NATIONAL

Pakistan ready for talks on self-governance

B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has said that it is ready to discuss with India the ideas of "self-governance and demilitarisation" on both sides of Kashmir.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had made proposals on the two ideas at his recent meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Dhaka, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said at the weekly news conference here on Monday.

Despite repeated queries Ms. Aslam said that at the moment, she was not in a position to give details of the "self-governance" proposal. She said that India had not responded to the ideas so far and that Pakistan was ready to engage New Delhi on the subject.

On whether self-governance in the context of Pakistan meant that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) was being governed from Islamabad, Ms. Aslam refused to answer. She was not ready to entertain questions on the fate of the present PoK government in the light of the proposal.

The idea of "maximum self-governance" was first mooted by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf six months ago as one of the proposals which could be discussed in the quest towards a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

At his meeting with Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed on Sunday, Mr. Aziz repeated the idea without spelling out the details.

The issue dominated Ms. Aslam's news conference on Monday as most of the Pakistani media had highlighted the point in reporting the interaction between Mr. Ahamed and Mr. Aziz.

What has caught the attention of the media and political observers is a demand made during the day by Prime Minister of PoK Sikandar Hayat for self-governance in Kashmir. He was addressing a news conference in Muzaffarabad, PoK capital, on relief and reconstruction activities in the earthquake-hit areas.

On the statement made by All Parties Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on the concept of United States of Kashmir, Ms. Aslam said Mr. Farooq was a respected Kashmiri leader and the idea floated by him was one of the several proposals for resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Ms. Aslam said Pakistan had desired association of Kashmiris in the dialogue process between India and Pakistan and favoured a solution of Kashmir, which would be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had proposed December 11 to 13 for trail run of the Amritsar-Lahore bus. It was supposed to have taken place last month, but was postponed due to the October 8 earthquake.

Ms. Aslam said Pakistan had proposed December 20 and 21 for technical-level talks on the Nankana Sahib-Amritsar bus service. . "We have repeatedly been asking New Delhi for a confirmation of the dates."