The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hurriyat gets passport to Pak
- Advani looks to 1857 for unity

Islamabad, June 1: As he listened to Khursheed M. Kasuri recount bits from his family history, L.K. Advani grew nostalgic.

The Pakistan foreign minister had just mentioned that three of his ancestors ' his grandfather, uncle and father ' were “dedicated freedom fighters in undivided India” and had made sacrifices in quest of their goal.

That autobiographical detail, said the Karachi-born Advani, “truly touched a chord in me”. “In some way, what unites the people of India and Pakistan is the common heritage of the freedom struggle,” he noted in a statement.

And he came up with a suggestion: let India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to remind themselves of their shared history, commemorate the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence their ancestors had fought together in 1857.

Advani later mooted another idea ' that it was time for India and Pakistan to form a friendship association of parliamentarians.

This proposal emerged during Advani’s meeting today with the Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Chaudhury Amir Hussain.

The earlier one came yesterday, during his third high-powered meeting following the ones with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

As Kasuri spoke of his family’s links with the freedom struggle, Advani recalled that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf had mooted a joint commemoration of the 1857 war.

Vajpayee had mentioned it in his speech at the Islamabad Saarc summit in 2004 and Musharraf had echoed it when he visited Delhi in April.

Vajpayee had conceived the idea during a trip to the Cellular Jail in the Andamans where he found names of martyrs and freedom fighters from “what are three south Asian countries” inscribed on the pillars.

“Our forefathers fought side by side, transcending religious, regional and linguistic differences against a common colonial oppressor in our First War of Independence in 1857,” Vajpayee had said. “It reminds us that many of us have a shared history, which predates our more recent divisions.”

Advani’s statement quoted Kasuri as saying that India and Pakistan owed it to their forefathers and future generations to have peace and normality in their relations.

To Hussain, Advani said the time was ripe for a friendship association of Indian and Pakistani parliamentarians on the lines of similar associations involving the MPs of India and other countries.

Advani rounded off his political meetings in Islamabad by calling on the leader of the Opposition, Maulana Fazlul Rehman, and leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party.

He told reporters: “In all propriety, as the leader of the Opposition, I could not go without meeting the leader of the Opposition here. I think that (the political meetings) will give me a clear idea of how the political leadership of this country views the developments that have taken place in the last two years after the breakthrough was achieved through the Indo-Pak joint statement in January 2004.”

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