Kashmiri leaders to attend conference
6 March 2006
The Daily Times
New Delhi: After refusing to attend Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s roundtable conference, several Kashmiri leaders will now attend a three-day international conference on Kashmir in Pakistan beginning on Friday. Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, National Conference (NC) President Omar Abdullah and a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) representative are going to attend the conference. Former Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat is already in Pakistan and would also attend. The conference has been organised by Pugwash, a European think-tank engaged in finding solution to contentious issues in South Asia, at Islamabad from March 10 to 12. Almost all top Kashmiri leaders had refused to attend the Indian prime minister’s roundtable on Kashmir here on February 25, citing “lack of preparation by the centre” as the reason. PDP president Mahbooba Mufti said that prominent Shia cleric Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari will present the party’s stand on Kashmir at the conference. “We have decided to send Ansari to Islamabad for the conference,” she added. Omar Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson, is also going to meet President Pervez Musharraf. Sheikh Abdullah had visited Pakistan and Azad Kashmir in 1964and ten years later in 1974, while Omar Abdullah’s father Dr Farooq Abdullah also visited the country on an invitation from JKLF. Pugwash has also invited former foreign secretary S K Lamba. The conference is expected to look at recent proposals of demilitarisation and self-rule.