26-11 Happened When Solution To Kashmir Issue Was In Sight: Imran

26-11 Happened When Solution To Kashmir Issue Was In Sight: Imran

7 December 2013
The Hindu
Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

New Delhi: Mentioning how India and Pakistan had come extremely close to finding a solution to the long-standing Kashmir issue in 2008, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan on Saturday said it was unfortunate that the Mumbai attacks took place just then and the peace process got pushed back. Talking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Mr. Khan said he was told by his party vice-chairman and former Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Ahmad Qureshi that just before the Mumbai attack “the back channel contacts had moved very far, the two sides had moved very close to some sort of a solution, neither side wanted to reveal until the full package was finalised as it could have been sabotaged, but then unfortunately Mumbai happened.” Stating that India and Pakistan need to move forward on the Kashmir issue, Mr. Khan said: “The solution should not be publicly debated as there would be too much vested interest that would tear it apart.” On the recent war cries over Kashmir, the cricketer-turned-politician scoffed at the idea and said even Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could not have said so. “There can be no solution through military or through militancy, two nuclear countries do not think of war. The only solution is through talks and as far as I know we came pretty close.” Before Mumbai, he said: “I saw more improvement in five years than in five decades.” But now, Mr. Khan said, for there to be a solution wanted to “see a new government come into India” and a strong one at that. “BJP did more to improve ties” Asked if BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was a cause of worry for Pakistan, he said: “We were all worried when the BJP came for the first time, but when they came to power they did more to improve the relations. All I want is a strong leadership, so that there is the ability to take strong decisions. Unfortunately we did not have that - either on one side or the other.” Calling for a strong relationship with India, he said it was only when the two countries have a good relationship that they would treat each other’s terrorists as criminals. On whether he believed in handing over wanted terrorists Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim to India, Mr. Khan said he and every Pakistani felt that anyone involved in the Mumbai attacks should be brought to justice. “The problem is that if you do not go through the courts of law, you end up making them martyrs and exacerbate the problem by spawning more terrorists.” In the same vein, he added: “Pakistan is now going through the worst phase of terrorism. There are 14-15 big and 40-50 smaller groups constituting the Taliban now as against just one till 2006. If you take any step where you make them a martyr, then in eliminating just one terrorist you will spawn many more.” The stronger Pakistan grew the more chance it had of clamping down on non-state actors, the PTI leader said. “The weaker the state gets, if it can’t protect itself, how will it protect you?” Asked how infiltration of terrorists into India could be curbed, he said: “In the province we are governing right now, 30 cops are killed every month. So how can we give you the guarantee that yes we will stop all sorts of terrorism into India?” But once the 150,000 Pakistan soldiers stuck in North West are released and the militias are disarmed, Pakistan would be able to take responsibility for anything happening from its soil, Mr. Khan said.