LoC should be demilitarized: Strategic assets not damaged: Aziz
20 November 2005
Iftikhar A. Khan
Islamabad: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Sunday called for demilitarization of the Line of Control (LoC) and reiterated that settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was essential for durable peace in the region. Talking to journalists after a meeting with Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed, the prime minister appreciated New Delhi’s response to help Pakistan in the wake of the devastating earthquake, but said that the five points opened along the LoC recently should remain open seven days a week instead of once a week. He noted that the composite dialogue with India was moving in the right direction and hoped it would deliver good results. Answering a question, Mr Aziz said that Pakistan was an active member of the global coalition against terrorism and did not support killings through any form of terrorism. Asked to comment on Mirwaiz Maulvi Umer Farooq’s recent proposal of ‘United States of Kashmir’, he said any solution to the issue should be in line with the aspirations and wishes of Kashmiris. The premier said that various options were available to settle the dispute and referred to his recent proposal of self-governance on both sides of the LoC. SPONSORSHIP SCHEME He said the government would launch an ‘aggressive sponsorship scheme’ under which individuals and organizations could sponsor persons, villages, tehsils, schools or hospitals. He hoped that expatriate Pakistanis would play a vital role in that scheme. Answering a question, he said Pakistan’s strategic assets like nuclear installations and big dams were not damaged by the quake. He rejected a recent European Union statement that quake-related aid should be approved by parliament. “Pakistan is a sovereign country and understands its responsibilities. There is no need to tell us what to do.” He said a mechanism had already been put in place to ensure utilization of funds in a transparent manner. He stressed that fundraising was a continuous process. “The donors’ conference was just one event. We are fortunate to get a good turnout,” he said, adding that terms and conditions of the grants and soft loans would be finalized in next few weeks. The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the pledged amount of $5.8 billion and hoped the figure would go well over $6 billion. He said that $3.9 billion out of the pledged amount was soft loans while $1.9 billion was grant. He said the success of the donors’ conference had proved that Pakistan enjoyed a respectable place among the comity of nations. “The countries having no diplomatic relations have also made contributions,” he pointed out. Mr Aziz said that relief efforts would continue side by side rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes and added that buildings to be made under reconstruction plans would be earthquake-proof and would be made in accordance with the new building codes. INDIAN MINISTER Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahmed later told newsmen he never held Pakistan responsible for cross-border terrorism. However, he said, he had expressed India’s concern over cross-border terrorism during his meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. He said he had conveyed to Mr Aziz concerns of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over cross-border terrorism. “I am not accusing Pakistan of cross-border terrorism,” he told a questioner. Mr Ahmed said bilateral issues and matters relating to composite dialogue were discussed during the meeting. He said the opening of five points along the LoC was another step taken to lessen the agony of the Kashmiris. He claimed India was not involved in any type of state terrorism in occupied Kashmir. However, he was irritated by another question about state terrorism and human rights violations in the held Kashmir and concluded the press talk.