So over the weekend Mirwaiz Omar Farooq — the 15th hereditary leader of Kashmir’s Muslims — was in town to speak at a luncheon held in his honor at the Pakistani consul general’s abode. I was there (and thank goodness, because Pakistani food is delish) as the mirwaiz talked about his Hurriyat coalition’s desire for a peaceful, equitable solution to the Kashmiri issue.
“…Farooq talked Saturday about how his house was attacked and his uncle was killed after Hurriyat began talks with Delhi, and it goes without saying there’s the constant danger that someone with his pragmatic approach, peaceful goals, and plain talk is perpetually a target. Still, he’s guardedly optimistic.
‘There are armed groups in Kashmir who are ready to support the peace process provided there is some movement,’ he said. He advocated ‘more direct, indirect involvement of the U.S. in Kashmir,’ noting that, as an ally of both Pakistan and India, America was in a good position to push the peace process.
‘You can’t have a process where Indians and Pakistanis are meeting once a year,’ he said. ‘…You can’t clap with one hand. We don’t see the reciprocity from India.’
Farooq is a clear, reasoned voice who appears to want the whole of the region to be brought out of chaos. ‘Our group has been very open in accepting ideas,’ he said. ‘We are not averse to any idea coming in as to what the status of Kashmir can be and how the future can be.’
I asked Farooq how Monday’s national elections in Pakistan could help or hurt cooperation and negotiation with Pakistan.
‘Whatever is happening in Pakistan has a direct reflection on Kashmir and we believe that this peace process needs to be strengthened,’ he replied. ‘…So it’s very important that we have a government in Pakistan who is committed to the peace process with India, but at the same time who are ready to think out of the box, not just concentrate on whatever the policy has been in the past. They need to be more flexible in their approach.’…”