March 2003 News

We Can Resolve Kashmir In 3 Yrs, Says Pak

4 March 2003
The Asian Age

Islamabad: In a significant observation, Pakistan information minister Sheikh Rashid has said India and Pakistan could resolve the Kashmir issue in the next three years but the final solution might not be the one expected by the two countries. 'The problem could be solved between the two countries in the next three years but not in a way Pakistan and India wanted it to be,' he told reporters in Lahore on Monday, while firmly defending the aggressive policy being pursued by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Kashmir. 'We should mentally be prepared for this,' he said without elaborating what could be the basis for the solution. To a question on US secretary of state Collin Powell's recent statement that Washington would remain engaged with India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue, he said. 'Doors of negotiations should always be kept open.' He said when it came to the Kashmir policy, Musharraf played on 'the front foot' to keep it in the focus of the international community. Mr Rashid said many people in Pakistan wanted to 'get rid of the dispute and did not consider it as 'jihad.' But after the September 11 attacks in US, Washington turned against Pakistan's policies, he added. Mr Rashid's comments were seen by the diplomatic circles here as a follow-up to statements made by chairman of Pakistan's Kashmir Committee, Sardar Qayyum Khan, a few months ago that Islamabad should seriously consider accepting the Line of Control as a solution. Mr Qayyum's comments, however, drew angry reactions from the hardline militant groups but evoked feeble protests from Pakistan's hardline religious parties. Replying to questions about Islamabad's stand on Iraq, Mr Rashid said Pakistan, which currently held a non-permanent member seat in UN Security Council, was against war on Baghdad, but it had to keep its interests supreme. 'We will follow the UN Security Council's decision on Iraq, but so far as the issue of our vote on US second resolution is concerned we will adopt the wait and see policy and take a right decision at the right time,' he said. Mr Rashid said unlike the international consensus on attacking Afghanistan after September 11, the world stood divided over the Iraq issue. 'We will have to handle the issue sagaciously and not emotionally,' he said, adding his government would take people and opposition into confidence before taking a decision.


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