Reports of Kashmir autonomy formula a US idea: Qureshi
10 June 2001
The News International
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan says reports in the American media that General Pervez Musharraf may put forward a proposal to grant some degree of autonomy to Kashmir during next month's Indo-Pak summit is an idea floated by the Bush administration, and was not Islamabad's stand.Reacting to Saturday's Washington Times report, defence spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi told PTI that the autonomy idea essentially appeared to be that of the US government. "It appears the newspaper is quoting US sources. This is not the position of the Government of Pakistan and I am not aware of such an idea being discussed at any level of our government," Maj-Gen Qureshi, who is also press adviser to Gen Musharraf, said.Asked if Pakistan favoured such an idea, he said: "Our point of view is that the start of a new peace process will be the first step towards the peaceful resolution of the long- standing problem. It is counter-productive to talk about solutions even before the talks began. Sometimes the talks could get stalled if we go too much into the issues even before the commencement of a dialogue."Maj-Gen Qureshi said the Pakistan leader had consistently stressed the need for a dialogue as a first step. "Gen Musharraf always maintains that talks are the first step and a solution can be found if both parties demonstrate sincerity and genuine desire for peace," he said.Asked about the "wild" reactions from religious parties and militant groups to the general's June 5 address at a religious conference in which he asked clerics to stop making irresponsible statements like hoisting the Islamic flag atop the Red Fort in New Delhi, Maj-Gen Qureshi said the government has taken note of the statements.He said some religious groups had misunderstood the context in which Gen Musharraf made the comments. "Gen Pervez is speaking about the universal truth and against religious intolerance and sectarian violence. He was not targeting a particular group or a party. If any one claims the right to divide society on sectarian lines and walk into mosques and kill people with impunity, it is unacceptable," he said.