Srinagar: Senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz is in the eye of storm following his remarks that assessment of former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf is correct that Kashmiris will "prefer to be independent" if they are given a chance to "exercise their free will".
"In fact, this assessment of Musharraf seems to be correct even today," the former Union Minister further explained in his forthcoming book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle, which is scheduled to release next week.
"Musharraf said Kashmiris don't want to merge with Pakistan, their first choice is independence. The statement was true then and remains true now also. I say the same, but I know that it is not possible," said Soz to ANI.
"He (Musharraf) had also convinced his colleagues that the resolutions of the UN on Kashmir had constituted a redundant situation as these meant a tight-jacket for Kashmiris whether they wanted to go with India or to Pakistan," Soz went on to claim further.
"Vajpayee & Musharraf had a conversation, then Manmohan-Musharraf had a discussion. Unfortunately, Musharraf went out of the system. He wanted dignified peace with India. Today, I am telling Kashmir that independence is not possible. India & Pak should talk," he tweeted.
Musharraf's statement came at a time when then prime minister Manmohan Singh was preparing to visit Islamabad for a decisive summit with him. The former Pakistani dictator shared his view with his top colleagues (both in the army and outside) in the Pakistani establishment in 2007, according to Saifuddin.
Meanwhile reacting strong to Saifuddin's statement, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy said, "As a central minister he (Saifuddin Soz) benefited from Centre's power when his daughter was kidnapped by JKLF. There's no use helping these people. Whoever wants to stay here can stay abiding by the Constitution, if they like Musharraf we will give them a one-way ticket to Pakistan.
"This has been a trend for Kashmir centric politicians. When they're in power they swear by Kashmir being an integral part of India. The moment they're thrown out of power they start using this separatist or semi-separatist jargon," Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on being asked about Soz's Kashmir remark on Friday.
Soz, who was a Union Minister in the first Congress-led UPA government was named Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief in 2008. A former National Conference leader, he joined the Congress in 1999 after he voted against the motion of confidence moved by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha on April 17, 1999.
This is not the first time that Soz has courted controversy in Indian media. Two months ago, the Congress leader again courted controversy when he said the mainstream political parties in Kashmir should understand the stand taken by the separatist groups on the dialogue process, reported PTI.
"I wish the mainstream parties in Kashmir realise, in full measure, the genuineness of the stand taken by the Joint Resistance Leadership of the Hurriyat Conference on the issue of a purposeful dialogue process between New Delhi and Kashmir.
Soz was blasted by the mainstream indian media last year as well on the death anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
"If it were in my control, I would have kept Burhan Wani alive for a dialogue,' he had said.
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