Taliban''s fall will scale down militancy in Kashmir: Bhutto
9 December 2001
The Asian Age
Islamabad: Former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto has said the separatist movement in Kashmir will suffer a setback with the fall of Taliban as the international community will not tolerate participation of foreign militants, and welcomed New Delhi''s peace initiatives in the valley. ''The fall of Taliban in Afghanistan would have an adverse impact on Kashmir ... The world will be less tolerant of Afghans, Arabs, and other foreigners going off to join the fight in Kashmir,'' Bhutto said. Advocating confidence-bulding measures to improve ties between India and Pakistan, she told the ''Dawn'' daily that the two countries should promote bilateral trade without prejudice to the Kashmir issue. ''Now the time has come for India and Pakistan to accept that they have different views on the Kashmir issue. Both countries need to manage the conflict to prevent war which the two nuclear capable states can ill afford. Confidence-building steps are necessary on this issue. ''Kashmir is very much a part of the agenda of the Indo-Pakistan talks. The differences in the positions of the two countries during the last 50 years led to wars, break-ups and unilateral withdrawals,'' she said. Welcoming New Delhi''s initiative to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue, she said her Pakistan''s Peoples Party has welcomed freeing of some Kashmiri political prisoners, agreeing to a cease-fire as well as the plan to talk to the Kashmiri leaders. She said that during her tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan, non-Kashmiri groups were not allowed to seize the ''Kashmir movement'' from the Kashmiris. My party and I are criticizing attempts by the private militias to infiltrate into Kashmir.'' Stressing the need for peace in the sub-continent, she said ''we oppose Kargil-like incidents and seek to defuse tensions in South Asia...We also plan to build trade in South Asia.'' Bhutto said the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should emulate the European Union in creating bigger markets through open borders and increased trade through a common trading currency. She also denied suggesting a single president and single currency for India and Pakistan during her recent visit to New Delhi. ''Pakistan is witnessing a sad decay of institutions due to repeated military interventions. We need democracy in Pakistan,'' she said. She denied that any political deal was reached with the military regime for her return to the country. On Pakistan President Pervez Musharaf''s plans to hold elections, she said ''the military regime will hold elections. Right now they are publicly admitting that these will be shame elections. Many candidates are being approached by civil and military officials to join various government supported factions,'' she added.