Hurriyat leaders meet Pakistani Officials
8 November 2000
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Five senior leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference who have been camping here today met officials in the Pakistan High Commission, with a reqUSA that the High Commission be prepared to give them in a hurry visa documents to visit Pakistan should the Government of India allow these Kashmiri leaders to attend Mr. Lone''s son''s wedding (scheduled to take place on November 19 in Rawalpindi). Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, APHC chairman, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Mr. Abdul Gani Lone, Sheikh Abdul Aziz and Mr. Yaseen Malik have come here in the hope that the Government will give them travel documents. The leaders met the Pakistan High Commissioner, and reportedly discussed the situation in Kashmir. On the other hand, the Indian official agencies suggest that the Pakistan High Commission sought an explanation from the Hurriyat leaders for their reported anti-Islamabad noises at a recent meeting of the APHC executive. Mr. Lone, however, insisted that there was no question of anyone seeking or offering explanation. Knowledgeable sources, nonetheless, say there was no overt criticism of Pakistan at the recent executive meeting; instead, there was an animated discussion among the Hurriyat leaders that the organisation had to remove some of the growing misperceptions about it among the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There is a realisation the Hurriyat had suffered a setback when it was seen as opposing the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen''s initiative of ''peace process''; also, there is a realisation that the Hurriyat leaders have to address themselves to the perception that it was a pro-Pakistani outfit, rather an organisation dedicated to jehad. Mr. Lone, whose son Sajjad, is getting married to Ms. Asma Khan, daughter of the JKLF chairman, Mr. Amanullah Khan, laments that the Indian Government is not permitting him or other Hurriyat leaders to visit Rawalpindi. In particular, he is unhappy that the Mirwaiz was not being allowed to travel to Rawalpindi as the Lone family would have very much liked the holy blessing of the Mirwaiz for the marrying couple. Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Lone said it was a ''social occasion'' and dismissed the officials'' fears that the Hurriyat leaders would use their presence in Rawalpindi to engage in anti-New Delhi propaganda. On the contrary, were the Hurriyat leaders allowed to travel to Pakistan, according to Mr. Lone, this would demonstrate New Delhi''s sense of self-assurance and would advertise to the world India''s fairness. Mr. Lone laughed off the suggestion that there would be physical danger to any of these leaders in Pakistan; with charming candour, he admitted that if Pakistan wanted to get rid of any of the Hurriyat leaders it had the means and the reach to ''eliminate'' them in Srinagar itself.