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January 15, 2001
The Rediff Interview/ Abdul Ghani Lone
Senior Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone has expressed his inability to go to Pakistan as part of the five member delegation to hold talks with the Pakistan government and militant leaders.
Lone -- who returned from Pakistan recently after spending three-and-a-half weeks there for his son's wedding with the daughter of JKLF chairman Amanullah Khan -- says: "I am not well. I will talk to the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Abdul Ghani Butt and ask him to reconsider his decision about sending me as part of the delegation to Pakistan."
In an interview withOnkar Singh in New Delhi, Lone speaks about his illness, Farooq Abdullah's opportunism and the chance for peace in the Valley. Why don't you want to go to Pakistan? Is it because you are scared of the militants as you are taking a moderate stand?
There is no question of being afraid of anyone. I am not well. I have heart problems and I am consulting cardiac specialists. Besides I have been in Pakistan for three-and-a-half weeks already. I have spoken to most of the people who matter. By going again, I would be blocking the way of another Hurriyat leader who could go in my place. I had requested the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference not to include me as a part of the delegation. I don't know why he has included me.
Have you taken up this matter with Abdul Ghani Butt?
I will talk to Mr Butt when I go back to Srinagar. I am sure he will listen to me and take an appropriate decision.
You people have been in Delhi for sometime, but you have not managed to talk to anyone. Why?
Who are we to hold talks? Six months back the home minister of India said the government would hold talks with the Hurriyat Conference leaders. A process was set in motion and the detained leaders were released.
But then Dr Farooq Abdullah started playing games. He started talking about complete autonomy to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The whole nation started debating about the autonomy and Hurriyat leaders were left in the lurch. We are waiting for an invitation from the Government of India for talks, but so far no invitation has come.
But surely some mediators must have contacted you like they contacted the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Nobody has contacted us so far. Some people who promised to get back on behalf of the government have vanished. We are left clueless as to what is going on.
But when Prime Minister Vajpayee announced a unilateral cease-fire, the Hurriyat leaders were optimistic about the offer. Weren't you?
When Prime Minister Vajpayee announced the cease-fire, we thought there was a change of heart and here was a prime minister who was willing to hold talks with the Hurriyat Conference to sort out the Kashmir problem. He even wrote for a newspaper. We were encouraged by his initiative. But nothing concrete has followed since then. Even passports have not been given to some leaders. We have fallen into a trap.
Haven't you asked the government to issue the passports?
While two of us, namely myself and Omar Farooq have passports, the other Hurriyat leaders don't. We expected that the Government of India would release all the passports. But so far the government has not even told us as to when they would give it to us. It is our right to have those travel documents.
Why are you not participating in the Panchayat election being held next week in Jammu & Kashmir?
What election? We all know that had we participated in the election, Farooq Abdullah would have ensured that we lose. It would give Farooq another opportunity to divert the attention from the main issue. We did not want that to happen.
While you claim to represent the wishes and aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, people like Farooq Abdullah and former state chief minister G M Shah contest your claim and say that you do not have a following either in Jammu or Ladakh?
Who is G M Shah? Where was he all these years? He suddenly rises from the grave, holds a press conference in Delhi and invites dead people to come to his seminar!
Farooq is in power and does what he likes. If the talks don't succeed he remains in the saddle. If they move towards a solution he will sabotage it. If he feels we are making tall claims then let him hold a free and fair election. We would show him who represents the people of the state.
What about Hashim Qureshi? Why he has come back to India?
The Government of India alone can answer this question why they have brought back Hashim Qureshi after 30 years. When we were struggling in the Valley, he was sitting pretty in a foreign country. After Vajpayee announced the cease-fire he suddenly decided to return to India.
Home Minister L K Advani has said the government would not hold any talks with Pakistan so long as trans-border terrorism continues.
They should let us go to Pakistan so that the Hurriyat leaders can talk to the militants and ask for their help in creating conditions for a conducive atmosphere.
What would be your response if the prime minister decides to extend the cease-fire once again beyond January 26?
We will react when the announcement comes. I hope if the move does come, it would be a legitimate signal for a peace initiative.
Design: Lynette Menezes
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