Shabir Shah meets Kashmir panel
16 August 2002
SRINAGAR: The chief of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), Shabir Shah, today accepted the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, for a dialogue on the Kashmir issue, but said a conducive atmosphere should be created by taking steps from stopping human rights violations to releasing political prisoners. He, however, ruled out his party''s participation in the coming Jammu and Kashmir elections. Mr. Shah and his associates today met the seven-member Kashmir Committee, headed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, on the first day of its three-day visit to Kashmir. The Committee — comprising M. J. Akbar (Editor, Asian Age), Dileep Padgaonker (Editor, The Times of India), V. N. Grover (former diplomat), Shanti Bhushan (lawyer), Javid Laiq (author) and Ashok Bhan (lawyer) — failed to get an assurance from Mr. Shah, as the party stuck to its position of insisting on fulfilling the conditions necessary for holding a fruitful dialogue. Mr. Jethmalani told mediapersons that the Committee''s main objective was to help find a durable solution to the Kashmir problem. Mr. Shah parried questions on elections and when asked whether he suggested deferring of elections to continue with the dialogue, he said, ''it is up to the Government of India. If they want to go ahead with the dialogue then it needs to be seen if the elections are also necessary.'' Mr. Shah said he had made things clear to Mr. Jethmalani — that he was not averse to a fruitful dialogue and cited the example of his talking to the Planning Commission Chairman, K. C. Pant. Unfortunately that failed to achieve any progress. He also said a ''categorical no'' to the Kashmir Committee on elections. He outlined the steps to be taken for making the atmosphere congenial for talks. ''I conveyed it to the Committee that human rights violations, custodial killings should be stopped, leaders of all hues, including Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik, be freed and the Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act be withdrawn forthwith''.