Tuesday, Aug 13, 2002
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By Shujaat Bukhari
The Hurriyat chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, told reporters that the general council, which met here, "endorsed our decision to talk and asked us to start talking". On August 10, the Hurriyat executive had met to fashion out a response to the latest olive branch extended to it by the Centre. The meeting ended inconclusively and decided to convene the general council meet for the same.
Mr. Bhat said: "We will talk to the Jethmalani committee because it is a non-governmental group. We didn't talk to K.C. Pant because he was New Delhi's official interlocutor on Kashmir.''
The Hurriyat chairman underlined certain conditions for the talks tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan and the Hurriyat, non-participation of the Hurriyat in the elections and meaningful talks. "We thought we should not shy away from talking and the Hurriyat would strive for the betterment of India and Pakistan. Although we have not received any formal invitation, we are ready to talk. We are not initiating anything but are only responding to the move by Jethmalani". On participation in the elections, he said "it is a closed chapter".
On the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani's decision authorising Mr. Jethmalani to hold talks with separatists, the Hurriyat chief said that at the moment they would focus on what the Kashmir Committee chief would talk about and not who authorised him.
The Hurriyat's response to the talks offer comes in the wake of the Shabir Shah-led Democratic Freedom Party's decision to enter into negotiations with Mr. Jethmalani. The party, however, demanded the release of senior separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mushtaq-ul-Islam. The DFP has maintained that dialogue should precede participation in elections.
`Kashmir panel should visit Pak.'
Welcoming Mr. Advani's offer for unconditional talks with the separatists, Mr. Shah said the Kashmir Committee members should visit Pakistan to pave the way for resolving the vexed Kashmir issue. ``We welcome the unconditional talks offer by New Delhi and urge the Government to take steps for ensuring meaningfulness of these initiatives. The Kashmir Committee should visit Pakistan and the DFP representatives should also be allowed to visit Pakistan to pave the way for resolving the Kashmir issue,'' Mr. Shah said in a statement after a day-long meeting of the executive body of the party.
Urging the Centre not to ignore Pakistan while making efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue, the statement said the participation of Islamabad was pivotal to any purposeful and durable talks or negotiations.
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