Hurriyat Leaders Conclude Pakistan Visit
29 January 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Islamabad: Leaders from India's Jammu and Kashmir Saturday ended a 10-day visit to Pakistan on an optimistic note about the prospects for settling the decades-old Kashmir dispute. 'I am hopeful and the next two or three months are very crucial with the expected visits of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf,' said Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, who led a three-member delegation of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, a grouping of Kashmiri leaders seeking self-determination. 'This process will move forward and this is the first time that the Indian government appears to be serious over Kashmir,' he told journalists here. Manmohan Singh is expected to visit Pakistan around March to discuss Kashmir and other problems between the nuclear-armed neighbours. Musharraf is expected to reciprocate in the following months. As Islamabad and New Delhi step up their dialogue over Kashmir, the visiting delegation called for their active representation in talks between the two neighbours. Terming militancy as a part of the freedom struggle in Kashmir, the Mirwaiz suggested that groups fighting Indian forces in Kashmir should allow peace initiatives to progress. In a sign of a policy shift, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party has said it is time for 'bold and unpopular decisions' to resolve the conflict. Many Pakistanis oppose Musharraf's proposal last year to relinquish territorial claims on Kashmir in favour of a joint supervisory mechanism involving the two parties and the local population. A phased withdrawal of troops and self-governance for Kashmiris are part of the four-point proposal to resolve the dispute.