Pakistan Brushes Aside Geelani's Hard Line
15 November 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Syed Ali Shah Geelani's first meeting with a senior officer of the Pakistani establishment in two years didn't go well for the Hurriyat hawk, with Pakistan rejecting his strong objections to Islamabad's 'compromising stance' on Kashmir and urging him to move beyond the traditional straitjacket. In his meeting with Geelani on the margins of the Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan told Geelani that President Pervez Musharraf's new proposals on Kashmir had the complete backing of Kashmiris across the divide. The very fact that Kashmiris had not staged a single protest against his proposals on self-rule and demilitarisation were enough proof that the people of the state supported the idea, Khan stressed. Talking exclusively to The Indian Express, Geelani admitted this, saying: 'He (Khan) said Kashmiris had never protested against Musharraf's proposals and this meant they backed him... But I told him that I as a leader with the most direct and extensive contact with the masses can say with authority that the people of Kashmir are feeling let down by the present Pak establishment.' Geelani said he reminded Pakistan of its 'legitimate traditional stand' on Kashmir, which put the resolutions of the United Nations at the centre of any settlement effort. However, even here the Pakistan response wasn't encouraging for the hawk. The Pakistan Foreign Secretary, on the contrary, impressed on him the need to move beyond traditional positions. 'He said it was time now to search for an imaginative, out-of-the-box solution for Kashmir which would be in the interest of both India and Pakistan and also ease the miseries of Kashmiris,' he said. Geelani is the only major Kashmiri separatist leader bitterly opposed to the ongoing peace process between Indian and Pakistan. Besides, he has also pooh-poohed the talks between New Delhi and the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as a 'sell-out' and worked tirelessly to subvert the search for a middle- of-the-ground solution for Kashmir. However, Khan agreed with Geelani that three years into the dialogue process, India and Pakistan were still far from reaching any compromise on Kashmir. 'I said the fact that Pakistan had not achieved anything concrete from the dialogue process owed itself to the country's concessive policy on Kashmir. And Khan Sahib agreed that there was still no headway on Kashmir in sight,' Geelani said.