'This Sept, India, Pak May Have A Pact'
25 April 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Days after Pakistan Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri talked of substantive progress on Kashmir talks with India, Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has told The Indian Express that contours of the agreement will be made public in September this year. He has said it is the 'immediate prospect' of a solution on Kashmir, which has persuaded mainstream political parties in Kashmir to demand demilitarisation and self-rule for the state rather than a change of heart. 'I think the agenda is pretty much set as far as Kashmir is concerned. It is September, 2007, that India and Pakistan are looking at, in terms of announcing something on Kashmir,' Mirwaiz told The Indian Express in an interview on Monday. 'I would say that India and Pakistan are putting in a lot of efforts on how things should move on Kashmir. I don't think there is anybody dictating the agenda. India and Pakistan have realised that they have to resolve the dispute. The feedback that we are getting is that things are on the right track.' In an interview to Pakistani daily The Nation, Kasuri had said the two countries had covered a lot of ground on Kashmir. 'The two countries are moving towards a settlement of the Kashmir issue that might not be the first best choice for all the three parties (India , Pakistan and the Kashmiris) but it could be the second best,' he was quoted as saying by The Nation on Friday. Echoing Kasuri, Mirwaiz said distinct signals about an imminent breakthrough on Kashmir were responsible for transforming the political debate on Kashmir in the recent past. 'It is not that slogans of demilitarisation and self-rule have suddenly come into vogue in a vacuum. They fall neatly into the new context set by the Indo-Pak dialogue process and the dynamics generated by it,' Mirwaiz said. Asked about the prevailing political uncertainty in Pakistan and the slipping grip of Musharraf, the Hurriyat Chairman said there was no threat to peace process from a successor government. 'Hurriyat has been keenly watching the situation in Islamabad. But we don't think it will make any material difference to the underpinnings of the dialogue process with India. On this, there is by and large a broad political consensus, which includes even religious groups like MMA (Muslim Mutahida Amal),' Mirwaiz said. Mirwaiz said the Hurriyat had kept its communication lines open with the Opposition in Pakistan, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. 'On my recent visit to Pakistan, I met almost all the major opposition leaders, including senior MMA leader Moulana Fazal-ur- Rehman. Apart from some minor reservations, there is a consensus on the process. So, we don't harbour any apprehensions,' he said. About the Roundtable Conference on Kashmir, Mirwaiz said it was extraneous to the larger resolution process underway between India and Pakistan. 'The Roundtable is the result of a tussle within Prime Minister's Office and an attempt to give a stake to pro-India parties in the solution of Kashmir. There is nothing for separatists in the mechanism,' Mirwaiz said, adding that it was the Centre's concession to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad after setting up committees to look into the demands of PDP patron Mufti Sayeed. Mirwaiz also reiterated the idea of a 'parallel separatist roundtable', which would include the leadership from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and even the J-K's mainstream leadership. 'Hurriyat is all for such a roundtable, even if it includes leaders from pro- India parties. But the Centre has created hurdles in the organisation of such a conference,' he said, while disclosing that leaders of the Hurriyat-constituted PoK-based working group haven't been given visas to meet their counterparts in the Valley.