Indo-Pak Talks Must Cover Kashmir Issue: Hizb Commander11 February 2010
Rawalpindi: One of the pioneers of militant opposition to India in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) said on Thursday that talks between Pakistan and India will fail if they do not focus on the “core issue” of Kashmir. Syed Salahuddin, commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen – the biggest separatist group in IHK – said talks would be “a futile exercise” if they did not address the dispute over the Himalayan region. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory since their independence in 1947. “I talk on behalf of the jihadi leadership that we all stand for a negotiated settlement,” Salahuddin, who is also head of the United Jihad Council, told Reuters in an interview. “But negotiations must be Kashmir-centric ... unless this core issue is addressed and it is focused upon, there will be no result,” he added. He said the people of Kashmir must also be involved in talks. “It’s not a bilateral boundary dispute between India and Pakistan. It is a question of the right of self-determination of 30 million people,” he said. The heavy-set, bearded Salahuddin – who is 61 years old – has been at the forefront of the 21-year-old insurgency in IHK. Salahuddin – from the Badagam town in IHK – was a politician who turned to militancy after he lost an election for the Kashmir legislative assembly in 1987, which he says was “massively rigged” by India. He first crossed into Azad Jammu and Kashmir in 1990 and went back to Indian-held Kashmir several times for militant action when he would also meet his family under cover of darkness.