February 2006 News

Mahapanchayat On Kashmir

14 February 2006
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: In the first initiative of its kind since the onset of militancy in Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened a round-table conference of leading Kashmiri politicians, including separatist leaders, on February 24. The conclave, which will look at possible solutions to the Kashmir problem, will also be attended by the representatives of various organisations representing region- specific communities (like Kashmiri Pandits, Buddhists from Ladakh), NGOs and other ethnic groups. Sources said a list of around 50 people had been drawn up, comprising Kashmir-centric mainstream political parties like the Congress, BJP, National Conference, Peoples' Democratic Party, CPM and Panthers Party besides the moderate Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Sajjad Lone's Peoples Conference and Shabir Shah's Peoples Democratic Party. Sources said the discussions were expected to be open-ended without any specific agenda. 'The PM wants to hear from all the participants with an open mind,' said a source. 'He is keen to seek cooperation from all the invitees for a return to normality'. Formal invitations are expected to be extended in a couple of days. Since the PM will be busy in Parliament on February 24 - Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav will be presenting the railway budget - the conference is expected to begin in the afternoon. J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who met the prime minister on Monday, is said to have been informed about the Centre's latest move. The prime minister has already invited JKLF chief Yasin Malik for talks on Friday. Last September, he had met the leaders of the moderate Hurriyat.


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