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Allow us to visit Pak.: Bhat

SRINAGAR NOV. 7. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) says it has not gone back on its plan to visit Pakistan to "create an atmosphere which will lead to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue'' and has reiterated that it should be allowed to visit Pakistan to promote a people-to-people dialogue.

Talking to The Hindu, the APHC chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, said that "if the Hurriyat leadership is given an opportunity to undertake a visit to Pakistan, I can assure you the situation will undergo a healthy change.'' There was no harm in allowing them to visit Pakistan as they were not going for fun but for setting in motion efforts for a consensus among the parties on Kashmir. They would talk to everyone relevant there, including the militant leadership. The Hurriyat suggestion, put forth one and a half years ago, was still on its agenda and "it is a mission which seeks to promote peace to resolve the Kashmir dispute,'' he said.

On the Hurriyat efforts to facilitate the visit of the Kashmir Committee (KC), headed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, to Pakistan to meet the Kashmir Committee there, Prof. Bhat said: "We earnestly want that. We want to promote a people-to-people contact in India and Pakistan. If this contact develops with reference to Kashmir, I am sure we can build pressure on the Governments of both the countries to find a peaceful way out on Kashmir. Bridges of understanding are likely to come up if the two committees meet,'' he added.

Satisfied with the two rounds of meeting with the KC, Prof. Bhat said: "We agreed on the point that an acceptable, honourable and durable solution to the Kashmir problem has to be found. The committee has good people as its members.'' Prof. Bhat disagreed that with the installation of a democratic government in Jammu and Kashmir, the Hurriyat stood marginalised.

"I do not think the Hurriyat is marginalised. I am absolutely clear on this. As long as the dispute over Kashmir continues, the Hurriyat is always relevant.''

The Hurriyat's executive and general council had discussed the recent elections and the new political set-up in the State.

"We consider that the change is not at all going to affect either the mindset of the people or our activities which we carry out for a noble cause,'' Prof. Bhat said.

"Governments are formed for power and not for `azadi,' (freedom) we are for azadi and not for power,'' he emphasised.

On the possibility of the release of senior Hurriyat leaders, Prof. Bhat said: "We are here to suffer for our cause, if they are released fine, if not, it will not make any difference to us as we are destined to continue with our struggle.''

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