February 2008 News

Musharraf Guilty Of Lapses On Kashmir: Geelani

22 February 2008
Kashmir Observer,

Srinagar: The chairman of the breakaway faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, today extended an invitation to migrant Kashmiri Pandits to return to the valley, and came out strongly against attacks on tourists. Geelani said that President Pervez Musharraf’s move to call pro-India political figures to Pakistan was an anti-movement step. In a special interview to the KNS from New Delhi, Geelani said that western powers were plotting against Pakistan, and Pakistani leaders had always fallen prey to the conspiracies. Even the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was a part of these conspiracies. “Kashmiris want a strong and stable Pakistan because Pakistan has always extended political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri movement,” he said. “The situation at the international level changed after September 11, but under its pretext, General Pervez Musharraf surrendered before the US, and changed the policy on Kashmir, which inflicted great damage on the Kashmir cause,” he said. “Musharraf has committed grave mistakes with regard to the Kashmir issue, and the welcome of pro-India political leaders in Pakistan can be considered the greatest lapse,” he said. “The move was a big setback to the movement,” he said. “Separatists are the real heirs of the Kashmir movement, and the sacrifices of martyrs took the Kashmir issue to world councils. Whatever Pakistan had to say, it should have said to the pro-freedom leadership, but president Musharraf showed flexibility and called pro-India leaders to Pakistan which was a clear departure from the traditional stance,” he said. Describing the election results in Pakistan as a “new change”, Geelani said that neither the late Benazir Bhutto nor Nawaz Sharif had played a serious and effective role with regard to the Kashmir issue in the past. “But now it can be hoped that the new government will play an important role in resolving the Kashmir issue,” he said. He further said that his alliance was not against talks , and if India accepted the disputed status of Kashmir, then nobody could have any objections to the talks process. In reply to a question, Geelani opposed attacks on tourists, saying that these guests could enjoy the beauty of Kashmir at any time and any place, and causing them harm was not legitimate. He, however, said that the permanent residence of citizens of other states and migrant labour would not be tolerated. “Outsiders who come here for work take up permanent residence which is destroying out culture. Therefore we must continue with the practice of temporary stay and subsequent departure,” he said. Geelani claimed that the number of illegal residents ran into lakhs, and pro-India parties used them for processions, rallies and eventually to vote in the elections. The hardline separatist said that migrant Kashmiri Pandits should return to the valley. “I formally invite them to return to the valley. But instead of security zones, they would have to prefer to live like ordinary people,” he said. “Under no circumstances do we favour keeping our Pandit brethren away from us, therefore there is no need for them to stay under army guard,” he said. In reply to another question, Geelani said that the reasons for suicide attacks would have to be found, as to why these youth feel compelled to take such steps. He said that India had deployed 7 lakh forces personnel in the state, while it puts the number of militants at 1000 to 1500. “Sooner or later, India will have to accept the reality and agree to the right of self determination of the Kashmiri people. In a message to the new government in Pakistan, Geelani said that it should not change the traditional policy on Kashmir under US pressure, but continue political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmir movement until it achieves its goal.

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