Jammu and Kashmir state government, early on Thursday morning, placed Kashmiri separatist leaders of Hurriyat Conference under the house arrest, only to be freed few hours later. The early morning move came a day after the separatist leaders accepted the invitation from Pakistan High Commission to meet Pakistan PM’s advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, ahead of the latter’s talks with NSA Ajit Doval on August 23 in New Delhi.
Apprising the press at Srinagar, Hurriyat spokesperson said that the leaders of both the factions of Hurriyat Conference – Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Abbas Ansari – were placed under house arrest.
While the hardliner SAS Geelani is already under the conditional house arrest, Huriyat leaders confirmed that similar restrictions were placed for the moderate faction chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq at his Nigeen residence and for Abbas Ansari, who lives in Nawakadal before the three were freed.
Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan High Commission had sent an invitation to both the factions of Kashmiri separatists for holding consultations with Sartaj Aziz ahead of his scheduled talks with Ajit Doval.
Though the BJP-led Union government maintained that the NSA-level talks will go on as per the schedule, sources in the government cited the apparent unhappiness over the move by the Pakistan High Commission.
“Let’s see what happens… The government will respond appropriately,” government sources said asserting that there are some sections in the Pakistan establishment who want to “scuttle” the Indo-Pak talks and are raking up anti-India activities thereby, pushing India to call off NSA-level talks scheduled for Sunday.
“The invitation should be seen as latest provocative move in that direction,” sources in the government claimed.
The invite to Kashmiri separatist leaders has a potential of becoming a talking point as India had last year cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan after its High Commissioner invited separatist leaders for a meeting ahead of the proposed talks.
Decision regarding NSA-level meeting between Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz was chalked out in meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of SCO Summit in Ufa, Russia on July 10. The NSA-level meet is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on August 23, where Indian side is expected to take up the issue relating to cross-border terror. While on the other hand, Pakistan establishment has already said that “Kashmir issue” must also be on the table.
Earlier on Wednesday, Huriyat Conference had welcomed the stand taken by Pakistan where they “asserted” that there will be “no dialogue with India without inclusion of Kashmir issue”.
The decision to accept the invite from Pakistan was arrived at after both the factions of Hurriyat Conference held an emergency executive meeting in Srinagar on Wednesday.
In the talks slated to be held on August 23-24, NSA Ajit Doval is also expected to present strong evidence of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, especially in the case of recent attacks in Gurdaspur in Punjab and near Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir. One terrorist Mohammed Naved was arrested in the Udhampur fidayeen attack. He has since confessed of entering the Indian territory after crossing the LoC.
(With inputs from the PTI)