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Onkar Singh in Srinagar | June 17, 2005 16:48 IST
Last Updated: June 17, 2005 20:23 IST

Jammu and Kashmir [Images] Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik has asked the governments of India and Pakistan to stop playing favourites while choosing to hold talks with one particular faction or a particular leader from Jammu and Kashmir.

He also hit out at former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for saying that the All Party Hurriyat Conference was the sole representative of the people of Kashmir.

Speaking to at his Maisuma residence in Srinagar [Images], Malik said that the ongoing talks between India and Pakistan could backfire if they continued to favour a particular faction.

Malik chose not to name Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who is playing his cards well while holding talks with the Indian government as well as Pakistan administration headed by President of Pakistan Prevez Musharraf.

"Vajpayeeji is a statesman and we do not expect him to make charges that the government of India should not have allowed us to go to Pakistan etc. I would like to know from him why his government engaged only the Hurriyat Conference in talks when there were other factions as well.

"They declared that Hurriyat was the representative of the people of Kashmir. The whole process could backfire if the two sides allow a non-representative Kashmiri to sit on the negotiating table as and when that happens. Only those democratically elected by the people of Kashmir should have the right to represent them," he said in the exclusive interview.

Asked how this representative would be selected, he said that the senior and fair-minded eminent persons from either side of the border should manage the election of the representative. "The confidence building measures would be meaningless unless the Kashmiri people are involved in the dialogue process. And those who have grass root support should have a fair say," he said.

Malik, who has just returned from a fortnight long tour of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir and Pakistan, denied that he had at any point of time said that Sheikh Rashid, information minister of Pakistan was running terror camps in PoK.

"My speech is well recorded in front of one hundred odd journalists. What I said during the speech was that Rashid Sahib had given shelter to 3500 militants in his farm house when the Pakistani army threw us out in 1990. We were on the roads and he gave us shelter. I never said that he was involved in training militants or provided us with guns etc. One paper from Pakistan misquoted me and twisted facts," he said.

He denied the allegations made by former Pakistan army chief Aslam Beg that Sheikh Rashid was running terror camps before Pakistani army closed them down. "He is making these allegations because it was he who threw us out on the roads," Malik said.

Asked whether he was helping Rashid gain some political mileage and become prime minister of Pakistan, Malik said, "I do not know whether the present controversy would help him to become prime minister of Pakistan but, for us, it certainly is an unfortunate controversy. He had nothing to do with the terror camps," he said.

On how the Pakistan trip was, he said, "Let me clarify that this trip was meant for consultations and we were not holding negotiations with the Pakistan government. As far as the Pakistani government is concerned it was more of a photo-opportunity. But Pakistan's love for the Kashmiri people is unconditional," he said.

What is the general mood on the other side of Kashmir?

"People favour independence," he said.

Photographs: Amin War

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