February 2000 News

We will not vacate PoK: Foreign Secy

22 February 2000
Amit Baruah

Islamabad: Pakistan today said there was ''no question'' of its vacating PoK, or ''Azad Kashmir'' as it is known here, in response to growing demands made by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. Addressing his first press conference after taking over as Foreign Secretary, Mr. Inam-ul-Haq claimed that the South Asian region had remained tense because of the ''hegemonic policy of our neighbour'' (India). To a question whether Pakistan was committed to the June 1997 Foreign Secretary-level agreement, which set out the framework and agenda for dialogue as well as the February 1999 Lahore agreements, Mr. Haq said Islamabad had ''never disowned'' Lahore. Similarly, Pakistan had ''never disowned'' any other agreement with India. Asked if the June 1997 agreement did not contradict the statements made by the Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, that Kashmir was the only dispute, Mr. Haq said Kashmir was the ''core dispute'', while other outstanding issues had to be settled as well. Islamabad had responded with ''restraint and maturity'' to the ''increasingly strident'' statements emanating from New Delhi and offered dialogue on the basis of ''sovereign equality'' to resolve the Kashmir issue. Asked what was the possibility of dialogue, Mr. Haq said it depended on the Government of India. ''It is up to India. I cannot speak for the Government of India.'' He denied that China had lodged a complaint or asked Pakistan to use its good offices with the Taliban urging it to stop supporting ''Islamic insurgents'' who operated in Chinese territory in the Central Asian region. On a possible visit by the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, to Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary said no decision had been taken. Mr. Haq denied that the Chechen separatist leader, Mr. Zelim Khan, had met either the Chief Executive or the Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdul Sattar. He did, however, confirm that Pakistan had asked Mr. Khan to ''expedite'' his departure from the country.


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