May 2007 News

First internal situation, then Kashmir: Musharraf

19 May 2007
The Hindu
Nirupama Subramanian

Istanbul: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said that progress has been made on resolving the Kashmir issue, but he wanted to sort out the 'internal situation' first in order to give the talks focussed attention. In a wide-ranging interview about the situation in Pakistan to Aaj, a private television network, that was aired late on Friday, President Musharraf said it was a 'fairly fair' assumption that the broad outlines of a solution to the Kashmir issue had been worked out between the two countries. 'We have made progress on the Kashmir dispute, but we have to reach a conclusion. As I keep saying, it's a sensitive issue. If we have to reach a conclusion then both sides have to give up. And when both give up, then in both countries there is opposition and a hue and cry. Everybody says develop a consensus first. Arrey bhai, how to develop a consensus here? It will take years to develop a consensus, and we will never be able to solve it' he said, adding that ultimately, consensus was the 'view of the majority.' 'But then again, first let us resolve the situation here, the internal issue, so that we can focus on [Kashmir] properly,' he said. He said the resolution was 'moving forward on the same lines that I've proposed along the lines of demilitarisation, self-governance, joint management.' Asked if other conflict resolution models were being considered, he said 'lots' of documents were being studied. In this context, he mentioned the efforts by constitutional expert A.G. Noorani. 'Ultimately it boils down to the fact that our environment is our own, and we have to find a solution in keeping with this,' he said. President Musharraf said that even as a junior officer, he did not believe that power flowed out of the uniform. 'A person should not lead by rank but by personal example and his intrinsic qualities.' But he declined to say when he would give up his uniform, remarking only that he would not violate the Constitution. He argued that he a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly allowed him to hold the dual offices of President and Army chief until the December 2007. The President said he would seek re- election from the present assemblies, sometime between Sptember 15 and October 15, as it was in the Constitution that a presidential election had to be held ahead of the end of the incumbent's term. He suggested that if after December 31 this year, a new parliament once again voted for him to keep the uniform, he would submit to the will of the majority. President Musharraf also ruled out the return of Pakistan People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif, before the elections. 'Nobody is returning before the elections,' he said. Asked if that meant, they would be able to return after the election, he said that decision would be taken later. He said this election would be a battle between 'moderates' and Islamist extremists, and he would do everything to ensure the victory of the moderates. 'In this election, we defeat the extremist forces, and the moderate forces win. And after the elections, the moderate forces join hands'. A statement from the PPP said Ms. Bhutto would return to Pakistan 'before the elections, come what may' and that President Musharraf's statement reflected the 'desperation of a dying dictatorship'.


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