Zardari: we intend to solve Kashmir problem

28 March 2008
The Hindu

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party chairman Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday that the incoming government intended to solve the Kashmir problem and “not just shadow-box” with it. “We have always said dialogue is a political tool that we have to use. We believe in dialogue under any condition and all conditions,” Mr. Zardari said after a meeting with People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti at his home in the Pakistan capital. But emphasising that he wanted progress, Mr. Zardari said, “we do not want confidence-building measures, we want action.” “If boys in Kashmir are to be given pens instead of guns, if they are given jobs, if they are allowed to meet their relatives in Pakistan, if we allow our Kashmiris to meet their Kashmiri brothers across the border, I think it will go a long way,” Mr. Zardari said. The PPP co-chairman, who rarely accompanies his visitors out, emerged to escort Ms. Mufti to her car after their 30-minute meeting, and both jointly spoke to journalists waiting outside. His remarks appeared aimed at correcting an earlier impression he had given that India and Pakistan could “agree to disagree” on Kashmir while normalising relations between themselves, include opening out for more trade. That had provoked angry reactions from sections of Kashmiris who accused him of letting down the Kashmi cause, and concern among other Kashmiris who feared the peace process would now be put on the backburner. “We are totally involved with Kashmir, and we intend to solve the Kashmir problem and not just shadow-box on it,” Mr. Zardari said. But intriguingly describing himself as a “junior partner” in the new ruling set-up, he said he had pledged to “my sister” that he would take the Kashmir policy to Parliament with a view to taking it forward Ms. Mufti, who is the Pakistan capital to attend a conference on regional stability, urged the new leadership to take forward the peace process and not put it on the “backburner” as the progress made in the last few years would be lost. She said there was peace on the border, and the roads had been opened across the Line of Control.