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Hurriyat chief speaks for Afzal clemency

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
October 05, 2006 03:57 IST
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Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, has urged the Bush Administration to prevail on India to grant clemency to the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death for his role in the attack on the Parliament.

In an exclusive interview with, Farooq, who met with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher and Patricia Mahoney, Director, South Asia Desk at the National Security Council, said, "In my meetings at the State Department and with other officials, I brought up this issue and told them that we believe it's not the right time (to carry out the death sentence against Guru)."

He said he had told the senior US officials that "first of all, this would send a very negative message in Kashmir," and warned that "all of the efforts towards boosting the (peace) process towards moving towards a settlement will definitely... it will receive a very big jolt."

"And I don't know what are we achieving (by carrying out this sentence). Nothing," he added.

Farooq, who was visiting Washington, DC after attending the Organisation of Islamic Conference foreign ministers annual meeting held last week on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, said, "I mean, the fact that the way the trial was conducted, we have our concerns as far as the fairness of the trial is concerned -- as far as proof is concerned."

"So it will be a very unfortunate decision if he's hung," he reiterated.

Farooq predicted that if the government goes ahead and carries out the sentence, "The reaction on the streets in Srinagar would be very negative."

"The only thing it will do is it will strengthen the radicals and then they will tend to get more and more public support out of it."

On the other hand, Farooq argued that if the government grants Guru clemency, it would be catalytic towards moving the peace process forward. "It would definitely show, yes, that India is dealing with this humanely and they are ready to look into the possibility where things can be settled through dialogue."

He acknowledged that neither Boucher nor any of the other Administration officials had offered him any assurances that the US would press India not to carry out the death sentence, but expressed optimism that "they listened to it carefully and I am sure they are also going to do something in this regard."

"But it was my point to them that this would have a very negative impact," he reiterated.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC