Kashmiri Separatist Leaders Snubbed By Pakistan

Srinagar, April 7: In what could be termed as a major setback to separatist groups and leaders in Indian administered Kashmir, the Pakistan government has snubbed the separatist leaders by not inviting them for a meeting with country’s president Asif Ali Zardari, who will be arriving on a one-day visit to India on Sunday and will have one-to-one meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi before lunch.

This is first time that the Pakistani government has not invited the separatist leaders to have a meeting with visiting Pakistan president. Earlier, there had been a precedence that whenever Pakistan head of state or any top minister used to visit India, Pakistan envoy in India used to invite separatist leaders in Kashmir for talks with the visiting Pakistan leader.

The snub has disappointed the separatist leaders.

“Sidelining of separatist leaders clearly reflects the changed stance of Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The visible change was felt when Pakistan cabinet granted Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India. Nothing has changed on ground in Kashmir. Why Pakistan has doled out this MFN for India?,” said Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who is being termed as hardliner.

He said by not inviting separatist leader for a meeting with Pakistan president makes it clear that there has been a change in long held position of Pakistan regarding Kashmir dispute.

“The Kashmir struggle is an indigenous movement. We have to fight it on our own. Whenever India and Pakistan have excluded Kashmiris from talks, the dialogue process has proved futile,” Ayaz said.

Moderate separatist leader Shabir shah said the Pakistani President has come on a personal tour and it is not necessary for Pakistan embassy to invite separatist leaders for any meeting with him.

“India and Pakistan should talk to each other. They should take steps to normalize relations and then proceed further to solve the Kashmir issue by involving Kashmiri leaders,” he said.

He said Pakistan has already made it clear that during Zardari’s visit, Kashmir issue won’t be put on back burner.

Pro-independence JKLF acting chairman Advocate Bashir Ahmad Bhat said Kashmir issue would continue to soar tensions in South Asia if Kashmiris were not included in talks between India and Pakistan for final resolution.

“Whenever Kashmiris are ignored, it is a matter of fact that talks have not yielded anything. It is highly regrettable for Pakistan that they have ignored the main stakeholder of Kashmir dispute,” he said.

Bashir said if Kashmiris have not been invited for high level meeting, it means both countries are meeting each other on weak wicket.

“We would continue our struggle even if we are not invited or consulted during high level Indo-Pak meets.

He said the main issue between India and Pakistan is Kashmir and involvement of people of Kashmir in any dialogue process is must.

Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.