December 13, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Abdul Ghani Lone

The Rediff Interview/Abdul Ghani Lone 'If the BJP cannot solve the J&K problem, no other party can'

Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone returned to New Delhi after a three week stay in Pakistan where he travelled for his son's wedding. He strongly believes if the peace talks do not bear fruit now, then such negotiations may not take place at any another time.

Speaking to Special Correspondent Onkar Singh, Lone said that though Syed Ali Shah Geelani's supporters had recently attacked his partymen at a convention in Srinagar, he was hopeful of making Geelani see his point of view. Lone also repeated his call to foreign militants to honour the cease-fire announced by the prime minister.

Did you talk to the militants during your stay in Pakistan and impress upon them to honour the cease-fire?

I have had casual talks with the foreign and Kashmiri militants. That is why I am saying we should allow the Hurriyat leaders to go to Pakistan so that they can tell the foreign militants how important it is to seize this chance and arrive at a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem.

Do you think they will listen to you? What does a foreign militant care whether there is peace in Kashmir or not?

I feel if we put things in proper perspective there is no reason why they should not respond to us positively.

Did you talk to the chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba?

I did speak to the Lashkar chief and told him that we appreciate the help offered by them in fighting for our cause. Since the solution of the Kashmir problem is a political issue, therefore, it should be left to the political leadership. I told them firmly that the Hurriyat Conference was the only political outfit that would hold talks.

But India has been insisting that before initiating any dialogue with the Hurriyat leaders, Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism.

If the militants honour the cease-fire then the condition put by India will automatically be met and cross-border terrorism will stop. If foreign militants see our point, then it will help in solving the Kashmir problem to the satisfaction of India, the Kashmiri people and Pakistan.

Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Butt told us that when the talks begin we should forget what happened in the past.

Abdul Ghani Butt I fully support his stand because when you talk you ignore what happened in the past. No attempt should be made to downplay someone and elevate someone else. An effort should be made to bring the people together. Sincere efforts should help us create a friendly atmosphere.

What do the people of Pakistan and their rulers think about this?

The chief executive of Pakistan realises that by declaring a unilateral cease-fire the prime minister of India has taken a step forward in initiating the peace effort. I did not talk to the people seriously. Of course, I told them that we have a chance of bringing peace to Kashmir. And that they should give us a chance to find a political solution.

As far as we are concerned we will keep them in the picture and take the necessary steps in consultation with them. If I came across something that needed to be criticised, then I even did that.

There are some divisions in the Hurriyat Conference.

There are no divisions in the Hurriyat Conference. The Hurriyat is not a party but a platform for various political parties that are operating in the Valley. All the constituent parties have their own stands. Once we reach Srinagar and hold a meeting amongst ourselves, the whole thing will become more clear.

When I speak to you, I may not be talking as a Hurriyat leader. Some of my views could be the views of my own party. But when all of us sit together and take a decision -- that is the stand of the Hurriyat Conference.

People have been alleging that the Hurriyat is not united. But we know it is a forum for various political outfits. Even amongst political parties there are differences.

But Geelani and his supporters have been accusing you of selling out Kashmir.

I have one grudge against him. He has expressed his opinion without even waiting to either hear from me or seeing me in person. But once I meet him the whole thing would be sorted out.

Do you feel we are heading towards a solution of the Kashmir problem?

We should not forget that there are three parties to the Kashmir problem -- India, the people of Kashmir and Pakistan. Once the three of them sit and decide something than there will be no room for differences. Nothing to fight over. Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made a small beginning by announcing a unilateral cease-fire. Everyone should try to ensure that things move in the right direction.

What does Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salaludin think about the cease-fire because his group dominates militancy in Kashmir?

They are positive about the latest development. They feel that when they had announced a cease-fire, the Government of India did not agree to include Pakistan as the third party to the talks. They feel hurt because they had to withdraw the offer of the cease-fire.

You have said if there is no solution to the Kashmir problem it would not be possible to do this again. Why did you say so?

I say this because the BJP is a nationalist party. No other party has this kind of constituency. According to me they have more than 20 crore people behind them. If they say something then they will get the support of their people. Only party with that support can talk about Kashmir.

What did I K Gujral do with zero per cent support? Even Deve Gowda was in the same position. But the BJP has an all-India support base. That is why I say if the BJP with such a massive support base cannot do this then no other party can.

The same situation applies to General Pervez Musharraf. He has the support of the army and the civilian population. I feel the groundwork has been done to begin a process of dialogue. If we sow a seed, then we would get a good crop.

What does Amanullah Khan, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman and your son's father-in-law, say?

You know he has a consistent stand. He wants independence for Kashmir. But he also favours talks. The foreign militants have been told they are at best our supporters but that does not mean they have become owners.

The right to hold talks lies with the political leadership of Kashmir. Nobody will appreciate those who reject the cease-fire. The world today will appreciate those who take steps to restore peace in Kashmir. We have seen enough of bloodshed. This must stop once and for all.

If Prime Minister Vajpayee decides to extend the cease-fire beyond the month of Ramzan, would the Hurriyat leaders and militants appreciate it?

Of course, this step would be appreciated. Such a step will have a good effect.


'The release of Hurriyat leaders was a charade'

Lone gets permission to visit Pakistan


Lahore & After: The Real Story

'Pakistan simply has too much blood invested in Kashmir to ever walk away'

'We have a role in the peace process and would like to play it'

'The ceasefire is no solution to the problem of J&K'

'Kashmir is an issue that concerns the entire world'

Abeer Malik, Arvind Lavakare, Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Varsha Bhosle on the ceasefire.

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