Nirupama Subramanian

"Don't play into the hands of those against peace"

Media body moves resolution urging Pakistan not to allow its territory to be used by extremists Asks both countries to fulfil commitments made under joint declarations Call to end root causes of worldwide terrorism

ISLAMABAD: The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has appealed to the Indian Government not to give up the path of dialogue with Pakistan. In that case it would be playing into the hands of "lobbies" in both countries who want to wreck the peace process.

Mr. Rehman of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal was speaking on "Terrorism and the Peace Process" earlier this week at a meeting organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) that has been active on the India-Pakistan peace front. Pakistan People's Party general secretary Raja Pervez Ashraff and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) secretary-general Zafar Iqbal Jhagra also participated in the meeting.

Referring to the postponement of India-Pakistan talks in the wake of the July 11 Mumbai blasts, Mr. Rehman said: "I would like to tell the Indian Government this is a test of your determination, whether you want to take the peace process forward or not. If the peace process stops, it will help those who are against peace."

SAFMA secretary-general Imtiaz Alam moved a resolution urging the Pakistan Government not to allow its territory to be used by extremists. He appealed to New Delhi to return to the negotiating table.

"Letter and spirit"

Mr. Alam asked both countries to fulfil their commitments to each other in "letter and spirit" under the January 2004 and April 2005 joint declarations. The first, signed between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, says Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India, while the second terms the peace process as "irreversible."

SAFMA plans to take a delegation of Pakistani journalists on a "peace march" across the Wagah border on August 14. The delegation will travel up to Amritsar.

Mr. Rehman, believed to be close to the Taliban, but also known as a pragmatic and adroit politician, praised the "mujahideen, the Muslim brothers" who were fighting for the "Muslim ummah" all over the world.

He said no one must defame them or criticise their efforts because they had been forced to wage war.

Mr. Ashraff criticised military rule for giving rise to extremism, while Mr. Jhagra asked governments the world over to deal with the root causes of terrorism, which, he said, were poverty and illiteracy.