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August 8, 2000
Ceasefire compliance shows Hizb's influence: Qureshi
Onkar Singh in Srinagar
The Hizbul Mujahideen command council is currently meeting in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan occupied Kashmir, to decide whether the ceasefire announced by it should be extended beyond 1700 hours IST on August 8.
Hizb mediator Fazal Haq Qureshi said he is in no position to say anything at the moment as there is no word from Hizb commander-in-chief Syed Salahudin so far. "I am told the meeting has been going on since yesterday morning and it is continuing now. They will take a decision in this regard sometime in the afternoon, and the decision will be conveyed as and when it is taken," Qureshi told rediff.com at his home in Soora, 15 km from Srinagar.
He also felt it would be too premature to predict whether the ceasefire would be extended or not. "I am in no position to tell you what will happen at the meeting. The Hizb's field commanders are in touch with their command council and when any decision is taken we will certainly get to know," Qureshi said.
According to him, Hizb deputy commander Abdul Majeed Dar was in the valley and has been keeping in touch with him over the latest developments. "Many correspondents have asked me if they could meet Dar, but my answer is simple. He is not in a position to say anything at the moment. He has been keeping abreast of the latest developments and gets in touch with me as and when necessary," he said.
Qureshi denied that he had taken on the role of mediator without informing the All Party Hurriyat Conference. "Now they can say anything they want. But I can tell you that the Hizb commander had first sounded off the APHC about holding talks with the Government of India, but the Hurriyat did not respond as they felt the government should have invited them for talks. In fact they were waiting for a government decision when the Hizb announced a ceasefire and decided to hold talks with the Indian government.
"It is not my fault if the Hizb commander asked me to play the role of mediator. What I can say if the APHC feels I have hijacked its role?" a beaming Qureshi asked.
About the criticism that he was a political novice who was enjoying the limelight, Qureshi said, "This is not true. I was sent to jail when I was just a kid, in 1965, for helping the Afghan Mujahideen. In 1971 I set up the Al Fateh. We started sending out boys for training across the border. After that I went to jail for robbing a bank and came out in 1975 after the Indira-Sheikh Abdullah accord. I started the People's League in 1975. In 1990 I was sent to jail by Jagmohan. In 1993 I started the People's Political Front which became part of the APHC. How can I be called a political novice?" he asked.
He also denied that there were plans to move the talks to a third country. "I do not know how this impression has gained ground; the Hizb commanders would very much like to hold talks in Kashmir itself because they would like to be in touch with the ground realities. The peace negotiations may take time, there would be some pin-pricks. For the the talks to continue it is necessary that Prime Minister Vajpayee rise to the occasion and show boldness and hold talks without preconditions.
"The fact that other militant groups have so far not struck anywhere goes to show that the Hizb has the necessary support in going ahead with the negotiations. But everything would depend on the next step taken by the Indian government. If they want the problem to persist like this they could do anything. Talks can break and restart as happens in Camp David. I hope a lasting solution will come from this peace initiative. Of course, it is not going to come overnight," he admitted.
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