November 2004 News

Would love to visit Kashmir: Musharraf

21 November 2004
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Lahore: The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, today said he wanted to visit Jammu and Kashmir but did not think it was possible in the near future. At a luncheon meeting with journalists from Jammu and Kashmir at the Punjab Governor's house here, Gen. Musharraf told The Hindu : 'Yes, I would love to visit Kashmir. It is a very beautiful place. But, you know, there seems to be no possibility in the near future as we are yet to show flexibility in our positions.' He said he wanted to taste the Kashmiri apples as 'it is rich in taste' and 'in reciprocation you can get our fruit as well.' In a free- wheeling discussion with scribes, he said his Government was not againstthe Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service but the issue of travel documents needed to be resolved. 'We will not accept the Indian passport as a travel document,' he said, butadded that there had been much headway in finding asolution to the problem. When asked why Pakistan objected to the inclusion of three top officials from the Jammu and Kashmir Government in the technical committee meeting in Islamabad, which was postponed, he said: 'How is that possible? We have made it clear that we do not recognise your Government in Jammu and Kashmir.' But he expressed optimism over the opening of the road and said people from the two sides could initially use the road to meet their relatives. 'If confidence builds we could throw it open for trade as well.' He said there must be a place for the Hurriyat Conference in the dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue and expressed concern about the rift in the conglomerate. 'They should be united for the sake of ameliorating the sufferings of the people by playing their role in resolving the dispute.' Gen. Musharraf said the Hurriyat Conference was the representative body of the people of Kashmir. He denied that Islamabad was behind the split in the group. 'There are some internal differences and I don't want to get involved in that as we do not manipulate the differences,' he said. 'Freedom struggle' When asked if he would like other political parties such as the ruling People's Democratic Party and the National Conference to be involved in the proposed dialogue, Gen. Musharraf said: 'I'm open-minded. I have no problems if they too are there, but the APHC must be there as it represents the people.' It was not possible to place Kashmir on the backburner. 'That would not be realistic and would only mean wasting time,' he said when asked if the two countries should work on more confidence building measures and not insist on holding a dialogue on Kashmir. 'It is a freedom struggle underway there,' he said, but called for flexibility in thestances of India and Pakistan. 'If India insists on Kashmir being its integral part I would say it is our lifeline and we would get stuck there.' 'The people of the State are fed up with the killing and atrocities being inflicted on them every day. We see bodies floating in rivers coming from that side. We fish them out and give them a burial,' Gen. Musharraf said.


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