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Pak foreign secretary meets separatists
November 15, 2006 02:21 IST
Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan on Tuesday met leaders of different separatist groups from Jammu and Kashmir, including hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
But his efforts to forge unity among them apparently did not succeed.
The separatists left no stone unturned in making their differences obvious, with Geelani refusing to enter Pakistan House, the Pakistani High Commissioner's residence, when leaders of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat led by Abdul Gani Bhat were closeted with Khan.
Geelani parked his taxi on the road and refused to enter.
He was overheard talking to Pakistan officials, saying he had been promised that he would not have to "see the faces" of other Hurriyat leaders.
After a long wait of 25 minutes, Geelani went in for talks with Khan, following which the other Hurriyat faction exited after a 45-minute meeting with the Pakistan foreign secretary.
The Bhat-led Hurriyat team did not stop to talk to the waiting media. Later, Bhat said the meeting was one of familiarization with Khan, who recently took over as foreign secretary.
Asked whether there was any attempt to create unity among the separatist leadership, Bhat said, "Not in so many words but we were asked to be united at least on the issue of Kashmir."
The first meeting of the Pakistani officials on Tuesday was with Shabir Shah, whose popularity graph in the separatist politics of Jammu and Kashmir has been on the decline.
"We proposed a working group of Kashmiri leaders who will liaise between India and Pakistan," Shah told reporters after his brief meeting with Khan.
He said Khan was informed that the atmosphere was conducive for resolving the main issue of Kashmir. "The Kashmir issue is causing hindrance for India in becoming a superpower. So why not to solve it?" he asked.
Geelani left without talking to the media.
The last meeting that the Pakistani officials held was with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yaseen Malik, whom Islamabad has been trying to bring into its fold.
Malik, who wants independence for Jammu and Kashmir, is being seen a crowd puller in the West and Pakistan is keen to rope him into the group of separatists siding with it.
Further details of discussions during the meetings held by Khan were not immediately available.