February 2008 News

Cautious Reaction In Kashmir To Unclear Pakistan Verdict

19 February 2008
The Hindu

Srinagar: With no clear majority to any political party in Pakistan, leaders as well as people in Kashmir believe that the process to find an amicable solution to the Kashmir problem may be delayed further. Though separatists believe that there will not be any change vis-a-vis Kashmir, mainstream parties fear that the clock may turn back. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani is, however, the lone leader who sees it as a defeat to Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf and his Kashmir policy. “People of Pakistan have rejected Musharraf and his apologetic Kashmir policy. Election results should serve as an eye-opener for those who will form the new government in Pakistan.” Mr. Geelani told TheHindu over phone from Delhi that Gen. Musharraf had diluted the Kashmir issue and his defeat was a result of his pro-U.S. policies. “Let us hope the new government would not follow the footsteps of Musharraf and sticks to its traditional stand on Kashmir.” Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah said there was hardly any possibility for any government in Pakistan to change its Kashmir policy. “History stands testimony to the fact that till date whosoever has ruled Pakistan has always supported the Kashmir cause. All the Pakistani leaders have always raised Kashmir issue in every forum. The ongoing Indo-Pak dialogue started due to the efforts of Pakistan. I don’t think that there will be any change in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy,” he said. Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman of pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front said: “I congratulate the people of Pakistan for exercising their right to vote. But the split verdict is a cause of concern for the political parties in Pakistan. We have to see how the political parties in Pakistan will develop consensus to form a new government. It is an acid test for the Pakistani leaders.” Referring to the Kashmir issue, Mr. Malik said that talks vis-À-vis Kashmir might get delayed till new government is formed. “Let us see what happens.” “Good beginning” People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said that the elections were a good beginning towards restoration of democracy in Pakistan. “It seems that for the first time free and fair elections were held, and, in spite of violence the people came out to vote. We relate it to the situation in Kashmir,” she said. Ms. Mufti said the peace process had come to a halt and “we now hope that new government though having its own priorities will pick up the thread from the initiatives taken by Parvez Musharraf.” She hailed Musharraf for his pragmatic and realistic approach vis-a-vis Kashmir. “He has a significant contribution in pushing forward the process of reconciliation and peace” she said. Senior National Conference (NC) leader Ali Muhammad Sagar said: “The new government in Pakistan can have a different Kashmir policy and for the time being it seems that the dialogue process between India and Pakistan would get delayed further. The party backed by Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf, PML (Q), getting the lowest number of seats has weakened Musharraf.” “I could see a breakthrough in the political impasse in the country that cropped up since the 9-11 attacks in America,” said Muhammad Rafiq, a shopkeeper. He said the polls were free and fair and could begin an era of permanent peace in the area. It would also help speed up peace talks between India and Pakistan.” Another shop-owner Najam-ud- din was jubilant and said, “I am happy to see pro-Musharraf parties losing,” adding, “Musharraf was a U.S. puppet, he was anti-Islamic and the parties supporting him paid for it.” But there are students like Masood Ahmad who is dismayed over the results. “Now the corrupt people are back in power, they will not do well to their own country nor to Kashmir.”

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