April 2002 News

Benazir, Sharif betrayed Kashmir

9 April 2002
The Hindu
B. Muralidhar Reddy

Islamabad: The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, launched his campaign for the referendum in grand style at the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore this evening with a no-holds-barred attack on the two former Prime Ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, and a veiled criticism of India. It was at this place, that the Muslim League had adopted a resolution in 1940 envisaging the creation of Pakistan. Gen. Musharraf's decision to choose the venue is significant in more than one way. Besides hoping to convince the people that the interest of Pakistan is supreme for him, the rally attended by thousands of people marked the transformation of the General into a political leader. The 40-minute speech was full of quotable quotes against the two former Prime Ministers and the `spectacular achievements' of his regime in a span of two and half years. It was a Government show right from the word go. In attendance at the rally were the Core Commander of Lahore, the Governor and the Mayor, besides all the senior functionaries of the Punjab administration. The Pakistan Television's international channel telecast the show live. Though the date for the rally was fixed a few days ago, the Election Commission notified the referendum only a few hours before Gen. Musharraf took the stage. The referendum to be held on April 30 would pose a question to the people of Pakistan whether they endorse the Presidency of Gen. Musharraf for five more years. The Election Commission issued the order on the basis of the Referendum Order, 2002 promulgated by Gen. Musharraf in his capacity as the Chief Executive. Raising his voice repeatedly, Gen. Musharraf said that Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif had plundered the wealth of the country and sucked its blood and that he would never allow them to return to the political arena. Amid cheers from those seated in the front rows, Gen. Musharraf claimed that contrary to predictions by his critics he never compromised on the Kashmir cause at his summit meeting with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. ``There were charges that I would sell the Kashmir cause. On the contrary, I made the Indian people and leaders realise that there could be no peace without resolution of Kashmir''. In contrast, he said that during her recent trip to India Ms. Bhutto had denounced the ``foreign fighters in Kashmir as terrorists''. The truth was that the Kashmir struggle was ``indigenous''. Ms. Bhutto had talked of a common currency and open borders between India and Pakistan. ``This is against the very foundation and ideology of Pakistan,'' he said. Ms. Bhutto wants ``slavery of Hindustan'' and is blind to the Gujarat happenings. She had even appealed to India to pressure the United States for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. ``She has no place in Pakistan. We will not allow her to come here,'' he declared. He accused Mr. Sharif of agreeing to sign a declaration at Lahore during Mr. Vajpayee's visit that contained no reference to Kashmir. ``It was at my insistence as the Army Chief that Kashmir figured in the final declaration thrice.'' Gen. Musharraf did not spare the alliance of religious parties that have vowed to oppose the referendum and accused them of misleading the people of Pakistan on Afghanistan. ``They claim to be contractors of Islam. Are you people not Muslims,'' he asked. Thanks to these persons, a number of our misguided youth went to Afghanistan to fight along with the Taliban. During my recent visit to Afghanistan, I took up the matter with the Karzai Government in a bid to secure their release''. The sum and substance of his speech was that his Government had done its best for the betterment of the Pakistani people and would not allow any future set-up to reverse the political and economic reforms. He invoked the name of Allama Iqbal, the national poet, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, at the beginning of his speech and pledged to follow in their footsteps. He tried to strike a sentimental rapport with the people by telling them that he had studied in Lahore and had fond memories of it. The referendum move has attracted flak within and outside Pakistan, especially because Gen. Musharraf has declared that he is not giving up his position as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). All the institutions he presides over today are by virtue of his title as COAS.


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