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Hurriyat leaders hope to meet PM

Onkar Singh in Srinagar | August 26, 2003 12:30 IST

Maulavi Abbas Ansari, Chairman of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, is hopeful that its leaders will meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his two-day visit to Srinagar, which begins on Wednesday.

"Inshaallah, hume umeed to hai (We are hopeful)," Ansari told rediff.com in Srinagar, adding, "No one from the state government side has got in touch with us so far. Since the prime minister has extended his stay in Srinagar we feel we have a chance to meet him."

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti are trying to arrange a meeting between Vajpayee and the Hurriyat leaders, a senior state government official told rediff.com 

The Mufti told reporters last week that he hoped to persuade Vajpayee to begin a dialogue with separatist Hurriyat leaders during the prime minister's visit to Srinagar to attend the Inter State Council Meeting. The Mufti, however, refused to comment on the issue.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the former Hurriyat chairman, told rediff.com, "We will not meet Prime Minister Vajpayee in a clandestine manner. We will let you (the media) know about it."

Asked if the Hurriyat call for a bandh during Vajpayee's visit would not affect the possibility of such an encounter, the Mirwaiz said the strike could always be withdrawn if there is a positive response from the Union government.

"We had given a bandh call during the prime minister's visit in April," he said, "but after he announced a series of measures at his public meeting we withdrew the call. The same could be done now."

Intelligence sources say Pakistan is trying to compel the Hurriyat leaders to stay away from meeting the prime minister. A senior Hurriyat leader, speaking on condition that he would not be identified, admitted they are under pressure from terrorists in Pakistan to issue a bandh call, particularly from Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.

There has been speculation about a possible Vajpayee meeting with Hurriyat leaders for sometime now. Ansari indicated soon after his appointment as Hurriyat Chairman that if the prime minister is willing to listen to them, the separatist conglomerate would have no problems in meeting Vajpayee.

Hurriyat leaders are encouraged that Vajpayee has extended his stay in Srinagar by a day. He will leave the Kashmir valley on the morning of August 29 for Jammu where he is scheduled to deliver a lecture at Jammu university.

Senior state government sources said efforts are on to persuade the Hurriyat leaders to pay a courtesy call on Vajpayee on the evening of August 28.


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