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Pakistan cold to Hurriyat's direct role in J&K talks

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
June 23, 2008 17:58 IST
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In a setback to the Hurriyat, the separatist group failed to get a commitment from Pakistan on their direct involvement in the Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir issue.

A visiting All Parties Hurriyat Conference team led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Monday met Pakistan People's Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and discussed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the peace process between India and Pakistan ahead of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's visit this week to India for the composite dialogue.

After the meeting, Zardari told journalists that the PPP and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had assured the Hurriyat team that the views of the Kashmiri leadership would be kept in mind during discussions with India.

Zardari evaded a directed reply when he was asked about the Hurriyat's vociferous demand for the direct involvement of the Kashmiri leadership in talks between India and Pakistan.

He said: "They (the Hurriyat team) met the prime minister. Both he and the PPP gave them an assurance that whenever talks are held on Kashmir, the discussions will be held in the spirit of the APHC's point of view."

Zardari also said the PPP and the Hurriyat shared a "bond of blood" and PPP founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had said that the party's "existence starts with the Kashmir issue."

"The PPP will adhere to the philosophies of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and (slain party chairperson) Benazir Bhutto and is bound to follow them. We can't deviate from them," he said.

The Hurriyat team also met Prime Minister Gilani who said his government is committed to supporting the struggle of the Kashmiris and is determined to seek a peaceful solution to the "core issue" in keeping with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.

Pakistan is convinced that any settlement that does not have the backing of the Kashmiri people "will not be durable and sustainable," Gilani said.

A joint communique issued by two sides after the meeting with Zardari said the relationship built up between the APHC and PPP by Benazir Bhutto will be maintained and further strengthened.

They also agreed to take steps to promote people-to-people contacts between the two parts of Kashmir, especially exchanges of students and youth, representatives of the people and leaders of political parties.

"The PPP is with the Kashmiri people and will support their struggle. The APHC is the representative organisation of the Kashmiris," the communique said.

Mirwaiz called on the Indian government to do more to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

He said: "If the Kashmir issue is to be resolved through dialogue, it is clear that one cannot clap with one hand... the Kashmiri leadership is prepared to move forward, the Indian government has to change its policy of stubbornness and rigidity."

The Hurriyat, he said, wanted a solution to the issue to be found through dialogue.

During the meeting, Zardari also said lasting peace cannot be achieved in South Asia without the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. He also said no solution to the Kashmir issue is possible without "taking along Kashmiris from both sides of the Line of Control."

The Hurriyat team is visiting Pakistan at the invitation of Qureshi for consultations with the government ahead of Qureshi's first visit to New Delhi on June 27.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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