No normal trade till Kashmir is resolved: Musharraf
26 March 2001
The Hindustan Times
Islamabad: Pakistan military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf has ruled out normalisation of economic and trade relations with India until the Kashmir dispute is settled. At a press conference in Karachi on Sunday he outlined his vision to pull Pakistan out of the present economic mess and international isolation. He said he was interested in according permission and protection to the proposed multi-million dollar Iran-India gas pipeline project but he was not ready for normal economic relations between the countries till the resolution of the Kashmir problem. "We will allow it and adhere to international norms in ensuring the security of the pipeline. But for the development of full economic relationship with India, we need to resolve our disputes. Address the issue of Kashmir to the satisfaction of all parties and then proceed to develop economic relations between both countries," he said. The gas pipeline project involves laying a network between Iran and India through Pakistan territory. If it materialises, it would bring over eight billion dollars as foreign exchange to the cash-starved Pakistan economy, which is currently reeling under 60 billion foreign and domestic debts. In his two-hour-long press conference in which the military leader outlined his vision for Pakistan's future, Musharraf also laid to rest all speculation concerning his own future by stating that he would not step down when his term as chief of army ends later this year. "I am not going to retire in October," he said but declined to state how he would legally extend his term in office. The district police chiefs advised them to be extra vigilant against possible bomb attacks on their offices and other establishments. They also cautioned them against some terrorist groups and sectarian organisations, which might become a tool in the hands of anti-social elements, the daily said. Over 50 people were killed in the lsectarian violence between Sunni and Shia extremist groups broke out since the hanging of Sunni activists in February last week.