In Pakistan, Mehbooba, Omar oppose putting Kashmir on backburner

30 March 2008
The Indian Express
ENS & Agencies

Jammu/Islamabad: In Islamabad for the Pugwash Conference, both Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have opposed Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s suggestion that the Kashmir issue be put on the backburner to further India-Pakistan ties. In her presentation at the conference, Mehbooba said this would be a “dangerous route” to take. Instead, the People’s Democratic Party president spelt out a “three-step approach” for resolution of the Kashmir issue, including a “dual” power-sharing arrangement. Omar claimed that Zardari’s stand that Indo-Pakistan ties should not be held hostage to the Kashmir dispute had little support in either Pakistan or J-K. Such a stand would be “option of the last resort” for the National Conference, he said. “Besides, there is no guarantee that a future generation will be better (at resolving the issue),” the former Union minister said. Zardari had suggested that the matter be left to future generations to resolve. Mehbooba sought a dual power-sharing arrangement “which would be based on equal relationships between the people of Kashmir across the border at both the sub-state and national levels, and combining this power-sharing arrangement with regional and national integration, i.e. incorporating it into the framework of Indian and Pakistan polity”. This approach, she said, was the underlying concept of her party’s self-rule proposal. Mehbooba also suggested a regional council for the undivided Jammu and Kashmir. “The Upper House of the state Assembly can be redesigned in the form of a regional senate, with members from J-K and Pakistan Administered Kashmir,” she said. The PDP leader, whose party shares power in the state, sought inclusion of separatist groups as well in talks. Concluding her speech, Mehbooba said “Next time we would like to share this platform with representatives from all separatist and militant groups, especially the Hizbul Mujahideen, to evolve a broader consensus for the peaceful resolution of the problem.” Omar insisted that there was no “popular support on the ground” in J-K for Zardari’s stand, and that the PPP co-chairman had “backtracked” from his comments since. According to him, President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point proposal for settling the Kashmir issue still constituted the best way forward for resolving the decades-old dispute. “The proposals made by Musharraf represent a framework that we can work with. There is enough in them that we can take forward,” said Abdullah. However, Omar added, it remained to be seen whether Pakistan’s new government would carry forward these proposals, as they were “too closely identified with Musharraf”. In his roadmap for resolving the Kashmir dispute, unveiled in 2006, Musharraf had suggested gradual withdrawal of troops from the region, self-governance and a joint supervision mechanism. Omar said he didn’t anticipate any “significant changes” in the Indian Government’s stand on the Kashmir issue till 2009, when a general election is due. “The process in India has been institutionalised and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has continued with what was begun by his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”