March 2004 News

Musharraf sets deadline on Kashmir

30 March 2004
The Dawn
Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has set a deadline of July-August for positive developments vis-a-vis the Kashmir issue and warned that the peace process between Pakistan and India could get derailed if the core issue is not addressed quickly and seriously. 'If peace process does not move forward, then I will not be a party to it,' said President Musharraf while talking to a select group of journalists and intellectuals at the Army House here on Tuesday. The president said the foreign ministers of the two countries needed to break the deadlock by July-August, otherwise the confidence building- measures (CBMs) initiated in the current detente would come to an end. President Musharraf said Pakistan would reconsider its position if the expected results were not delivered by July- August. The president said he had informed the Indian leadership and the Western powers that if talks on Kashmir were not initiated within the set timeframe, then there would be no use of continuing the dialogue. The President said both India and Pakistan had to show flexibility on the Kashmir issue and go beyond their stated positions. President Musharraf said the CBMs had yielded some positive results with a realisation on both sides that it was time to resolve the Kashmir issue. He said both the countries understood the importance of resolving the long festering dispute without which peace could not prevail in the region. Responding to a question, President Musharraf said Pakistan was committed to diplomatic and political support to the indigenous Kashmir struggle waged by freedom fighters in occupied Kashmir. He said people should not even think that the present leadership would sell out the Kashmir cause. 'I would be the last person to do that,' he said. On the ongoing Wana operation, President Musharraf vowed to hunt the terrorists out with 'full force of the state.' He said the operation would continue as long as the terrorists were not flushed out from the region. He reiterated his previous offer that the terrorists would not be handed over to any foreign power if they laid down their arms; otherwise they would face the full force of the Pakistan army. Taking strong exception to a 'fatwa' recently issued by Al Qaeda's Dr Al Zawahiri against his person amounting to inciting the armed forces to mutiny, President Musharraf said the Al Qaeda leadership was politically exploiting Islam. 'They have a political agenda and not a religious agenda,' the president said. He said he would not be blackmailed by people hiding in the mountains who carried out attempts on his life. The president said evidence had emerged that explosives used in the recent attempts on his life had been transferred from tribal areas to Multan and from there to Rawalpindi. He expressed grief over the loss of life of troops in the Wana operation.


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