Musharraf says Kashmir elections 'farcical'
13 October 2002
The Times of India
ISTANBUL: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said on Sunday recent elections in Kashmir were 'farcical' and turnout had been much lower than the 45 percent reported by Indian authorities. 'These elections they have had very recently were the most farcical,' Musharraf said in a speech at a Turkish military event in Istanbul where he is attending a regional economic summit on Monday. He said turnout had been lower than 10 per cent. Indian officials and media last week hailed the election in the disputed state of Kashmir, saying almost half of all Indian Kashmiri voters ignored a separatist call for a boycott and militants' threat of violence to cast ballots. Musharraf said Pakistan wanted peace in the region and had made a series of gestures to India to resolve their differences over Kashmir. 'In spite of all the actions we took...there was no response, no reciprocation, from the Indian side.' India's deputy prime minister said on Sunday the country was prepared to talk to the newly elected representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and discuss greater devolution of powers. It had also seen a successful election as a pre-condition for considering talks with Pakistan, which wants Kashmiris to decide their future, with or without India, in a referendum. Nearly a dozen militant groups are fighting New Delhi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir. The revolt, in the only Muslim-majority state of predominantly Hindu but secular India, has left more than 35,000 dead in the last 13 years. Musharraf accused India of trying to 'sidetrack the issue of the freedom struggle of the people of Kashmir by terming the freedom struggle as cross-border terrorism'. 'Pakistan does not want war. We believe in maintaining our armed forces in accordance with the strategy of deterrence but if attacked we will defend ourselves.' India itself has expressed concern about last week's general election in Pakistan, saying it hoped gains made by Islamist religious parties would not 'aggravate the problem of terrorism'. European Union observers said the Pakistan polls were 'flawed'.