Pakistan will never abandon Kashmiris: PM
5 March 2006
The News International
London: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Sunday said Pakistan would never abandon the Kashmiris and desired a solution of the Kashmir issue, through dialogue, according to the aspirations of its people. 'We have always been with you and will always remain with you, let there be no doubt', he told representatives of Kashmiris soon after his arrival on a three-day official visit to United Kingdom. He announced holding of an international convention of Kashmiris from across the globe in Pakistan soon, to seek their suggestions and find options for a permanent solution of the lingering dispute. Shaukat, reiterating President Pervez Musharraf's proposals of demilitarisation and self-governance in Kashmir, said: 'We are ready even today to pull back our troops from the LoC, provided India does the same from its territory.' He pointed that there were over 700,000 troops in the valley and there was a need to demilitarise the area, turning it into a tension-free region for its people. He said Pakistan had entered into a composite dialogue process with India with the sole objective of resolving the core issue of Kashmir. Pakistan, he said, recognises the supreme sacrifices rendered by the people of Kashmir to achieve their right to self- determination. 'There may be different paths to reach the solution, but objective of all is the same.' He referred to the visit of a number of Kashmiri leaders in the recent past to interact with Pakistani leaders. 'Our stance is clear and we are not shy of talking', he said and added: 'We want peace and a better future for the Kashmiri people, as status quo was not the answer.' The prime minister urged the Kashmiris to maintain unity among their ranks and raise the matter forcefully, with one voice and adopt a unanimous stand on the issue. 'Internal differences can weaken our stance', he said. He observed that the Kashmir issue needed greater flexibility. 'Nobody is going to trade away the sacrifices of the Kashmiris,' he said, adding that there were three parties to the dispute, including the Kashmiris, Pakistan and India and any solution to the dispute must address their aspirations to achieve a solution. The prime minister said, the issue has been raised at all important international fora and President Musharraf in his talks with President George W Bush, urged the US to play its role in resolution of Kashmir dispute that would lead to lasting peace in South Asia. 'Pakistan wants a solution of the issue through negotiations as long as it is in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.' Shaukat also briefed the Kashmiri leaders about the steps taken by the Pakistan government for the rehabilitation of the over 3 million people displaced by the country's worst ever natural calamity, the October 8 earthquake.