Kashmir resolution seems a reality now
11 January 2004
LAHORE: Punjab Governor Lt. Gen (Retd) Khalid Maqbool has said that the present leadership of both Pakistan and India has a vision for future, making the solution to the long drawnout issue of Kashmir look like a reality. He said this in an exclusive interview with The Nation. The Governor, highly knowledgeable, conceptually clear and well versed with international and regional developments, mainly spoke on recent developments on Pak India front. He strongly believed that both the countries were ready to try fresh approaches to solve all the outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute, realising that what they did in the past was least workable in the present international scenario. He was of the view that SAARC Joint Declaration indicated a latitude and flexibility on the part of both countries, never seen before and as such it could be termed as a defining moment in Pak-India relations. He credited the leadership of both the countries for recent breakthrough more than any outside power. He also asked the government to get ready for free trade before it is too late. Khalid Maqbool, an active person, vastly experienced as far as the administration of Punjab is concerned, though fully reconciled with his present position, now trying his hand in the Federal government by way of monitoring its departments, was of the view that the settlement of LFO would go a long way in strengthening Parliament besides neutralising the role of political forces operating from outside the country. Being an architect of district government system, he thought that Punjab is a way head as compared to other provinces as far as the performance of local governments is concerned. His views on Kashmir, India-Pakistan relations, LFO and other domestic issues are as follows: Kashmir Issue: The Joint Declaration at the end of SAARC has heightened the expectations of people. He said this declaration should be viewed in the light of certain developments in recent times and determinants. The first, the world is not ready any more to tolerate terrorism and extremism in any form. Second, economy has emerged as a new and main tool for the identity of nation states, which was never the case before. Third, the realisation that solution to all India-Pakistan problems lies in an enlightened approach and not in following sentimental Jihad based on a narrow approach. Pakistan could achieve its aims and objectives in the world only as an economic power, as an enlightened entity, fully supporting the world causes. And when even Indian people realised that Pakistan had a greater role to play in the betterment of the region. It was this mindset which went into the making of SAARC Joint Declaration. For the first time, it is being accepted in the Joint Declaration that Kashmir is a dispute and India and Pakistan will hold dialogues to settle that dispute along with other issues to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties. President Musharraf made it clear that issue of Kashmir will be resolved according to the wishes of Kashmiri people. And the Kashmiri leadership also reposed full confidence in his leadership. Prime Minister Vajpayee also conceded that there would be serious talk on Kashmir. Realistically speaking, Kashmir is an old dispute and as such it will take sometime to be resolved. This time around a clear time frame has been given for the talks. The dialogue process will be underway in February, which will give way to serious negotiation on Kashmir. Talks will be held on different levels, on trade, culture, Siachen, Indus Basin Treaty and also on Kashmir. The progress on issues other than Kashmir will be quick. However, dialogue process will also be started on Kashmir. These dialogues will reduce tension and violence on both sides. Reduction in violence on Line of Control will bring peace and normalcy on both sides of LOC. Things will improve. There will be pressure on both sides to look for more durable solutions of the Kashmir problem, as it is mutually beneficial for the people of both countries. Emotions and sentiments will take back seat in the process. Both sides will come down from their stated positions and look for the practical solutions. Credit for the recent breakthrough goes to leadership of both the countries. The world has a great faith in the leadership of President Musharraf while Vajpayee is also considered to be a successful leader in India. Both the leaders have a vision for future and as such solution to Kashmir problem is very much possible. Both India and Pakistan realised that old approach and methods to Kashmir issue were not very much feasible now. India tried to put military pressure on Pakistan. It tried to crush freedom struggle in the Valley. It tried to malign Pakistan as a terrorist state. But nothing worked and hence high time for a fresh approach to solve all the issues facing the two countries. Both the countries have realised that talks need to be started under a new light. Initially the talks will be based upon the stated positions of both the countries. Then you never know where the search for solution takes us. I hope that movement between both sides will increase. This will be beneficial for both countries. This will also open up new avenues for the solution of Kashmir issue. At this time it is not right to give a definitive solution to the Kashmir dispute. The world and its big powers want peace in South Asia. They encourage both the countries to normalise their relations. The Joint Declaration was a big breakthrough for which the credit goes to the leaders of both Pakistan and India. Peace in the region will lead to greater trade. Pakistan will benefit in the areas of textile, leather, tourism and agriculture. India too will gain in the process. It could not realise its true international role and position as long as Kashmir issue is not resolved and as long as nuclear threat is there. During recent political and military tension in the region, most MNCs working in India left, adding pressure on India to mend fences with its neighbour. India could also gain access to the natural wealth of Central Asian states through Pakistan. In the light of changing world scenario, both countries realised that old methods and approaches are no longer workable, hence the need for a fresh approach. MFN Status to India: Though there are certain reservations in some circles, Pakistan gained a lot in the international trade. Its exports grew and so did its imports. Pakistan should be prepared for the international trade. If Pakistan tries to protect its industry churning out low quality products, we will lose in the future. But if we make preparation to compete with India and effect adjustments accordingly, we stand to gain a lot. By 2006 Pakistan should know what are its obligations and accordingly the country will have to make readjustments. Attempts on President: These incidents could have been very lethal and deadly. Thanks God the President remained unhurt, safe and secure. The way world has condemned these incidents of terrorism underlined President Musharraf's popularity abroad. These incidents made it clear that terrorism and extremism have no place in the world in general and Pakistan in particular. A high powered committee is looking into various aspects of these acts of terrorism against President Musharraf to pass final judgement. Many people have been arrested in this connection. The people in Pakistan do not believe in extremism in any form. There are certain elements fanning hate and government is determined to deal with them. But this problem could not be solved overnight. Settlement of LFO: The settlement of LFO issue paved the way for SAARC. It reflected the maturity of government and also MMA. I think it has made both Parliament and President very strong. It has given stability to our political system, besides neutralising the role of political forces sitting outside the country. Now it is time for the political government to perform and deliver and prove that given chance, it could come up to the expectations of the people. District Governments: It is a silent revolution, which replaced 150 years old structure within no time. The New Local Government System has already gained the acceptability of the people. It has allowed area specific development besides resolution of people problems at the grass-root level. But still its working needs to be refined. Moreover, the capacity building of the system needs to be expanded. The MNAs-MPAs should also be involved in the system. Both the Federal and provincial governments are committed to the reforms carried out by President Musharraf. In Punjab, the performance of district governments is much better than any other province. The Punjab government has been quite supportive of the district governments. Both the provincial and district governments did their best to control price-hike seen recently, though Nazims have been constrained by lack of magisterial powers to enforce their writ. The issue of enforcement is being addressed. Ultimately the prices will be controlled by the market mechanism of supply and demand. Answer to these problems lies in promoting processing industry. Imagine onions, tomatoes and other vegetables being available in the form of either paste or powder. This will improve the lot of the farmers also. He appreciated the government initiative to create a new department of Agriculture marketing. Some other problems: Population growth is the most pressing problem faced by Punjab. Efforts should be made to control and regulate population growth. Our next issue is how to invigorate the provincial economy to attract investors, thereby creating employment opportunities for the youth. Attention should be paid as how to make our agriculture sector more productive. Year 2004-Some predictions: I think economy will pick up in 2004, Pak-India relations improve while the political system will further mature this year. Law and Order: The police received massive resources. As such its performance also improved as compared to past. The law and order situation is also satisfactory, though there is always room for further improvement. Water Issue: For a stronger Pakistan water issue needs to be tackled. The government is fully committed to solve this problem. Two committees have been constituted to look into all the issues.