Mirwaiz Talks Kashmir With Pakistan's Bilawal Bhutto22 February 2011
The Indian Express
Srinagar: In what is the first such meeting between the two, moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto were together in a flight from London to Washington and also shared the same table at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The two also had a separate meeting during which they discussed “Pakistan, US and Kashmir”. “We had a good chat and later I had a separate meeting with him (Bilawal),” Mirwaiz told The Indian Express from the US. “We discussed Pakistan, US and, of course, Kashmir. Bilawal has the same passion for Kashmir as his mother and grandfather did.” Mirwaiz said their travelling to the US together and later sharing the same table at National Prayer Breakfast was not pre-arranged. He said it was not only politics that they discussed. “Apart from politics it was a bonding of a different kind. I can see a lot of similarities in the lives we are living. I really feel for him,” Mirwaiz said referring to Bilawal losing his mother, the former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, when he was 19, the same age at which Mirwaiz lost his father, Molvi Farooq , who was killed in 1991. On Bilawal’s take-over as PPP’s co-chairman in 2007, Mirwaiz’s advice to Bilawal was to “be a bigger challenge to your mother’s killers and a bigger hurdle to their designs”. He also wanted Bilawal to follow in toto Benazir’s bold agenda for Pakistan. “I wish him to follow her vision for her country to be a modern Islamic state, free of terrorism and the forces leading the country towards anarchy. “He was very clear that his party PPP will continue unconditional support to the right of the Kashmiris to decide their future.” Incidentally, the meeting between the two has come at a time when moderate Hurriyat faction is not on the best of terms with the Pakistan establishment. With Islamabad choosing to maintain parity in its dealings with two Hurriyat factions and other separatists, the doves have struggled to assert their “pragmatic line” on Kashmir. The relations have further soured after the planned separatist visit to Pakistan early last year failed to come off despite a formal invitation from Pakistan. Islamabad had expanded the list of the separatist invitees including even the leaders from hawkish Hurriyat faction.