Kashmiri leaders welcome Powell’s calls, rule out role in polls
SRINAGAR: The Kashmiri freedom fighters on Monday welcomed US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s calls for India to free political prisoners and permit observers for the upcoming vote in the disputed territory, but held firm on their refusal to participate in the polls.
Powell, on a lightning peace mission to South Asia, on Sunday called on India to ensure the Held Kashmir election due in October was held fairly as “a first step in a broader process that begins to address Kashmiri grievances and leads India and Pakistan back to dialogue.” Abdul Ghani Bhat, chairman of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, said Powell was “absolutely right” that Kashmir was on the “international agenda.”
“I believe the Americans know more than I do that Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute and that Kashmir involves the future of the entire South Asian region,” Mr Bhat told AFP. But he doubted Powell’s plea for India to release political prisoners would bear fruit. “I don’t think Powell’s request will have any impact,” he said. Two of the seven executive members of the Hurriyat are imprisoned by Indian authorities, and a third was assassinated in May. But Javed Mir, the acting chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), said the freedom fighters were thankful for Powell’s comments, which he said would help efforts to release JKLF chief Yasin Malik, a leading moderate who has been in jail since March over the alleged smuggling of 10,000 dollars to him. —AFP