Islamabad, May 23 (PTI): Pakistan today extended an invitation to all Hurriyat leaders, including hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to visit the country and Pakistan-administered Kashmir on June 2 by the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus.
“We have extended an invitation to Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan on the bus on June 2. The people of Pakistan and (the) government and the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir have been anxiously awaiting (for) the arrival of the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan and we hope that they would be able to make it this time. A very warm welcome awaits the Hurriyat leaders,” Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Jalil Abbas Jilani told a news conference here.
He dismissed reports that Pakistan may not extend an invitation to Geelani because of his hardline stance on the peace process. Geelani is well regarded in Pakistan and has been invited along with others, he added.
Asked whether India was consulted about the invitation, Jilani said: “There were indications from the Indian side that they would not create any hurdles. Hope all of them (Hurriyat leaders) will be allowed to travel.”
Jilani said Pakistan’s invitation to the Hurriyat was pending for long and now that the bus service has started, it should materialise without problems. Pakistan sees “no problem” in the Hurriyat leaders’ travel to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as the bus service is meant to facilitate the travel of Kashmiris, he added.
Jilani declined to give a direct answer to questions whether similar invitations had been extended to People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.
Jilani said Kashmiris who have been travelling by bus to Muzaffarabad were also being permitted to visit parts of Pakistan like Rawalpindi and Islamabad to see relatives.
His statement came in reply to queries on how the Hurriyat leaders would be permitted to enter Pakistan as the agreement on the bus service stipulates that special permits would be issued only to visit Pakistan-administered Kashmir and parts of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state
Special permission to visit Pakistan was being issued by local officials for those travelling by the bus to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and a similar permission would be issued to the Hurriyat leaders. There is no bar on the bus passengers taking special permission to visit parts of Pakistan. “The Hurriyat leaders are welcome to visit any part of Pakistan they like,” Jilani said.
Jilani, however, parried questions whether the invitation was a part of efforts to involve the Kashmiri leaders in a trilateral dialogue.
This is the first time that the Hurriyat leadership has been invited to Pakistan. In the past, leaders like late Abdul Ghani Lone and Shabbir Shah visited the country in their personal capacity.
Lashkar-e-Toiba ideologue Hafiz Saeed today criticised President Pervez Musharraf and his India-friendly policies and called for the continuity of the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir, reports our correspondent.
“(The) Pakistani government must own up the militant struggle in the disputed Kashmir region,” Saeed told participants of the Opposition-sponsored All Parties’ National Kashmir Conference in Islamabad.
“We have to ensure that the freedom struggle continues because it is the militancy and not the political struggle that turned Kashmir into an international issue,” he said.