Pakistani journalists hear divergent views on Kashmir

SRINAGAR, OCT. 7. Amid hostile questions from the separatist camp, the 18-member delegation of Pakistani journalists today came across divergent political views over the question of Kashmir.

Barring the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, their meetings with Syed Ali Geelani, head of the hard-line faction of the Hurriyat, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik, the National Conference president Omar Abdullah and the members of the Kashmir Bar Association were held in full media glare.

While Mr. Geelani, rejected a third option for resolving the Kashmir issue, Mr. Malik said that both "India and Pakistan had no authority to impose a solution on Kashmir." Mr. Abdullah reiterated that the State's accession to the Indian union was final, though his party strongly advocated autonomy as the solution to the problem.

Visibly tired following their hectic schedule in the last four days, the delegation, led by SAFMA general secretary Imtiaz Alam, reached Mr. Geelani's residence for a breakfast meeting.

Mr. Geelani told them that their visit was part of what he called the "Government of India's attempt to divert attention from resolving the Kashmir issue." Giving details of human rights violations allegedly committed by the security forces, Mr. Geelani told the journalists that the situation was grave in Kashmir and "repeated assertions about peace and normalcy were a hoax. There is no sincerity of purpose in allowing you to visit (Jammu and Kashmir)."

Mr. Geelani put on record Pakistan's "remarkable" role in supporting the "just cause of Kashmiris diplomatically, morally and politically." Taking questions, he rejected the third option (complete Independence from both India and Pakistan) as a solution to the problem. "To me it has no justification and it is not feasible. Kashmir will then become the hotbed of activities for imperialistic forces. I will fight that option tooth and nail until my last breath as I strongly believe that implementation of the United Nation's resolution will be the only solution to the problem," he said, adding that "Kashmir can only be safe with Pakistan."

Bitter meeting

He also accused New Delhi of adopting a rigid stand over Kashmir. Mr. Geelani said that his was the "real Hurriyat" espousing the "genuine feelings of Kashmiris."

The delegation had a tough time at Mr. Yasin Malik's residence last evening when they expressed their feeling of being insulted. They refused to put any questions after Mr. Malik and his colleagues told them in categorical terms that they had no expectation from them or from Pakistan. "You are being conducted in a way that you meet inconsequential leadership which will not help you in getting the real picture," they said. Irked with some of their observations, some of the journalists even refused to join Mr. Malik for dinner. The JKLF leaders said the Kashmiris felt that they were being ignored in the peace process between India and Pakistan. Mr. Malik said that both India and Pakistan cannot thrust any solution upon Kashmiris.

The meeting with the Bar Association was no different as the exchange of views between the two sides irked both the journalists and lawyers. The Bar members asked the scribes as to how they had been given access by the Government of India as it had always refused permission to the Amnesty International and other human rights groups to visit Kashmir. They also questioned their meeting with the Army commander in Srinagar stating that "they (the Army) were committing atrocities on the people of Kashmir."

'Dialogue only solution'

Apparently their meeting with Mr. Abdullah and his colleagues proved to be comfortable with no uneasy questions. The NC president, who took questions, made it clear that his party had only one stand and that accession to the Indian union "is final."

Terming their visit as historical, Mr. Abdullah said that closer interaction would further an understanding.

Dialogue, he said, was the only solution and that for resolving the Kashmir problem, autonomy on both sides and soft borders would be the best solution.

"But if any other solution comes up after discussions between India and Pakistan and is acceptable to the people of the State, we will not stand in its way."

He supported the move for opening the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road and disagreed with the view that it would harm the cause of Kashmiris. "We know that azadi or Pakistan is not possible so we do not demand it and seek the solution within the framework of the Indian Constitution," he added.