Ready for Governor''s rule if Hurriyat takes part in poll
17 August 2002
SRINAGAR: Reiterating its position of not participating in the coming elections to the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly, the All-Party Hurriyat Conference today called for a mechanism to ascertain the ''wishes of the people of Kashmir'' but with the approval of both India and Pakistan. In an interesting turn of events, the Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, and his National Conference party welcomed the initiative taken by the Kashmir Committee (KC) headed by the former Union Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and stated that the State Government was willing to recommend Governor''s rule in case the Hurriyat participated in the elections. He was also willing to discuss with the Hurriyat the conditions to be met for its participation. In its three-hour long meeting with the Kashmir Committee members, the Hurriyat showed no eagerness for participation in the elections. However, it will decide whether to hold talks with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister on all issues for which a verbal invitation has been extended to them. The Hurriyat will also continue the dialogue with the Kashmir Committee and work in partnership with it to find a final solution to the problem. Replying to a repeated question after the meeting on participation in the elections, the APHC chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, asked ''we have made it absolutely clear again and again, why ask this everytime''? ''Elections are elections like 1996, what difference does it make now? ''We have made our position explicitly clear that the KC impressed upon us to participate in the election, we said we will ascertain the wishes of the people of Kashmir. India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris should work together to evolve a mechanism''. Asked whether they had accepted Kashmir as a dispute, Mr. Jethmalani said: ''There is a dispute and it is foolish of anyone to say that Kashmir is not a dispute. Everything is being discussed and it is argued that elections are being held at a very fast pace.'' Earlier, the committee member, Dileep Padgaonkar, read out a joint statement saying that ''the APHC and KC held free, frank and wide-ranging discussions on proper ways to settle the Kashmir problem. In this context, the issue of the upcoming elections was discussed. The APHC was impressed upon that elections are historical and crucial to identify the real representatives of the people of J & K because these people will be the interlocutors in any kind of talks leading to the final settlement of J & K dispute''. The APHC said that talks would be in the interest of the people of J & K and the whole of South Asia and added that the ''APHC has agreed to work in close contact with the KC to find a durable solution to the Kashmir problem, besides agreeing to hold the next round of talks in Delhi''. The ruling National Conference offered to recommend Governor''s rule in case the Hurriyat agreed to participate in the elections. At a meeting with the committee members, the NC team led by the Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, made no bones about its readiness to ''cooperate'' with the initiatives and told the members that the State Government was ready to hold talks with the APHC. The Minister of State for External Affairs and National Conference president, Omar Abdullah, who attended the meeting told The Hindu that ''we not only offered to recommend Governor''s rule in case they are willing to participate in the elections but also to discuss with them what they think is the hindrance in their way of participating in the polls''.