SRINAGAR, June 17: An influential separatist leader on Tuesday relaunched a signature campaign calling for Kashmiris to play a role in talks on the region’s future after he was released from Indian custody.

Yasin Malik, head of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), began the signature campaign June 11 and was arrested a day later in Anantnag with two close aides, Javed Mir and Noor Mohammed Kawal.

The three were released on bail June 14 from the central jail in Srinagar and on Tuesday Malik and several of his close associates, including Mir and Bashir Ahmed Butt, drove back to Anantnag and resumed the signature campaign.

“Some 3,000 people have signed since morning and showed their support that Kashmiris be involved in talks on Kashmir,” JKLF activist Altaf Ahmed told AFP by telephone from Anantnag, 50km south of Srinagar.

He said Malik opened the campaign at the local bar association office, holding a question and answer session with lawyers on “how this signature campaign was going to help the Kashmiris”.

Police did not immediately try to stop the resumed signature campaign, which was due to go on to a local school, Ahmed said.

Malik has set a goal of collecting two million signatures, representing about one-fifth of Indian Kashmir’s population. There was an enthusiastic response when the campaign was first launched last week.

India and Pakistan are edging towards resuming talks but it is unclear whether any future dialogue would include representatives from Kashmiris.

The JKLF favours an independent Kashmir, in contrast with most separatist groups here who want the Muslim-majority region to be fully under Pakistani rule.—AFP



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