No talks till Pak visit is okayed: Hurriyat
29 March 2001
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has ruled out any dialogue with the Centre unless its delegation was allowed to visit Pakistan. The Centre, on its part, is believed to have shelved the idea of allowing a Hurriyat team to visit Pakistan and instead, is likely to appoint a negotiator to hold talks with the separatist leadership. On his return from a two-week stay in New Delhi, where he had gone along with former Hurriyat chairman Molvi Ummer Farooq, APHC chairman Abdul Gani Butt said: "we will talk to India only after we come back from Pakistan." The Hurriyat leaders had extensive discussions with the interlocutors of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Home Ministry on the proposed Pak visit, sources close to the Hurriyat leadership said. From the discussions it was clear that the Centre was in no way ready to allow the Hurriyat team, in its present form with Syed Ali Geelani as its member, to visit Pakistan, the sources added. Reports suggest that the Union Government was likely to nominate a team of negotiators soon, under the leadership of Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission K C Pant, to get in touch with the APHC leaders. The Hurriyat chairman, however, asserted that the APHC leadership would not hold any dialogue with the Government of India at any level unless its Pakistan visit was given the green light. "The agenda for dialogue and the level at which it should be held would be decided only after we come back from Pakistan," the leaders reiterated. Geelani, who figures in the five-member APHC team announced on January 2 for the Pakistan visit, is a known India-basher. Recently, he even embarrassed his own colleagues by publicly opposing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's cease-fire initiative, calling it a "ploy to hoodwink international opinion".