March 2006 News

Mirwaiz For Unilateral Ceasefire To Tame Militants

24 March 2006
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Hours after the reopening of the bus route between Amritsar and Nankana Sahib and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling for closer Indo-Pak ties, Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today offered to get militants in Kashmir to agree to a truce if New Delhi announced unilateral ceasefire. And for Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who commands the support of the militant groups, the new development has only brought Pakistan and India closer, leaving out Kashmir, the source of the conflict. 'If New Delhi declares unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir, Hurriyat will try and prevail on the militants to follow suit,' Mirwaiz told the media shortly before he left for Pakistan to attend the Conference of World Social Forum in Karachi. He called for a 'bold initiative' and 'out-of-box' thinking on Kashmir and assured a constructive role from Hurriyat. 'A ceasefire in Kashmir will be a natural corollary to the Amritsar- Nankana Sahib bus link between India and Pakistan and will add to the confidence.' The visit of Mirwaiz to Pakistan, his third since the first Hurriyat visit in September last comes shortly after the Pugwash Conference which, for the first time, brought J-K's mainstream and separatist leadership and the Pak establishment together on a single platform. The backlash of Pugwash which saw National Conference President Omer Abdullah meeting President Pervez Musharraf is still playing out in Kashmir, with Abdullah now in the centerstage. So, when Mirwaiz spoke today, it was as if from the shadows with Abdullah looming on J-K's political landscape. Kashmir observers anticipate more political drama with the former J-K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, the father of Omer Abdullah also expected to attend the Conference in Karachi. Mirwaiz made a strong pitch for a more Kashmir-centered peace-building effort as, according to him, the state was at the root of the Indo-Pak conflict and not Punjab. 'Hurriyat welcomes increased people-to-people contact but it is time now to shift gear to Kashmir and involve Kashmiris in the solution,' he said adding that during his stay in Pakistan he will make efforts to consolidate the peace process and work towards bringing militants on board. Geelani, who is on a public mobilisation drive against Musharraf's 'progressive softening' of the stand on Kashmir said: 'Punjab-Nankana Sahib bus link is peripheral to the real issue dividing the two countries. Closer relations between India and Pakistan make no difference to Kashmir which is the heart of the trouble.' However, he refused to call for ceasefire by the militants as according to him, an acceptable solution to Kashmir problem will bring everybody on board and thus leave no room for violence.


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