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PDP leader attends Pakistan Day celebrations

March 24, 2011 20:57 IST

Moderate Hurriyat leaders Abdul Gani Bhat and Lone brothers -- Sajjad and Bilal, who have been critical of terrorists recently, stayed away from Pakistan National Day celebrations where People's Democratic Party leader Maulvi Ifthikhar Hussain Ansari was a surprise guest.

Both moderate and hard-line factions of the Hurriyat Conference were represented by their chairmen Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani respectively at the Pakistan Day celebrations held at the Pakistan high commission on Wednesday.

The surprise presence of Ansari, a senior PDP leader and a former minister, was being watched closely by the separatist leadership, especially Shia leaders such as Maulvi Abbas Ansari and Aga Syed Hassan Budgami, who were also present at the function.

However, PDP chief spokesman Nayeem Akhthar sought to play down the event, saying, "He (Ansari) is a senior and respected leader of the party. He was invited for the first time, so he went."

Bhat, who recently stirred a hornet's nest by announcing at an open forum that "our own men killed Mirwaiz Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone," stayed away from the reception.

Efforts to reach Bhat did not fructify but sources close to him said relations between the Hurriyat leader and Pakistan had been strained after the public statement made in January this year.

Bhat, who once chaired the Hurriyat Conference, said the two separatists -- Farooq and Lone -- and his brother were killed by "our own people" and not the security forces.

Bhat had recently said that the time had come to speak the truth about the killers of Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq, who was killed 21 years ago, Abdul Gani Lone, who was shot dead in 2002, and his brother Mohammad Sultan Bhat, who was murdered in 1995.

Sajjad Lone, who had supported Bhat's statement, also stayed away while his brother Bilal did the same.

While the Lone brothers were not available for comments, sources in the amalgam said that Bilal was protesting the inclusion of Abdul Rashid 'Engineer', a legislator from Langate, in the guest list.

Sajjad Lone has also been critical of militants and had penned an article after Bhat's outburst, in which he had said that the time had come for people to decide whether they are with the "murderers or murdered."

Sajjad, son of Lone, appreciated Bhat for speaking the truth about the killings of the two separatist leaders and said it was never late to speak the 'truth'.

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