Musharraf's statement on Kashmir upsets ARD
19 December 2003
LAHORE: Leaders of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, taking exception to President Pervez Musharraf's offer that Pakistan could give up its consistent demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir, said on Friday that they would discuss the matter at a meeting in Karachi on Saturday (today) along with the possible negative impact of the statement on country's principled stand on what Pakistan regarded as its jugular vein. The participants would also examine the outcome of the several rounds of talks the MMA held with the government to resolve the LFO controversy, and decide whether to treat the religious alliance as an ally or an adversary. Makhdoom Amin Fahim will preside over the meeting, which will also take a decision on the next round of its mass contact drive. PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq told Dawn his party would call upon the ARD leaders to take a strong view of Gen Musharraf's statement on Kashmir and demand that no individual had the right to make a policy statement on such an important subject without taking the parliament into confidence. Gen Musharraf's statement, he said, had very serious consequences for the security of the country and thus could not be ignored. Raja Zafarul Haq said it was the United Nations which had given the Kashmiris their right to self-determination. This right, he contended, could not be taken back by any country or individual. The PML-N chief said the ARD would also discuss the desirability of MMA's talks with the government at a time when it had also launched a campaign against Gen Musharraf. He hoped that a decision on the state of relationship between the two alliances would be possible on Saturday in the light of the outcome of several rounds of talks the religious alliance had held with the government. ARD chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim told Dawn that Pakistan's stand on plebiscite in Kashmir could not be changed by a statement from Gen Musharraf. He said since the MMA was holding talks with the government, the ARD had nothing to do with the religious alliance. He reiterated that no individual had the right to amend the Constitution and that the ARD would never change its stand on the issue. The Makhdoom said the ARD would go ahead with its mass contact campaign to mount pressure on the government to take back the LFO. Also, he said, the ARD was firm on its stand that Gen Musharraf should quit and election should be held to fill the post of the president. In a separate development, the MMA clarified that it would not vote for Gen Musharraf even if it reached an agreement with the government on the LFO. MMA leaders say that reports that MMA legislators in the NWFP and Balochistan would support Gen Musharraf were 'disinformation' spread by the government. One leader said that this was the last chance for the government to reach an agreement on the LFO and in case the government did not avail the opportunity offered by the MMA, the religious alliance would give its supporters the call for a march on Islamabad, which would not be taken back at any cost. In such an eventuality, he warned, the points of agreement on the LFO would also become irrelevant and the situation would take a new turn.