Musharraf enjoys nation's support on Kashmir issue
1 July 2001
The News International
ISLAMABAD: The rare unanimity of views on the Kashmir dispute expressed by political and religious leaders during their separate consultative meetings with President General Pervez Musharraf reflected genuine keenness and desire for peaceful resolution of the core issue.The process would have been ideally consummated had the regime and the multi-party opposition grouping, Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), comprising the two major mainstream parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP), equally shown flexibility for a national cause. There is still time to find a way to have ARD President Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, PML-N, PPP, Jamhoori Watan Party and two factions of the Balochistan National Party on board.The views of these political forces on the resolution of the Kashmir dispute can hardly be in clash with those of the government their public posturing notwithstanding. Since the government has an upper hand as every regime has because of being in the driving seat, it needs to act with a sense of urgency and sincerity so that when General Musharraf meets Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and talks straight and plain, he has the solid across- the-board support and confidence of the entire political spectrum of Pakistan at his back.Trust reposed in him by the political and religious leaders will be thus further increased and strengthened. It is believed that the ARD chief was not much averse to meeting General Musharraf. However, he was left with no option but to go with the PPP and PML-N because of their immense pressure that was mounted on him publicly. This proved once again that both the main political parties are being practically run by their exiled leaders, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, whether one likes it or not.Makhdoom Amin Faheem was all-out to honouring General Musharraf's invitation. However, he was left with no choice but to ignore it because of the decision of his party directed by Benazir Bhutto. He was embarrassed for not honouring the invitation and had to clear his position to the official quarters later.The consultative meetings highlight some important features of Pakistan's political milieu. The religious- political parties (except the invited miniature Jamaat-e-Ahle Hadith of Prof Sajid Mir and three Ulema) almost universally accepted the government's invitation and reposed complete confidence in General Musharraf to talk to India for resolution of the Kashmir issue.The group picture of the politicians" meeting with General Musharraf, splashed in the newspapers, was interesting: the President was flanked by a grinning (but always critical of every government) Qazi Hussain Ahmed on his left and a serious looking Maulana Fazalur Rehman on his right while Maulana Samiul Haq standing behind him and other leaders taking different positions. Another important feature of these meetings was the participation of the Awami National Party (ANP), which did so against the ARD decision. It took a laudable principled stand: "We have been calling for talks with India for the last 53 years to sort out outstanding issues through dialogue and we cannot and will not change it now."However, the ANP leaders made it abundantly clear in the June 26 ARD meeting in Lahore that took a decision to boycott the Musharraf-convened meeting that there should be no doubt that it stood with the alliance on all other issues and would be in the forefront in any anti-government movement launched by it. However, it did not share the ARD views on meeting Musharraf to discuss his India visit.No doubt, there were five important political parties - PML-QA, Muthidda Qaumi Movement, ANP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-Fazalur Rehman) - which attended the consultative meetings. The Muthidda and JUI have no love lost for the government but they joined the consultations and reposed confidence in General Musharraf for his India visit to thrash out the longstanding issue of Kashmir that is bedevilling the relations of the two South Asian neighbours since 1947.Since the present military government came in place, the JUI has maintained a clear and conscious distance from it. Maulana Fazalur Rehman has always been attacking it on different counts. The Muthidda has been no different. Altaf Hussain's statements continue to be intolerable for the regime as these have been for the successive governments. Qazi Hussain Ahmed chief of Jamaat-e-Islami has been harshly attacking the government right, left and centre before the meeting, but he is now satisfied and the sting has gone away after the discussion. The PML-QA's support to every government policy is blanket for obvious reasons.Anyway, General Musharraf took the right initiative of consulting with politicians and other segments of the society on an important visit that is extremely crucial for his government as well as the country. He must have gained something out of these consolations and found that politicians need not always be treated as a prohibited tree. Most of them urged him and he promised to consult them on domestic issues. Such process may be continued uninterrupted.