In a major shift from its demand for tripartite talks to resolve the Kashmir issue, the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference on Wednesday suggested simultaneous talks with the Centre and Pakistan.
"The modalities for such a process can be worked out," Hurriyat chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, flanked by six other Hurriyat leaders, said at a crowded press conference at the conclusion of an extended joint meeting of the Hurriyat executive and general council at its headquarters in Srinagar.
"All the members favour talks to resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully," he said.
"We can talk to India first and then go to Pakistan for a dialogue," Bhat added.
Rejecting the possibility of any behind-the-scenes dialogue, Bhat said, "If we have to talk, there will be a clear transparent dialogue."
The Hurriyat put up a list of conditions for the Centre to fulfill so that they could persuade the militant leadership, based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, to participate in a ceasefire.
These include return of army and paramilitary forces to the barracks, release of all political prisoners, lifting of the ban on public meetings and an end to human rights violations.
Bhat also demanded withdrawal of all 'draconian laws in force in Kashmir'.
Bhat wanted the Centre to facilitate the Hurriyat leadership's visit to 'Azad Kashmir' (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) to obtain a 'ceasefire from the mujahideen (holy warriors) leadership. Hopefully, they would listen to us'.
"We are the principle party to the dispute. This is an irony that we are regarded in certain quarters as terrorists," he said.
He said that the Hurriyat would work for the safe return of all Kashmiri Pandits.
"We want to create a conducive atmosphere for talks," he said.
"There is pressure on both countries from the international community (to reduce tensions)," he pointed out.
The Hurriyat also seems to be reconciling to the fact that its election commission plan has few takers with Bhat expressing disappointment at the Centre's rejection of the proposal.
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