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Cold shoulder to Shabir draws Jethmalani fire

New Delhi, Sept. 1 (PTI): Launching a scathing attack on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani for refusing to meet senior separatist leader Shabir Shah, Kashmir Committee chairman Ram Jethmalani today said the rebuff had the potential of derailing the peace process.

Terming Advani’s attitude as “discouraging”, the former law minister said: “It was a move which may have the consequence of derailing the peace process. Luckily, it had not happened as is clear from the statements of Shah and the Hurriyat.”

However, seeking to ignore the “unfriendly gesture” of the deputy Prime Minister, he said: “Surely, the meeting with the deputy Prime Minister was not the end-all of the peace process.”

The noted criminal lawyer said when K.C. Pant went to Kashmir last year, the Union government had issued a long statement devoting a whole paragraph to the Hurriyat.

“You (the Centre) wanted them (Hurriyat) last year, but why have you closed the door particularly after a change of scenario since September 11 and particularly after the Kashmir Committee has done so much of work in this regard'” an agitated Jethmalani asked.

“Obviously, this kind of attitude is intended to derail the excellent work that is being done. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the desired effect of derailment has not taken place,” he said.

Referring to the conflicting statements issued by Shah on his participation in elections after he met the Kashmir Committee for nearly five hours over two days, Jethmalani said: “The misunderstanding was created because the statements were blown out of context.”

“What he said was participation in the elections would depend on the creation of conducive atmosphere after taking certain concrete confidence-building measures, and now the ball is in the Centre’s court,” the former law minister said.

“The most important achievement was that Shah and his party wanted a dialogue and peaceful means to solve the Kashmir problem,” he said.

“It should be taken in proper context — he said I will participate if you fulfil the conditions,” he added.

On Shah’s statement later in the evening on Saturday that he was ready to talk if the conditions were fulfilled, Jethmalani said: “It is how you look at a jug filled with water to the half — either it is half empty or half full.”

On the Hurriyat Conference’s willingness for unconditional talks with the Centre and its declaration that it was “in principle” not against elections, the Kashmir Committee chairman said “with Hurriyat expressing their willingness to participate in the elections, the Centre should show eagerness to talk to them”.

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