Musharraf backs new initiatives, claims Mirwaiz
9 December 2005
New Delhi: All Parties’ Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Friday that President Gen Pervez Mushrraf had assured him of Islamabad’s support for the idea of ‘united states of Kashmir’ as part of efforts to resolve the dispute with India. The Mirwaiz told Dawn on phone from Makkah that he had held a detailed meeting with Gen Musharraf on Thursday on the margins of the OIC summit, where the Kashmiri representative was a special invitee. “President Musharraf said he whole-heartedly supports our stand for a united states of Kashmir,” the Mirwaiz said. “He said he wants to end any unnatural division of the region.” The Mirwaiz is planning to visit Pakistan later this month either by the land route opened recently for earthquake relief, or by air, depending on India’s response. He said the division of Kashmir was quite complex even in theory. Some saw in it seven ethnically verifiable regions, others just five or even fewer. The Indian government on its part told parliament this week that the only dispute was the occupation of Azad Kashmir by Pakistan. But the comment appears to have been prompted by pique at Pakistan’s raising of the dispute at international forums, the latest being in Makkah, official sources said. The gist of the proposal for ‘united states’ of the disputed region was first placed before an international audience by the APHC leader in New Delhi last month. The Mirwaiz had discussed the idea with a delegation of the United States Congress that visited New Delhi last month. In a nutshell, the idea advanced the quest for demilitarization of Kashmir and its self-governance, the Hurriyat leader explained. Such is the importance being given to a comprehensive representation of Kashmiris in a solution that Pakistani diplomats here are probably for the first time dusting up copies of a proposal on autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir contained in a resolution of the occupied region’s legislative assembly. The proposal has yet not found favour with New Delhi. Gen Musharraf and the Mirwaiz also discussed a concept of joint management of the disputed region by Pakistan and India if the people of Kashmir so decide. On the anvil before the APHC is an early meeting of its general council and executive council to consider the way forward. There is a strong possibility that the Hurriyat would then go on to summon a meeting of all sections of Kashmiri political spectrum, including the pro-India groups, to chalk out a common strategy for future negotiations. As a signal to the way forward, the Mirwaiz expects to include in his delegation a Hindu member of the APHC, possibly from Jammu, during his fresh trip to Pakistan. He said he had encouraging meetings with representatives from Iran and Turkey among others, apart from an exchange of views with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Pakistan Muslim League leader Senator Mushahid Hussain were also present at his meeting with Gen Musharraf. The Mirwaiz briefed the president on his recent meetings with US Congressmen. This was their fourth interaction in the past eight months. The Mirwaiz had met Gen Musharraf in New Delhi on April 17 when he had come to watch a cricket match between Pakistan and India and later in Islamabad on June 7 when the Kashmiri leaders had crossed over to Azad Kashmir in the June 2 Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus. The two again met in New York on Sept 17 when Gen Musharraf was there to attend the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly and the Mirwaiz to attend an OIC ministerial meeting. A 21-member Hurriyat delegation is ready to leave for Muzaffarabad.