Lashkar hijacked Kashmir agenda: Benazir
26 November 2001
The Times of India
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NEW DELHI: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said on Monday that outside forces like the Lashkar-e-Taiba have hijacked the Kashmiri agenda from the people of Kashmir, virtually admitting Pakistan''s role in terrorism in the Valley. ''While there is no reversal of my view on the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, the indigenous movement of the people of J&K has been hijacked by outside groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba,'' said Bhutto. Replying to a pointed question whether she felt there was a ''freedom struggle'' going on in J&K, a fact reiterated by General Musharraf at every media opportunity, she said, ''There is a freedom struggle but there is a difference between the way I see it and the way Musharraf sees it.'' The government maintains that terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed receive backing from Pakistan. Seen in this light, Bhutto''s comments are significant. Addressing a press conference, she said that indigenous Kashmiri people were involved in a movement and they should be allowed to determine their political fate through a plebiscite. Referring to the Pakistan government''s stand that unless and until the Kashmir issue was resolved, all peace talks between India and Pakistan would remain inconclusive, Benazir said Kashmir was not the only issue between the two neighbouring states. ''US and China have their differences over Taiwan, but that did not stop them in becoming good trade partners. India and Pakistan should follow this example,'' she said. She talked of the of the convergence of interests in trade and at the WTO where much is at stake for both the countries. Benazir felt that the leaders of India and Pakistan needed to chart a new, peaceful course to avoid a nuclear conflict between the two countries. ''We owe it to our children to build a world free of the threat of nuclear annihilation,'' she told the Confederation of Indian Industry earlier in the day. ''It is for the leaders...to chart a new course,'' said Bhutto, who met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and other political leaders on Sunday. ''Our part of the world has been teetering on the verge of doom and disaster too often.'' The countries should immediately end all hostilities and reach a nuclear agreement, she said. It was high time that both India and Pakistan stop treating their nuclear bombs as prized possessions, and reduce the nuclear bomb risk. Bhutto, who was in New Delhi on what was billed as a private visit, divides her time between London and Dubai since she was convicted of corruption. The Pakistan Supreme Court has since cancelled the conviction and ordered a retrial. Tensions between India and Pakistan, which have gone to war three times in the past half century - twice over the disputed region of Kashmir - have been rising in recent weeks, despite both nations lining up behind the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan.