ISLAMABAD, June 23: President Gen Pervez Musharraf is likely to take up with the Indian leadership the issue of Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s visit to Srinagar on June 30 and call for sorting out the matter amicably.

A senior official told Dawn on Thursday that contacts had been established ‘at top level’ with the Indian leadership with a request to allow Sheikh Rashid to visit his ancestors’ places in Srinagar.

The minister himself told Dawn he did not want to make the visit a matter of controversy. He said he intended to visit Srinagar for seven days, adding that he was a bona fide registered Kashmiri and his name was on the voters’ list in Kashmir.

He said he had submitted his Kashmiri domicile with the travel documents and certificate of registration as a Kashmiri voter.

The minister said his close relatives included uncles and aunts who had made preparations to welcome him. “Sheikh Salam is my uncle. I am looking forward to meeting my relatives,” he said.

Talking to private television channels, the minister said that former army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, should retract his statement about militant training camps run by him (Sheikh Rashid) near Fatehjang. However, he said he had not directly asked the former army chief to do so.

General (retd) Beg replied in the negative when asked if someone from the government had approached him to retract his statement about Sheikh Rashid.

General Beg told Dawn: “What’s the need for retraction. I have said what was a fact. My statement has been corroborated by others.”

Tariq Naqash adds from Muzaffarabad: The application form of Sheikh Rashid for trans-Kashmir journey was handed over by Muzaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Liaqat Hussain to India’s Srinagar-based regional passport officer S.L. Sreeramulu on Thursday. The meeting between the designated authorities from the two parts of Kashmir was held in the Chakothi sector, some 61 kms south of here.

Sheikh Rashid’s application had been submitted in the deputy commissioner’s office on June 8. The deputy commissioner was not sure when the Indian authorities would return the form after clearance.

“I cannot say. If they returned his form before June 30, then he can make it to the bus,” he said.

According to an AFP report from New Delhi, a government spokesman said on Thursday that the application had been received and would be processed in due course.

Indian army spokesman Vijay Batra told AFP in Srinagar that Sheikh Rashid’s application was in addition to the list of passengers already submitted by Pakistan for clearance for the June 30 bus.

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