Govt asked to reveal Kashmir 'agenda'
25 January 2004
Lahore: Our Correspondent ISLAMABAD Top Kashmiri leaders and opposition parties Sunday asked the government to take the people and Parliament into confidence about recent developments between Pakistan and India on Kashmir. The speakers made this demand at a seminar organized by The Nation, Nawai-Waqt here Sunday. Kashmiri leaders representing government and opposition political parties, religious groups and mainstream Pakistani politicians, cabinet members, and retired generals attended the seminar 'Pakistan-India Relations and Kashmir Dispute.' Although speakers differed on a number of policy issues and how to handle Pak-India dialogue, they were unanimous on one point that the issue should be brought before the people and the parliament of Pakistan. Information Minister Shaikh Rashid represented the government, while Qazi Hussain Ahemd and Hafiz Hussain Ahemd of MMA, Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N, Babar Awan of PPP, and retired General Hameed Gul were also among the main discussants. The seminar continued for five hours and all aspects of the Kashmir problem, its possible solutions and their fallout for the people of Kashmir and Pakistan were discussed. From among the Kashmiri leaders Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Sikander Hayat, former AJK President Sardar Abdul Qayyum, AJK People's Party leaders, Sardar Khalid Ibrahim and Sahibzada Ishaq Zafar, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Amanullah Khan, Nazir Ahmed Shawl, Ghulam Muhammad Safi and Syed Yousaf Nasim of All Parties Hurriyat Conference also participated. Sheikh Rashid, who left for Lahore after delivering his speech, defended government's policy on Kashmir. According to him policy retreat was a strategy, which did not imply compromising long-held principled stand on Kashmir. Defending Musharraf's dominant role in bypassing all stakeholders in making policies, Rashid said for the last 50 years individuals had been deciding the fate of this nation. Highlighting the omnipotent role of an individual (Musharraf) in devising policies he described the rest of the factors, such as the parliament, politicians and the people, as 'Juma (Friday) bazaar.' The analogy angered all the participants who censured Rashid for making such derogatory remarks about the collective wisdom of the people, institutions and the society. Rashid claimed Pakistan's policy on Kashmir remained unchanged but said there were some strategic retreats to secure permanent peace in the region. He agreed that any solution of Kashmir dispute without involving Kashmiris would not be a durable one. He said the Muzaffarabad- Srinagar bus service plan was floated after thorough study as it would also help enhance trade between Kashmiris. He said for the first time international community was dealing Pakistan at par with India as the Kashmir dispute had been internationalized. He said Prime Minister Jamali would address the AJK Legislative Assembly on February 5 to express solidarity with the people. He said President Musharraf will also inaugurate a TV station in Muzaffarabad. Rashid said if there was any drawback in the current policy Kashmir, it should be brought to the notice of the government. He, however, left the seminar before other participants could pinpoint the pitfalls in Musharraf government's Kashmir policy. Other participants, however, expressed grave concerns over the possible sell-out of Jammu and Kashmir citing a series of U-turns General Musharraf had taken since September 11. They rejected any behind-the-scene diplomacy, such as Track II, asking the government to make everything public.