INTERNATIONAL

Kashmiris should be involved, Malik tells Aziz

Nirupama Subramanian

"They, including militants, should be part of decision-making"

ISLAMABAD: Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik on Monday met Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and pressed for Kashmiri involvement in the peace process.

"I told him that Kashmiris, including militant groups, should be part of the decision-making process, and that this is important for creating a genuinely peaceful atmosphere," Mr. Malik later told The Hindu. The Kashmiri leader arrived in Pakistan to participate in a conference, `J & K Dispute: Models for Resolution' held here on March 16 and 17. It was jointly organised by the Foreign Ministry-affiliated Institute of Strategic Studies and the Islamabad-based Kashmir Institute of International Relations.

According to an official release, Mr. Aziz reiterated, during the one-hour meeting with Mr. Malik, Pakistan's commitment to the composite dialogue process.

He said Pakistan always held Kashmiris the main stakeholders in the dispute and that they must be involved in the peace process.

The Prime Minister said a durable settlement of the Kashmir issue would be in the interests of Kashmiris, Pakistan and India.

Each had to show "determination, commitment, courage, flexibility and magnanimity" to resolve the issue.

The multistep approach proposed by President Pervez Musharraf could form the basis of a meaningful dialogue on Kashmir, Mr. Aziz is said to have told Mr. Malik.

It was encouraging that this new approach found resonance among Kashmiri leaders and stimulated debate by all stakeholders as well as experts around the world, the release quoted the Prime Minister as saying.

Separately, the Foreign Office said Pakistan was hopeful that the European Parliament would "look closely" at the draft report on Kashmir by MEP Baroness Emma Nicholson and "rectify" it to bring it in line with the "principles of the U.N. Charter, international law and the aspiration of the Kashmiri people aspirations that have been sanctified by the Security Council."

Pakistan lobbied for over 400 amendments, and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted for 28 before adopting it last week.

The report, `Kashmir, Present Situation and Future Prospects,' is to be presented to the plenary of the European Parliament in May.

Foreign office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said the original draft report was "totally negative, biased and discriminatory" but, thanks to certain amendments, it "has largely been rectified" although some "negative elements" remained.

The amendments include a watering down of Ms. Nicholson's dismissal of the demand for a plebiscite to "pre-conditions for using the plebiscite as a tool for finding out the will of the people have not been met at present."

But the Foreign Affairs Committee stayed with many other points that Pakistan found objectionable, including its concerns at reports of violation of human rights in the Northern Areas and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The amended draft expresses concern at the human rights violations by the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir and welcomes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement calling for "zero tolerance" of such violations. It calls on India to put an end to extra-judicial killings, disappearances and torture in the State.

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