What are the circumstances that led to the ceasefire?
An impression was being disseminated world-wide that the freedom struggle in Kashmir was a terrorist movement. For the first time, the US state department declared it as such this year. We are not terrorists. We want Kashmir to be given its right to self-determination, as per the UN resolution. Kashmiris want to live peacefully and honourably. Our struggle is for them. Also, India was saying militants should help create an atmosphere conducive for talks. Since our struggle was dubbed as "terrorism", no talks could have been held. So we have given peace a chance.
When and how was this decision taken?
Every year the shoora (supreme decision-making body) of the Hizbul reviews the progress of its struggle. When we met early this year in Muzaffarabad, we took stock of the suffering of the Kashmiris, the misery inflicted by the Indian forces. A team of commanders from Azad Kashmir came here. In consultation with the field command council, they decided to offer a ceasefire. I spent three months here with field commanders to gauge public opinion. Everybody, from political parties to the media, favoured peace talks. So we decided to take this historical step.
How significant is your offer?
We are the only militant organisation whose cadres are exclusively Kashmiris. We have families and relatives here and therefore have to respect their feelings - we are not foreigners.
What are the conditions for ceasefire?
Operations against militants and excesses against Kashmiris should stop. All political groups should be allowed to express their views freely. Nobody, militants or New Delhi, has the right to interfere in anyone's views. There should be no fear of the gun.
How long will the ceasefire continue?
If India responds positively, it could be extended beyond three months. Its basic aim is to facilitate positive, meaningful dialogue. If New Delhi cold-shoulders the offer, we'd have shown the world that we are not terrorists. Then we will resort to militancy with full might. We reserve the right to withdraw the offer even after a week, if no response is forthcoming.
What is your stand on resolving the Kashmir issue?
Although we stand for Kashmir's merger with Pakistan, we will respect the wishes and aspirations of the people.
Would you like to be part of the talks with New Delhi?
We think they should talk to the Hurriyat and others. But if the need arises, we too can take part.