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Pakistan quietly builds bridges with Hurriyat leader Geelani

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New Delhi/Srinagar: Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit had a guest from Kashmir earlier this week -hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani ‘s son-in-law Altaf Shah – in what is being seen as an effort at rebuilding bridges after the senior separatist leader decided against attending the Eid Milan at the Pakistan High Commission last month.

Shah, who is married to Geelani’s second daughter and is a businessman, spent around half an hour at the Pakistan High Commission on Thursday late afternoon, knowledgeable sources told IANS.

Shah, in his 50s, is known to be close to his father in law. He said he had discussed some “personal issues” with Basit, and declined to elaborate.

However, the meeting holds significance, as Geelani’s rebuff to the Pakistani invite for the July 21 Eid Milan was viewed as a “setback” to Islamabad’s efforts to get all the separatists together.

Pakistani daily The Nation in an editorial had termed Geelani’s refusal “an affront to Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts and will be a setback in the newly-opened talks with India”. Geelani, 85, had decided to “boycott” the Eid Milan function in protest against any mention of Kashmir in the joint statement read out after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia on July 10.

“It is sad that there was no mention of Kashmir in the recent meeting of Indo-Pak prime ministers,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar had quoted Geelani as saying. “As a symbolic protest against it Hurriyat has decided to boycott the function”.

The Pakistan High Commission had earlier cancelled a July 4 Iftar with the Kashmiri separatist leaders in view of the Modi-Sharif meeting in Ufa Russia.

Pakistani High Commissioner Basit had called up Geelani on phone to invite him for the Eid Milan party and the Hurriyat leader told Basit that he would decide after consultations with party members.

The Pakistan High Commission Press Counselor Manzoor Memon refused to confirm information about the meeting.

“We can only inform about the issue on Monday, as the High Commission is closed for all official work on Saturday,” Memon told IANS.

The Huriyat Conference sources did not deny the meeting, and said it was meant for “personal work”.

The meeting with Basit also comes ahead of the August 23-24 National Security Advisor-level talks between India and Pakistan, during which terrorism is to be discussed. The Gurdaspur and Udhampur terror attacks by suspected Pakistani terrorists is set to figure prominently in the talks.

 

 

–IANS