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Hurriyat factions closer to unity: Mirwaiz

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November 16, 2004 21:21 IST

All Party Hurriyat Conference factions may unite to increase its bargaining power in the proposed third round of talks with the central government.

Sources said that Hurriyat is taking the talks with the Centre very seriously. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that he was looking forward to hear what the Prime Minister has to say when he arrives in Srinagar on Wednesday.

According to sources, the Syed Ali Geelani faction is likely to merge with its Mirwaiz counterpart. When asked about the proposed merger, Mirwaiz said he did not deny the possibility. He said he had long been asking all factions to unite.

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Analysts say that the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to India might hasten the process of unification. Moves are reportedly on to arrange a "united" Hurriyat meeting when Aziz visits Delhi.

It has been proposed that Mirwaiz will continue to remain the chairman while Geelani will be called it's chief patron.

A Delhi-based national security expert and senior government official told that recently Mirwaiz met Pakistan's ISI chief in a Gulf country. The meeting is supposed to have helped Hurriyat leaders sort out their differences.

Adding to the urgency of unity is the fact that the Hurriyat has also been told by New Delhi that unless they are capable of helping bring peace to Kashmir, they would not be taken seriously.

The two rounds of talks Hurriyat had with then deputy prime minister L K Advani also contributed to the unification process, besides encouraging belligerent Hurriyat leaders to see the wisdom of carrying on the negotiations with New Delhi.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the PM's visit to Kashmir, Hurriyat leaders have reiterated their demand to be allowed to visit the other side of the LoC as a pre-requisite to continue talks with the Centre.

However, Mirwaiz told, "It is not a condition, but we would like to talk to Kashmiris living on the other side of the LoC. We would like to talk to Sallahuddin of Hizbul Mujahiddin too. If India can talk about Kashmir to Pakistan, why can't Kashmiris talk about Kashmir to Pakistan?"

He said, "We are proposing that if not tripartite have triangular talks at least. Let India talk to Pakistan, let India talk to Kashmiris and then let Kashmiris talk to Pakistan. India's approach should change in this regard. India should accept that bilateral talks in Lahore, Agra and Tashkent failed."

He added, "Manmohan Singh's visit can become historical if he addresses the real issues. I believe India is talking positively. I am confident that Kashmir solution will be found in two years time."

Sheela Bhatt in Srinagar