Endorsing Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's assertion that religion cannot be the basis for resolving the Kashmir issue, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has said it favours division of Kashmir on 'geographical grounds' to settle the problem.
"We want Kashmir to be divided on geographical grounds. We don't want Kashmir to lose its identity and integration. We don't want to further separate Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims," Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in an interview to Daily Times newspaper.
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The Mirwaiz is currently on a visit to Pakistan along with six other members of the conglomerate, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yaseen Malik and a representative of another Kashmiri separatist leader, Shabbir Shah.
They all met Musharraf in Islamabad earlier this week.
Last month, Musharraf told a conference of South Asian Parliamentarians, "We do understand the Indian sensitivities of their secular credentials therefore it [a solution to Kashmir issue] cannot be on any religious basis."
Making it clear that the amalgam did not want a resolution that would separate Kashmir's regions, Farooq said the Hurriyat leaders, however, have sought more time from Musharraf to think over his proposal of demilitarising Kashmir
after dividing it into seven separate regions.
"It is not necessary for us to agree to everything proposed by President Musharraf, but we support his approach. We had some ideas on resolving Kashmir and we discussed them with him," he said.
Farooq, who told a press conference on Wednesday that UN resolutions on Kashmir have failed to resolve the issue and the time has come to explore others options, said the Hurriyat leaders made it clear to Musharraf that they would never accept a status quo on Kashmir or the Line of Control as a permanent border.
Asked whether a majority of Kashmiris wanted an affiliation with Pakistan, he said his party wished for the unification of Kashmir and Pakistan. "But you have to be careful because the Indian government will never like a solution where it has to totally compromise on Kashmir," he told the paper.
About India's unwillingness to have tripartite talks on Kashmir, Farooq said the Indian government knew that its position would "weaken if Kashmir and Pakistan came together on the same negotiation table."
Asked whether excluding jihadis from the dialogue would negatively impact the peace process, Farooq said if Kashmiris wanted to play an active role in resolving the issue, they must rise above party politics.
About hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had turned down Pakistan's invitation to visit the country and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, and militant group Hizbul Mujahideen's chief Syed Salahuddin, he said people unwilling to cooperate with Hurriyat would be left behind.