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August 4, 2000
Farooq is biggest hurdle to peace in Kashmir, says Mufti
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Former Union home minister and president of the Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has described Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah as the biggest stumbling block in the peace negotiations between the Government of India and the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, the mufti admitted he was a known critic of the Abdullah family and so would not like to name the person who has a vested interest in sabotaging the peace negotiations as he would lose power.
"Why do you want me to name him," he asked reporters who time and again asked him to name the "vested interests" who do not want the talks to continue.
While condemning the massacre of innocent persons, Sayeed refused to dub them militant killings. "It could be the handiwork of some vested interests which do not want that guns should fall silent in the valley," he said.
He, however, welcomed the peace initiative taken by the Vajpayee government and described the prime minister's visit to Kashmir as a broad hint to the world that this government wants to restore peace in the valley.
"No prime minister before him has taken this kind of interest in Kashmir. He led an all-party delegation to the valley to express solidarity with those whose near and dear ones were killed in the senseless massacre. He sent his home secretary to the negotiating table to talk to the militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen and lay the foundation for peace. This is a bold step and needs to be appreciated and supported in full measure," he said.
The mufti said the media should not read much into the so-called threats by commanders of the Hizb who have been issuing contradictory statements and threatening to call off the negotiations if there is no progress by August 8.
"We must understand that these are not ordinary negotiations. The militants are under tremendous pressure from various quarters. They will keep threatening from time to time. But we must not let this golden opportunity slip out of our hands. We must provide them something in the initial stages so that the people of Jammu & Kashmir force them to come back to the negotiation table," he said.
"The people in the valley also feel that this is a real chance to restore peace. They are also fed up of bloodshed and violence. The Hizb is the only Kashmiri group and we must encourage them to continue talks. The window that has been opened should be used for confidence-building measures," he explained.
"I am happy to note the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's restrained response to this grave provocation from those who do not wish to see the Kashmir problems moving towards a peaceful resolution," he added.
He appreciated the Hizb for taking a bold step by declaring a unilateral ceasefire that was responded to by the Government of India. "If it takes courage to make war, it takes even greater courage to make peace," he said.
He also stressed that while talking about peace the interests of the Kashmiri Pandits who had been displaced must be kept in mind. "We will fail in our duty if at this stage, we do not remember the displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits, who are an integral part of our history and culture. We sincerely hope that the proposed negotiations will also take into account their legitimate interests and concerns," he said.
The one-time Congress politician appealed to the Pandits from the valley to support the peace negotiations so that conditions could be created under which they could return to their birthplace with a sense of security and honour.
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