Welcoming the moves to restore full democracy in Pakistan, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) founder and the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, on Saturday expressed hope that it would help create an atmosphere more conducive to the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

In a statement issued in Jammu, Mr. Sayeed said the changes sought through the constitutional package introduced in Pakistan's Parliament could strengthen democratic forces throughout South Asia, create a sobering effect, and help build bridges of understanding.

Mr. Sayeed said the rare unanimity witnessed among the political parties of Pakistan in arriving at the reform proposals should be seen as a positive development in the growth of democracy in the region. India has the highest stakes in this development which needs to be appreciated, he said.

Referring to the emergence of a strong civil society in Pakistan, Mr. Sayeed said it had performed creditably both against military dictatorship and terrorism. While various instruments of the state like the judiciary, the executive and the media will still take time to develop into a cohesive system, the process could be accelerated with help from Indian institutions, he added.

He said the open war against terrorism that the Pakistani society and the state were fighting could have invaluable dividends for peace and development in the region as a whole.

Mr. Sayeed said it was futile to push the resolution of the Kashmir issue on the backburner and hope it would disappear with time. That strategy had not worked in the past and it had no hope of success in the future too. He said the state was passing through very hard times as a result of unresolved core issues, and unless the peace process started in 2003 was revitalised, nothing could be achieved to reduce the pains of the people.

Regretting that there had been very little progress in the past few years on the watershed initiatives such as travel and trade across the Line of Control, Mr. Sayeed said that even internally the situation seemed to have frozen due to a lack of follow-up action. He said the people of the State had sensed hope after the 2002 elections, but unfortunately the process seemed to have fallen again into a familiar groove. The turnaround for the forces of democracy in Pakistan, he said, seemed like a silver lining on the horizon which needed to be capitalised upon.

Mr. Sayeed said the new atmosphere of reconciliation and constitutional reform in Pakistan should make it easier, rather than difficult, as some hawks in India believe, to engage with that country. Democracies, he said, had their own terms of decent and civilised engagement, and one could hope, given past experiences, that India would seize the moment to engage Pakistan in a purposeful dialogue aimed at resolving Kashmir and other issues.