Islamabad sticks to guns on engagement with Hurriyat leaders

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: Aug 21, 2015 02:07 IST

Pakistan will go ahead with its engagement with Kashmiri separatists during national security adviser Sartaj Aziz’s visit, foreign office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said on Thursday, hours after the arrest drama in Srinagar.

India suspects the invitation to the separatists to be an attempt by Islamabad to scuttle the NSA-level talks, especially since Delhi had called off foreign secretary talks last year due to the same reason.

In what seemed like more provocation, Pakistan announced it wouldn’t be hosting next month’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Union meeting amid a row with India over its refusal to invite the J-K assembly speaker.

The event in September will now be held in New York and J-K speaker Kavinder Gupta will be a part of it, government sources told HT in Delhi. India had threatened to boycott the meet if the state speaker wasn’t included.

Read: Separatists' house arrest a tense build-up to India-Pak NSA talks

“National security adviser Sartaj Aziz will meet Hurriyat Conference leaders in Delhi as consultations with them are a routine matter,” Khalilullah said, according to Radio Pakistan.

Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and other separatist leaders are invited to a reception by the Pakistan high commission in Delhi on Sunday. Aziz, who arrives the same day, is also set to meet Geelani one on one.

The talks between Aziz and his counterpart Ajit Doval are scheduled for Monday.

Khalilullah said the final agenda for the NSA talks had not been finalized, while another senior Pakistani official told local media the agenda would be “open ended” to allow both sides to express their concerns. India, though, has clearly said the discussions will be strictly centered around terrorism — including recent attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur that have been blamed on Pakistan — and border violence, and that the Kashmir issue is not a part of it.

The Nawaz Sharif government is under pressure from various quarters at home — including the powerful military — to ensure Kashmir is part of the agenda. Officials in Islamabad said Pakistan also wants to raise concerns such as India’s alleged involvement in fomenting trouble in Balochistan. More recently, allegations that the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement party received funds from the Indian government have prompted calls for this matter to be taken up with Delhi too.

On the issue of the commonwealth event, Pakistan parliament speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said this would now be held in New York as Islamabad had declined to invite the Kashmiri speaker. “We have clarified to the London secretariat of commonwealth that Kashmir is a disputed territory and it is now impossible for the commonwealth conference to be held in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot overlook the cause of Kashmir at any cost.”

It is a major victory for New Delhi, sources said, suggesting that it had appealed to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union secretariat to change the venue. They added that India had received support from several other countries.

(With inputs from HTC in Delhi)


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