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'Pak can't foist unity on Hurriyat'

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
November 24, 2004 14:05 IST
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Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's proposal on Kashmir was just food for thought and aimed at testing public reaction, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told separatist leaders from Kashmir during their meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.

"When we raised this issue with Aziz, he told us there is nothing concrete about the proposal. The issue has not even been discussed internally in Pakistan," All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who was present at the meeting, told on Wednesday.

Musharraf had proposed dividing Jammu and Kashmir into seven regions as a possible solution to the dispute between India and Pakistan.

Farooq admitted that the Pakistan prime minister, who is on a two-day visit to India, did attempt to bring about unity between the two warring factions of the APHC -- one led by him and the other pro-Pakistan faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

"We know that unity is in our interest, but it cannot be forced on us by Pakistan. It is an internal matter and we will sort this out because APHC represents the sentiments of the people of Kashmir," he said.

According to the Mirwaiz, the Pakistan PM laid emphasis on confidence-building measures. "If things go well the bus service between Srinagar and Muzzaffarabad might start fairly soon and later we would have similar bus services from two other points," he said.

Asked when the APHC would resume dialogue with the Government of India, the Mirwaiz said the APHC resolution to go to Pakistan did not mean that they were placing preconditions for dialogue with the Indian leadership. "We are ready to hold talks with the government even before going to Pakistan," he added.

The bilateral talks between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz will pave way for an acceptable solution to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir, the Mirwaiz hoped. "Of course, there can be no solution without the involvement of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the dialogue," he added.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi