Kasuri works on uniting Hurriyat factions
5 September 2004
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, along the sidelines of talks with his counterpart Natwar Singh, was trying to fulfil another agenda — of uniting the various separatist Kashmiri leaders —e specially the two factions of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). To this end, he had two meetings with hardline leader of the breakaway Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani — one last evening and another over breakfast today. Later in the day, he met Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, and is scheduled to meet separatist leaders Shabir Shah (J-K Democratic Freedom Party) and Yaseen Malik (J-K Liberation Front) tomorrow. According to sources, the main purpose of all these meetings was to unite moderate Hurriyat leaders like Mirwaiz with the Geelani faction, and to rope in other leaders like Shah and Malik too. ‘‘The effort is to present a united front that answers the aspirations of Kashmiris, as Pakistan views it,’’ sources disclosed. Geelani, who recently floated his own party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was known to be in regular touch with the Pakistanis, having frequent meetings at their High Commission. With holding of a plebiscite as his stated demand, Geelani had been steadfastly critical of Hurriyat’s peace talks with the Centre. The UPA Government, had so far, not succeeded in continuing with the talks despite repeatedly telling all separatists to come to the dialogue table. It was believed that the Hurriyat leaders were under threat not to pursue the dialogue with the Centre. According to sources, Mirwaiz, in his meeting with Kasuri today, raised the issue of some moderate separatist leaders receiving threats from militant groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. He also said the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service was the ‘‘best confidence-building measure in the context of Kashmir.’’ He said, ‘‘Kashmiris from either side should be allowed to travel across the LoC without passports and visa’’. Mirwaz said for the Indo-Pak talks to have a positive development, they should have an impact on Kashmir. Meanwhile, sources said Indian intelligence and security agencies were not happy with Kasuri holding meetings with Kashmiri separatists. They said Pakistan was supporting militant outfits which were against any secular, democratic element to hold talks with the Centre. ‘‘Pakistan’s message to the Kashmiri separatists is clear — you are wasting time talking to India and only we can help you. And for this, they are using both, threats and allurements,’’ sources said.