Stop making tall claims: Omar to Hurriyat
12 February 2002
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: In a scathing attack on the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah today told the separatist leaders ''to stop making tall claims'' as they had ''failed to deliver'' the promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. ''The Hurriyat leaders have failed to prove their representative character. They could not seize the opportunity given by the Centre to enter into a dialogue for the resolution of the Kashmir issue,'' Mr Abdullah told agencies here. Minister of State also hit back sharply at his party National Conference’s arch rival People’s Democratic Party led by former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed saying they played an ''important role'' in militancy flourishing in Jammu and Kashmir. About the Hurriyat leaders’ statement that they will talk only to a person having direct access to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr Abdullah — the next National Conference (NC) president-in-waiting, said Planning Commission Deputy Chairman K C Pant, nominated by the Centre, was already functioning as the interlocutor on Kashmir. ''Mr Pant is as close to Mr Vajpayee as anybody else. Being the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, he is present in every crucial cabinet meeting. How can they question his rank and status,'' the minister asked. He said the Hurriyat leaders have never given a chance to Mr Pant. ''They had never spoken to him and rejected his talks offer at the beginning itself.'' Mr Abdullah advised the Hurriyat leaders to ''talk to Mr Pant and then only pass judgments''. The minister said the separatist leaders had called for ''unconditional talks'' with the Centre. ''Yet it is they who have put conditions and subsequently never come for talks because of their pre-determined mind-set.'' He dared the Hurriyat leaders to ''come forward and talk to me''. ''They have been avoiding direct contact with me at all public meetings,'' he claimed. ''They don’t have a leg to stand on...They are now trying to figure out how to change their strategy after getting a poor response from the Embassies and the High Commissions in the Capital,'' Mr Abdullah said. ''The same diplomats who used to meet them earlier have now refused to talk to them...'' About the Hurriyat Conference’s decision to form its own election commission for conducting polls in the State to elect ''the true representatives'', who could then take part in a trilateral dialogue aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue, Mr Abdullah said they have ''no locus standi'' to form the Commission. ''Some Hurriyat leaders have been elected to the State Assembly through polls conducted by the Election Commission of India. How can they then question that the polls were not free and fair.'' ''Will they be able to conduct impartial polls in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, where the military Government had earlier barred the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front from taking part in the election process,'' Mr Abdullah asked. ''What about the northern areas and the areas gifted to China by Pakistan...'' About his going back to State politics, Mr Abdullah said he had always been a part of the State politics. ''I have to abide by the party’s decisions.'' On People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti’s claim that the NC was funding militants in the State, he said mostly it were NC activists who had been killed during the more-than-a-decade-old turmoil in the State yet their killings have never been condemned by the PDP. ''We very well know what role her father and former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed played during his term in supporting militancy. And please note whenever PDP activists are killed, we always blame the militants for the killings. One should be able to call a spade a spade...'' The minister, who is slated to be the next president of the National Conference, was reacting to the allegation made by Mufti’s daughter and senior PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti that the ruling party was instrumental in the funding of JKLF. ''Everyone know what role her father (who was the then Home Minister) played in 1990-91 in bringing the militancy to forefront,'' Omar said. A visibly angry Omar said that ''Mehbooba should not play with our decency. Our silence should not be taken otherwise. We are capable to hit and hit badly with proofs.'' Omar’s reaction comes amidst charges levelled by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah that Mufti Sayeed had threatened to dismiss his Government in 1990 when he had refused to release five JKLF militants in exchange for his kidnapped daughter Rubiya Sayeed. Omar said ''had this been the case that we were funding the militancy, our party would not have suffered. Everyday one of party worker is shot dead by militants.'' The minister said that PDP leaders did not have to call a spade a spade and they were reluctant to even blame militants for killing of their party workers. The minister said he had been promoting the State handicraft at every level. ''I have given visibility to the Kashmiri handicrafts...I gifted a Kashmiri carpet to Columbian President Andres Pastrana during my recent visit to that country.'' Mr Abdullah said the Government was working with the United Nations Development Programme to promote Kashmiri handicrafts as also ‘Pashmina’ from the Ladakh region. The minister paid a visit to the Jammu and Kashmir Handicrafts Expo-2002 at the Baba Khadak Singh Marg here today.