Sunday, Dec 07, 2003
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By B. Muralidhar Reddy
Talking to journalists in Lahore, Gen. Musharraf rejected the notion that Pakistan had retreated on the Kashmir issue by ordering a ceasefire on the Line of Control. A dialogue between Pakistan and India was to begin soon to discuss all outstanding issues.
The optimism of the Pakistani leadership on sustainability of the peace process and resolution of differences with India has pleasantly surprised political and diplomatic observers here. Separately in Karachi, the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, has been quoted as saying that Islamabad is seriously considering opening the border with India on the Rajasthan side.
A proposal for re-opening of the Sindh-Rajasthan route was originally made by India in its October 22 package. While the initial reaction of Pakistan to the suggestion was not warm, Mr. Jamali later said that Islamabad was ready to host technical-level talks along with other proposals like a bus link between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.
On his possible meeting with the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during the SAARC Summit next month in Islamabad, Gen. Musharraf said he would meet Mr. Vajpayee if the Indian premier so desired. He had expressed his desire earlier to hold a dialogue with the Indian leadership but he received mixed signals.
Referring to reports of construction of a fence by India along the Line of Control, the President said India was building one inside its territory 5 km from the LoC and it was not even visible from the Pakistan side.
On the refusal by the Commonwealth to re-admit Pakistan, the President said the country was not affected by such a decision. Pakistan was a founder-member of the Commonwealth and it was both regrettable and unfortunate that the country was being kept out of the organisation at the behest of a few other countries.
He declared that Pakistan was not a small country, which held no value in the comity of nations. "The Commonwealth will gain in respect and stature when we re-enter the organisation."
Asked about the performance of the Jamali Government and the working of Parliament, the President said the working of Parliament was before everyone and the national press could comment on the performance of the Government. The present Parliament would complete its five-year term and discussions with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal were being held to resolve the constitutional deadlock.
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