January 2004 News

Religious parties unhappy at sidelined Kashmir

5 January 2004
The Daily Times

KARACHI: Religious parties on Monday rejected breakthrough talks between Pakistan and India, accusing both of sidelining the central 56-year- old dispute over Kashmir.'Both Indian and Pakistani leaders have tried to sideline the Kashmir issue, but the Pakistani people will not allow this,' said Qazi Hussain Ahmed of the Muttahida Majlis-e- Amal. 'We are not against dialogue with India, but if they called Kashmir an integral part of India, there is no room left for talks,' he said.Mr Ahmed demanded parliament be consulted on the latest moves to resume dialogue with India, stalled since July 2001. 'We will raise this issue in parliament and it is the responsibility of the prime minister to take the nation into confidence,' he said. 'They are talking about trade, sports, people-to-people contacts, but not on the core dispute. This is nothing but a move to ignore or sideline the main dispute.'President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee held a groundbreaking meeting yesterday on the sidelines of a seven-nation South Asia summit, forging an historic peace bid.The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam spokesman Mufti Mohammad Jameel dismissed the historic Musharraf- Vajpayee talks as little more than a handshake and photo opportunity. 'They have only tried to play with the media. We are for the talks, but with an open mind and on disputes,' he added.Gen Musharraf made key concessions on Kashmir in the lead-up to the summit, offering to back down on Pakistan's decades-old demand for a referendum to allow Kashmiris to choose rule by Pakistan or India. - AFP


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