Hurriyat leaders rush to Delhi to meet Pak official

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New Delhi, Nov 12: After twice refusing to participate in the round-table conference on Kashmir convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, moderate Hurriyat leaders have rushed here to meet a visiting senior Pakistani official next week.

A moderate Hurriyat Conference delegation reached the national capital today from Srinagar to meet Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan who arrives here on an official visit to hold crucial talks with his Indian counterpart Shiv Shankar Menon on various issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

While Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is in Cairo to attend the 56th Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, the four members who arrive here today are Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Maulana Abbas Ansari, Bilal Ghani Lone and Aga Syed Hassan.

The Mirwaiz would join the delegation before its meeting with the Pakistani official.

The moderate Hurriyat leaders have twice refused to participate the round-table chaired by the Prime Minister, first in New Delhi (February 25) and second time in Srinagar (May 24-25).

Political observers here say that the Hurriyat and other separatist leaders have on number of occasions disregarded the positive overtures shown by the Government of India, but always exhibited keenness to meet any Pakistani leader on an India visit.

They have always made a beeline for New Delhi whenever a Pakistani leader or an official visited India, the observers said.

Over the past two years, besides the Hurriyat leaders, other separatists, including Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chief Mohammad Yasin Malik and Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) President Shabir Ahmed Shah, have held talks with the visiting Pakistani dignitaries in New Delhi.

In June 2004, the then Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar, met the deeply faction-ridden separatists in an effort to unite them. However, he failed to bring about a rapprochement.

This was followed by a meeting with Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri on September 5, 2004 on the same issue when he visited New Delhi to meet his Indian counterpart K Natwar Singh. During Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's visit here, the separatists, including firebrand leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were closeted in a marathon meeting with him for almost five hours on November 24, 2004.

After the launch of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service on April 7 last year, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf visited India for three days to watch an India-Pakistan one-day cricket match and met the secessionists, including Mr Geelani, on April 17.

Foreign Secretaries of the two countries would meet from November 14-15, marking the resumption of the dialogue process, which had been stalled after the Mumbai bomb blasts on July 11 this year.

An amalgam spokesman said Mr Khan had ''expressed the desire'' to meet the Kashmir separatist leaders during his India visit.

''We (moderate Hurriyat leaders) have been invited for a meeting with Pakistan's Foreign Secretary. We have accepted the invitation and would be going to New Delhi to meet Mr Khan,'' he added.

Indications are that the chairman Mr Geelani, who is the chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, would also meet the visiting Pakistani dignitary. Mr Geelani has over a period of time refused to meet any Pakistani leader or official, claiming that Islamabad has ''diluted its stand on Kashmir''.

The Mirwaiz, during his foreign visits, has also held several meetings with President Musharraf. The Hurriyat leaders met Gen Musharraf on January 5 this year during their visit to Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan after the devastating earthquake on October 8 last year.

Mirwaiz Farooq also met the Pakistan President on June 7 last year when the Kashmiri separatist leaders crossed over to PoK on the June 2 Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus. On September 17 last year, they interacted again in New York when Gen Musharraf was there to attend the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Mirwaiz had to participate in a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

On December 8 last year, the Hurriyat chairman called on Gen Musharraf on the sidelines of a two-day OIC summit in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.


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