Mirwaiz Does U-turn, Sets Terms For Dialogue

19 November 2009
The Hindustan Times
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has told the Centre’s interlocutor Wajahat Habibullah that the government should initiate six confidence-building measures before kicking off any dialogue process. The reason: The Mirwaiz is finding himself increasingly isolated, even among his group of moderates, on his “flexible approach” to the dialogue process. He told Hindustan Times: “India has to overcome a huge credibility crisis in Kashmir before setting off any dialogue.” The demands are withdrawing security forces from civilian areas, repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, releasing all political prisoners, lifting the Disturbed Area Act, stopping human rights abuses and allowing the Hurriyat leadership to interact with Pakistan and separatists based in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Habibullah, who served as a divisional commissioner in Kashmir from 1991 to 1993, has recently joined the state administration as Information Commissioner. The Mirwaiz has been facing stiff resistance from two Hurriyat constituents – the National Front headed by Nayeem Khan and the Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah – although they are part of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat. “We reject Delhi’s quiet diplomacy,” both Shah and Khan said last week. The stand was, however, rejected by the Mirwaiz. The Mirwaiz spent Tuesday with Shah and Khan to convince them about the dialogue process. On Monday, Shah also attended a seminar of the hardline group Muslim League, which belongs to Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Hurriyat Conference. “There is difference in opinion within the Hurriyat. But it’s not grave,” the Mirwaiz told HT.