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August 3, 2000
Hizbul, govt differ on Pakistan's participation in talks
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
The Hizbul Mujahideen and Government of India agreed to work out modalities of the cease-fire announced by the militant outfit last month, after the first round of talks for peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
The two sides also agreed that modalities for preparing the "ground for restoration of peace should be pursued seriously so that elements opposed to this process could be identified and isolated".
For the first time, three Hizbul commanders drove to the heavily guarded Nehru guesthouse at the foothills of Zabarwan, along with two People's Political Front leaders.
Hizbul chief spokesman, Commander Masood, the divisional commander, north Kashmir, was the only among the outfit's three top leaders without a mask.
Riyaz Rasool, divisional commander, central Kashmir, and Farooq Fayaz, deputy chief, had their faces covered.
As soon as they reached the guesthouse in two Maruti cars newsmen approached them. The PPF leaders, including Fazal Haq Qureshi, the intermediary between the government and Hizbul, accompanying the commanders pushed aside the journalists and threatened them.
Rasool and Fayaz hurriedly went inside the guesthouse.
Masood made it clear to newsmen, "We have only come here to finalise modalities of the cease-fire." He added, "The atmosphere has to be made conducive to address the core issue."
Masood said, "Our supreme commander will take a decision regarding dialogue."
He was taken inside the guesthouse by additional secretary (home) T R Kakkar, who is in charge of Kashmir affairs.
After an hour-long meeting, the commanders left from the back door.
Qureshi said, "Wisdom has started dawning on the Indian government and Pakistan will be made party to the dialogue."
Later, at a press conference, Union home secretary Kamal Pandey read a prepared statement that announced that the government and Hizbul had formed a committee. While the Hizbul has nominated a four-member team led by Khalid Saifullah, M B Kaushal special secretary, home, will head the government team, which will include state home secretary C Phonsong.
Pandey urged committee members to "work in a spirit of co-operation and understanding" and finalise modalities for effective implementation of ground rules. He appealed to other groups and Kashmiri leaders to help in the process.
On July 24, Hizbul chief (operations) Abdul Majid Dar had announced a unilateral cease-fire for an initial period of three months. The government had welcomed the move and offered talks. Later, the government clarified that "dialogue will only be under the Constitution of India".
However, the Hizbul has set an August 8 deadline for unconditional tripartite dialogue involving Kashmiris, India and Pakistan.
Pandey announced that the committee will meet soon but ruled out Pakistan's participation.
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