Hurriyat, JKDFP reject US appeal to participate in polls
27 August 2002
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: Rejecting fresh US appeal to the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir to participate in the coming assembly elections, Hurriyat Conference and Shabir Shah''s Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party on Tuesday said they will contest only if it is an exercise to solve Kashmir issue. Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat said ''we are not afraid of elections, but the exercise should serve as an opportunity (to the people of Jammu and Kashmir) to decide their future.'' ''The elections should be held to ask people whether they want to remain with India or Pakistan or remain independent,'' Bhat told reporters here before a closed-door meeting of the Hurriyat Executive which began at its headquarters here. All the seven executive members of the 23-party amalgam are attending the meeting. ''The agenda of the meeting is not participation in the September-October elections but to chalk out our strategy for the second round of talks being held in Delhi with the Kashmir Committee,'' Bhat said. Shabir Shah, rejecting the US suggestion to participate in the elections, said ''dialogue should precede elections and not the other way round.'' Senior US official Lisa Curtis, who is holding meetings with separatists here, said yesterday that elections was an opportunity for separatists to help establish peace in the state and she impressed upon them to avail the opportunity. Shah, who met Curtis this morning, said ''election is an adhoc system. We do not believe in adhocism but want a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue. My party will not participate in the ''traditional'' elections.''