Zardari’s envoy attends Delhi conference: Kashmiris demand truth, reconciliation commission

6 May 2008
The Daily Times

Islamabad: Various Kashmiri leaders on Monday demanded India and Pakistan set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission ahead of India-Pakistan talks later this month. Around 50 leaders from either side of the LoC have been in talks regarding the issue for the past three days, in a ‘closed door’ conference held at a resort outside New Delhi. The conference was organised by Sushobha Barve of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR). Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has sent his special representative former parliamentarian Amir Fida Paracah to attend the conference. Leaders from Indian-held Kashmir who attended the meeting included Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Muhammad Yasin Malik, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti, parliamentarian (Ladakh) Thupstan Chewwang, Kargil Hill Development Council (KHDC) Chairman Asghar Karblai, Panthers’ Party leader Harshdev Singh, National Conference leader Abdul Rashid Shaheen and People’s Conference chief Sajjad Gani Lone. Participants from Pakistan included Justice (r) Majid Malik, Chaudhry Mohammad Latif and Inayatullah Khan Shumali. Former Pakistan foreign secretary Humayun Khan and former Indian cabinet secretary BG Deshmukh also participated in the discussions. The participants demanded the formation of a commission similar to that devised in South Africa over the issue of apartheid, to address grievances in an open atmosphere. A statement issued at the end of the conference also asked both governments to facilitate a dialogue on the Kashmir issue, in order to resolve it. Supporting the Indo-Pakistan peace initiative, the participants said any decision on the issue should be made after seeking consent from the people of Kashmir. The group also stressed on the need for the rapid implementation of confidence-building measures. The participants also warned that the situation in Kashmir was returning to another violent uprising, and demanded tangible steps for the Kashmir resolution in order to eliminate growing ‘frustration’ and ‘desperation’ amongst the people. Involve dissidents: The participants also asked New Delhi to “involve dissidents in the peace process”. There was a heated debate regarding referring to Kashmiri armed rebels as ‘separatists’ or ‘militants’. Some participants believed that calling rebels separatists or militants it was ‘an insult’, and demanded that rebels be called ‘dissidents’. A participant said, “The government of India cannot have double-standards while dealing with dissident groups in other states and those in Kashmir.” The CDR said a report of the conference would be submitted to both governments ahead of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Islamabad later this month.