also called for giving UN military observers in both parts of the State the authority to monitor movement along the LoC. Force, whether by India or by Kashmiris, is not going to work, he added. He said that the Hurriyat also wanted to reach out to those in India talking about a resolution of the issue through dialogue. He said that he has suggested ways to President Musharraf to strengthen the hands of Kashmiri moderates. He has also suggested a broadening of the dialogue to include other regions of the State, such as Ladakh and Jammu.He conceded that there are people in Kashmir who do not support the dialogue process, but that is the only option. He said he was looking for 'flexibility on all sides' as there can no solution on the basis of positions taken 'traditionally.'Mirwaiz told a news conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday morning that the Hurriyat is currently preparing a set of proposals for its next meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He expressed optimism on the progress of his talks with the Indian and Pakistani leaders. He said the Kashmir issue could be resolved peacefully only if the people of Kashmir were involved in the talks. He reiterated that the people of Kashmir will accept any solution other than 'status quo' and the 'conversion of the Line of Control into an international border.' He said in answer to a question that this was a Kashmiri, not a Pakistani, demand. The people of Kashmir had revolted against the status quo and for their inalienable right to self-determination. He called for a measure of demilitarisation in Kashmir and an end to human rights violations. The Government of India had taken several confidence building measures related to Pakistan, he said, but to the people of Kashmir only one measure - the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service - was relevant. More such steps needed to be taken by India.Meanwhile, some Kashmiri activists have expressed their dismay at the lack of mention of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the joint statement issued after the Musharraf-Manmohan meeting in New York. Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, executive director of the Kashmiri-American Council, said that it was 'disturbing' that the statement made no reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and when the two leaders say 'that they are going to settle the issue of Kashmir to the satisfaction of both India and Pakistan, I feel this is an insult to the intelligence of the Kashmiri people irrespective of their religious affiliations.' Raja Muzaffar, vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, said the Kashmiris were the principal parties to the dispute and no one can leave them out. He expressed disappointment at the lack of mention to the principal party in the joint statement issued in New York.


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