Both the Centre and the Hurriyat Conference today reaffirmed their commitment to the dialogue process to address issues in Jammu and Kashmir even as moderate separatist leader Fazl Haq Qureshi remained in a critical condition after being shot in what is seen as an attempt to sabotage the talks.

Taking a defiant stand, Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the amalgam will not be cowed down by such acts and will pursue the path of dialogue for resolving the Kashmir problem.

He said the Hurriyat believes in dialogue with India and Pakistan to “reach the goal” of resolving the matter.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in a statement in New Delhi that the attack on Mr. Qureshi was a cowardly attempt by those who do not wish that the problems of Jammu and Kashmir should be resolved through talks and in a peaceful manner.

“The correct response at this hour is not to be cowed down by these violent acts or allow fear to interrupt the process of quiet diplomacy,” he said.

Noting that he was happy to read the statements of the Mirwaiz and others who have vowed to continue their efforts to find a peaceful solution through talks with the Centre, Mr. Chidambaram said “on our part, I assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that we remain committed to finding a solution through quiet talks with every shade of political opinion in the State.”

Mr. Chidambaram said these were the elements which in the past had pused Jammu and Kashmir to the brink of crisis. “It is also clear that these elements act at the behest of forces that are inimical to India,” the Home Minister said.

‘We will not retreat’

In a clear message to those who attacked Mr. Qureshi, the Mirwaiz said “we want to inform all those elements that the Hurriyat Conference will not be cowed down by such attacks. We will not retreat (from the talks).”

Condemning the “inhuman and brutal” attack, JKLF chairman Yaseen Malik said “whoever has done it cannot be part of the human society.”

The 65-year-old Hurriyat leader was shot in the head twice by terrorists on Friday evening at Soura in downtown of the city when he was coming out of a mosque after prayers.

He continued to be on ventilator and doctors attending on him described his condition as “very very critical”. He underwent a three-hour-long brain surgery on Friday night.

According to the doctors, bullet entered and exit in his skull resulting in its fracture and damaging of the brain.

A caller identifiying himself as spokesman of Al Nasreen, a shadow outfit of Lashker-e-Taiba terror outfit, called up local media organisations here last night and claimed responsibility for the attack saying he was playing a key role in the talks with the Centre.

Known for his modest way of living, Mr. Qureshi was the author of every attempt to bring separatists to the negotiating table.

He shot to limelight when Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin appointed him as a negotiator for talks with the Centre in 2000. The talks held with the then then Home Secretary Kamal Pande resulted in a 14-day ceasefire between Hizb and security forces. Ultimately the move failed.

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