Kashmir Committee fails to secure Hurriyat''s participation
18 August 2002
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The Kashmir Committee headed by former union minister Ram Jethmalani today wrapped up its three-day visit to the state failing to secure participation of Hurriyat Conference in the coming assembly polls but told the separatist amalgam that staying away from the polls would signal its being puppet of Pakistan. Concluding his talks with separtaist leader Shabir Shah and PDP leader Mufi Mohammed Sayeed on the final day here, Jethmalani told reporters ''the Committee is slightly disappointed that it has not yet secured participation of Hurriyat in the elections.'' He, however, said the dialogue would continue and Shah was expected in Delhi soon for next rounds of talks. However, Jethmalani said he felt all was not lost as many elements hitherto opposed to elections have expressed their willingness to contest the polls. ''Opinion for participation in the polls is gaining ground even within Hurriyat,'' he said. Asked whether non-participation of Hurriyat in the elections would defeat the entire process, he shot back ''please do not equate the people of Kashmir with Hurriyat. Hurriyat is an important faction, but they are not all.'' He said Shabir Shah had said that he was not averse to participation in the elections provided certain assurances were given by the Central Government. Ruling out participation in coming polls, Shah said his party wanted a clarification from the Centre that its participation in the elections would be just to prove ''our representative character for future negotiations to find a permanent solution to Kashmir issue.