Last Of The Separatists Pull Out
23 May 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: In a further setback to the Prime Minister's Srinagar roundtable, separatist leaders Sajad Lone and Hashim Qureshi have also pulled out in the last minute, reducing the conclave to a mainstream-only show. Qureshi was the only separatist who had attended the first roundtable conference in New Delhi. JKLF chief Yaseen Malik and Democratic Freedom Party president Shabir Shah, the two major separatist leaders outside the Hurriyat fold, have already decided against participating. They have called the conference a futile exercise initiated by New Delhi 'to buy time'. Lone, leader of the People's Conference and vocal advocate of the pro-Kashmiri separatist position, was the last major separatist to excuse himself from the roundtable today. 'Though my party does not debunk the concept of the roundtable, we think our participation at this time will not be helpful,' Lone told The Indian Express. 'In our last meeting with the PM, we had promised to come back again with a roadmap on Kashmir. However, we are still working on the roadmap, so it would hardly serve the cause if we attend the roundtable and have nothing to offer,' Quershi said. 'I was the only separatist to attend the first roundtable. But three months on, the Centre has done nothing to improve the situation on the ground. So I don't think participating in a new round makes any sense.' The PM, he said, had assured them in the first roundtable that the Centre will take steps to release detainees against whom there were no serious cases. Qureshi also lashed out at the Centre's 'obsession with the Hurriyat', which, in his view, was an insult to other separatists. 'What has been the result? They twice declined participation in the roundtable. This should end,' he added. Mainstream agenda Though the separatists have pulled out of the roundtable, the mainstream National Conference and People's Democratic Party have moulded an agenda for the conference which is closer to the separatist point of view. The two parties gave The Indian Express a detailed account of their positions: PDP PRESIDENT MEHBOOBA MUFTI: 'The PDP supports self-governance and demilitarisation for Kashmir, but not because Musharraf supports them. We will also ask for Kashmir specific Confidence Building Measures which should include easing out of the military and paramilitary forces and transfer of control to the J-K Police. It has been the case in Punjab, why should Kashmir be an exception?...We want the Centre to restore the state's status under Article 370 and throw open all roads between the two Kashmir's that existed prior to 1947.' NATIONAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENT OMAR ABDULLAH: 'We think the Kashmir is a political issue and the roundtable, above all else, should try to address the problem. Our party will support all proposals that are emanating either locally or outside. We will urge the PM to consider all of them seriously for a headway on Kashmir... Autonomy being the NC's original slogan will be the mainstay of our agenda. But if consensus evolves around a modified proposal, we will not come in its way either ... We will boycott the roundtable if the PM talks separately to the Hurriyat. Then what is the point of holding a roundtable.' 'Bring back militants stranded across LoC' A senior PDP leader said the party would ask PM Manmohan Singh to facilitate the return of 2,000 Kashmiri militants 'stranded' across the border who wish to return to the mainstream. The leader said the militants are so desperate to come back that they are even willing to serve a jail sentence. 'The Centre should facilitate their return since it will be a further contribution to the peace process.'