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August 5, 2000
Hurriyat does a U-turn on peace talks
In a sudden turnabout, All-Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat has criticised the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen's announcement of a three-month ceasefire in the state as "a lame step".
In two separate interviews to the Urdu services of BBC and Radio Zahedan on Friday night, Professor Bhat surprised his interviewers by making a sudden U-turn on the ceasefire announcement.
The Hurriyat's initial reaction had been that the announcement was hasty, but later it changed its position to support it.
But now Bhat has reverted to the Hurriyat's first reaction and says the ceasefire announcement is a "lame step which cannot take it [the Hizb] to its destination".
He did not give a straight reply when asked why the Hurriyat earlier supported the announcement, but mouthed Pakistani allegations about India's sincerity. He said the Hizb had not kept in mind certain pitfalls in the ceasefire. The pitfalls, according to him, were India's "political deceptions".
According to him, the ceasefire should have been jointly announced by India, Pakistan and the militants. He said the present talks between Indian government officials and Hizb representatives would be fruitless.
The Hurriyat's latest stance has apparently been prompted by the high-pitched condemnation of Wednesday's talks by Pakistani-based militants. While in Srinagar talks were held in a cordial atmosphere, in Pakistan Hizb chief Syed Salah-ud-Din tried to throw a spanner in the progress of the talks by issuing an ultimatum asking India to announce by Tuesday evening that it would allow Pakistani participation in the talks.
Chief of Pakistan's inter-services public relations Rashid Qureshi also emphasised in a BBC interview on Friday night that India must talk to his country.
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