25 October 2004
Solution to the Kashmir problem can be found by debating different options such as identifying, demilitarising and changing the status of seven regions composing both parts of the disputed territory, said President General Pervez Musharraf here on Monday.
He was addressing an Iftar-dinner hosted by Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, several federal ministers, chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan, renowned figures of the twin cities and senior journalists of both print and electronic media were also present.
President Musharraf said: “We want plebiscite in Kashmir, while they (Indians) want the LoC to be made permanent border.” He said if both sides continued to stick to their stands, the dispute would persist for 100 years without any solution in sight.
Explaining his option for progress towards the Kashmir solution, the president said two regions of the territory in dispute were the AJK and Northern Areas and five regions were under Indian occupation. One of these five regions is linked to AJK because of its Muslim population and common casts of residents.
Another region inhabits Balti-speaking Shia Muslims and is closed to the Northern Areas. Jammu is the third region that has Hindu majority. The fourth region comprised Kashmir valley that is Srinagar and its surrounding areas. This region is inhabited by the Muslims. The fifth region under Indian occupation has Budhist majority.
He said for progress towards the Kashmir solution, these regions were to be identified, demilitarised and their status was to be changed. He said he believed that the Kashmiris would support this option as they would get authority. President Musharraf said India, because of its secular facade, was opposed to division of the territory on religious basis. But, he said, the beauty of this option for Kashmir solution was that the same regions emerge even if you consider geography or ethnicity as the basis of division. He said he was giving food for thought to the media that the option based on seven regions should be debated. He said by reading and listening to the views of people and experts he would judge what solution the masses desired. This, he said, was a way to achieve consensus on the issue.
He said he would then talk to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh keeping in view the people’s opinion. The president said the world now believed that Pakistan was contributing to the stability of Afghanistan. The past perception of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist activities in Afghanistan has gone, he said. He said he had also removed the world’s misgiving that Pakistan was instrumental in nuclear proliferation by wisely handling the issue of Dr AQ Khan and other scientists.
He said Pakistan was no more considered a rogue state, as alleged earlier by the world at large.
Musharraf said he had also successfully dispelled the impression of country’s involvement in cross-border terrorism in the context of Kashmir. He said not only the world had given up levelling this charge but the Indians also did not dare to repeat it in his presence. He said the Indians know that whenever they referred to cross-border terrorism, he would retaliate by pointing out human rights violations in Kashmir by the Indian military.
Despite these achievements, the president regretted, he could not yet remove the image of Pakistanis as a militant, terrorist society. He said the media was also to share the blame for this failure. He said those who support militants or terrorists should not be given wide and favourable coverage by newspapers and TV channels.
He said it was unfortunate that terrorists like Abdullah Mahsud and Amjad Farooqi were presented by the media as pious persons. The pictures showing Mahsud as praying and interviews of Farooqi’s brother claiming the deceased as innocent tarnish the image of the country.
He said he also prays and had performed Hajj as well. He said he considered himself as fortunate as many times the gates of House of God, Khana Ka’aba, were opened for him. He said he even offered prayers at the roof of Ka’aba.
He said he believed in freedom of the press, but added the mediamen should keep the national interest in mind while highlighting the point of view of those who favoured terrorists. He said the TV anchorperson should have national considerations in view while conducting interviews of people of different shades of opinion. He said it was the duty of mediamen to rectify the image of Pakistan. He said the outside world considered him a sole non-terrorist and regarded Pakistan a militant, terrorist society. He referred to a joke telecast by a foreign channel showing his picture with the comment: “the only non-terrorist in a terrorist society”.
The president said the majority of Pakistanis were “silent moderate” and militants were in minority but they were active. He said the militancy should be fought and defeated by the people. The president urged the media to build the image of Pakistan as a moderate Islamic country. Musharraf also highlighted the importance of dams not only for water requirements but also for industrial development.
He said Sindh was an important province of the country and would benefit more than the Punjab from dams, particularly Kalabagh Dam. He urged Sindh not to oppose dams’ construction as it would benefit none. He said uniform was necessary for him because of the stability and development of the country. He said the Sindh CM and Federal Minister Jatoi met him on Monday to seek Army’s help to save the Sukkur barrage from impending destruction. He said any damage to the Sukkur barrage meant no water for Sindh. He said the Army had been ordered to make necessary repairs and the work would commence tomorrow. He said the uniform was necessary to take such decisions.
The president said he knew that efforts were being made to form Balochistan liberation Army by recruiting people on payment of Rs 4,000 or 5,000 per month. He said some people in Balochistan thought that time was ripe for such moves as the government was engaged in operations against terrorists in Wana and other areas. He said the government has powers to crush those behind attacks in Balochistan.
Earlier addressing the gathering, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said that the APNS and CPNE were angry with the government while the journalists were happy. He asked the president to help resolve this issue amicably. APP adds: Sheikh Rashid said the media enjoys freedom in the country and the government was fully adhering to its policy of freedom of speech and expression. He urged the national media to make more efforts in effectively projecting the cause of the country. He said the Ministry of Information had been playing a role of bridge between the government and the media. He said they welcome healthy criticism but it should be for the sake of improvement.
Rashid said the acumen and wisdom of President Pervez Musharraf would steer the country out of its problems. “The way President Musharraf tackled the situation on international front, he will also overcome any emerging situation through his statesmanship,” he said while welcoming President Musharraf at the Iftar-dinner. Rashid paid tributes to his leadership qualities and said the president earned respect throughout the world due to his right decisions. His policies, the minister said, had improved the image of the country in the comity of nations. He said it was a great honour for him and his ministry that the top hierarchy of the country was under one roof with him on this auspicious occasion.