Dissent amongst Kashmiri leaders ahead of summit
30 June 2001
The Times of India
The Times of India News Service
LONDON: A fierce turf war has broken out amongst Kashmiri leaders scattered around the world ahead of the Agra summit over General Musharraf's stated public commitment to consult widely with Kashmiri activists before he meets Prime Minister Vajpayee. Pro-independence Kashmiri leaders here allege Pakistan's new, self-appointed president has put together a partisan talking shop of "puppet leaders", who would merely endorse Jammu and Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. They claim Musharraf is using a "fictitious consultation process" in a bid to con Kashmiris into "triangular, but not trilateral talks". But, speaking to The Sunday Times of India on the telephone from Islamabad, Dr Ayub Thakur of the London-based World Kashmir Freedom Movement, denied any talk of a sell-out. He insisted Thursday's three- hour meeting with Musharraf, for which he had flown in from London along with other diaspora leaders, was positive. According to reports, Musharraf held talks with Pakistani political activists, diaspora leaders and diplomats. He is yet to take soundings from so- called jihadis. Separatist leaders here said that the consultation was meaningless so long as different strands of opinion were not represented. Thakur rejected the suggestion that Musharraf chose not to consult Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, currently in Mali for a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yaseen Malik, now in London. "Malik doesn"t want to meet, he doesn"t want to come," he said, adding his representative Altaf Qadri had, however, been present at the Islamabad discussion. Malik told this paper he had not been invited by either India or Pakistan for discussions. Thakur claimed that Srinagar's Hurriyat Conference leadership was well represented by nominated Pakistan-based stand-ins who took active part in the Islamabad meeting, alongside prominent members of the Kashmiri diaspora including himself, Dr Dar from America and Dr Nazeen Qureshi from the Gulf. Pointing out that pro-independence views such as those of Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone were also represented by his nominee Yusuf Naseef, Thakur said that it was futile to see the consultation process as a conspiracy against those who espoused the separatist cause. According to Thakur, no one was ruling out the possibility of a few of the invited leaders travelling to India as part of Musharraf's delegation 'subject to Indian consent". The dispute over Musharraf's invitation began earlier this week when separatist leaders here told this paper that they smelt an unsubtle conspiracy by the Pakistani establishment to collect a group of "friendly" leaders from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and overseas to rubber-stamp his proposals. The sources said that the absence of Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council from Musharraf's talks about talks suggested the overseas leadership had its reservations about a "process as fictitious as the General's new status as president of Pakistan". But Thakur, who reeled off a list of people he claimed had locus standi to speak for Hurriyat's Syed Ahmed Shah Geelani, Abdul Ghani Bhatt, Umer Farooq, Malik and Lone, said that Fai's absence was on account of logistical reasons. The arguments are being seen as yet another manifestation of the constant dissonance between pro-Independence and pro-Pakistan Kashmiri groups here. Analysts said that the existing differences had assumed a higher pitch in the febrile atmosphere ahead of the summit, which the pro-Pakistan factions believe might point the way to real solutions. In Bradford, the northern English city with the highest concentration of Mirpuris outside of Kashmir, there is cynicism and anger about developments in Islamabad, which they criticise as rubber-stamping il Haq or pro-accession to Pakistan. But Kashmiri activists who helped Musharraf take soundings insist a clear consensus has emerged, with the General accepting the suggestion that Pakistan must stick resolutely to the line that the UN framework must be the parameter for discussion. They said that Musharraf was resolved nothing would happen that would go against Kashmiri opinions. Thakur said that Musharraf had told the assembled leaders that his brief telephonic chat with Vajpayee had convinced him he had "a positive attitude and a clean heart".