Wednesday, June 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak army drawing up agenda
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 26
The powerful military establishment in Pakistan is in the thick of things of drawing up President Pervez Musharraf’s agenda for his summit with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Agra on July 15 and a possible spill over to the next day.

Kashmir continues to occupy centrestage for President Musharraf who has maintained that Pakistan’s national interests will not be compromised nor is there any question of lowering the level of deterrence.

Innumerable suggestions of what President Musharraf should discuss with Mr Vajpayee alludes to the army playing a leading role on how forces can be reduced in Siachen, the highest glacial battle field in the world, and along the Line of Control in Kashmir.

There are reports in the Pakistan media that the army wants to pull back its troops from Siachen. Senior army commanders after discussing the pros and cons of such a move in Islamabad feel that both sides are suffering a huge toll in terms of officers and men because of the inhospitable weather conditions and elements in Siachen. They have realised the futile exercise of stationing troops in Siachen.

Clearly, internal compulsions of a crumbling economy and lifting of sanctions by western powers having received a setback with Gen Musharraf appointing himself President of Pakistan has compelled the military brass to change its line of thinking.

On its part, India is treading cautiously in the wake of endless suggestions being thrown across the border and preferring to keep its counsel to itself. New Delhi has made it clear that it is willing to discuss all contentious issues as part of the composite dialogue aimed at putting in place direly needed confidence-building measures.

Pakistan’s military also wants that the Vajpayee-Musharraf summit should be sustained so that directions flow from the very top for effective implementation on the ground.

For any realistic movement on Kashmir, Pakistan will have to jettison some of its old baggage of trying to settle old scores. President Musharraf has stated that he is cautiously optimistic about his visit to India. New Delhi will also like firm assurances that cross-border terrorism is contained as a positive step in forging mutually beneficial partnerships for promoting peace and development in South Asia.


PPP, PML to boycott meeting

Islamabad, June 26
The all-party meeting called by Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf here tomorrow to discuss his forthcoming visit to India received a setback with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and deposed Premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML) deciding to boycott it.

The Central Executive Committee of the PPP, which met here last evening, decided to stay away from the meeting to protest against four major issues including government’s failure to announce the date for elections and General Musharraf’s taking over as President.

The PPP’s deputy general secretary Raza Rabbani said “General Musharraf’s regime lacked the constitutional and popular mandate to settle vital national issues, therefore, it is meaningless for the party to attend the meeting convened by him.”

The party had been advocating a dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, but the dialogue should be held by elected representatives than coup leaders, he said, adding that the party had referred the decision (of boycotting the meeting) for approval of Ms Benazir Bhutto.

The party said it had decided to boycott the meeting to also protest over other issues like ban on political activities and victimisation of political leaders, particularly of Ms Bhutto, and retrenchment of workers and price hike.

Mr Rabbani said Ms Benazir was expected to convey her decision before the meeting of the 16-party Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) today.

The meeting, called by General Musharraf after he took over as the President on June 20 angered many political parties, which termed his move as illegal and unconstitutional.

However, there are indications that other parties, including the Muthiahada Quami Movement, (MQM), Jamat-e-Islami, Imran Khan’s Ensaf-e-Teherik and other smaller parties would attend the meeting, for which 24 leaders have been invited.

Ahead of the all-party meeting, General Musharraf has invited editors and journalists for a meeting today to discuss his visit to India as well as the stand to be taken on the Kashmir issue. PTI


Agreement on Siachen likely

Islamabad, June 26
India and Pakistan are likely to reach an agreement on withdrawing troops from Siachen during the July 15 summit meeting between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a leading Pakistani daily reported today.

The Dawn said both countries had realised that keeping troops engaged at such heights in adverse conditions had contributed to tension between them, besides imposing heavy costs of men, money and material.

The daily, quoting military sources, said consensus had emerged at a meeting of corps commanders here recently to resolve differences between the two countries and all of them had agreed that priority should be given to economic buildup and normalising relations with India.

Gen Musharraf was ready to “sell anything and buy anything” to achieve peace with India, the daily said.

The daily quoted the sources as saying that it would be a breakthrough if both sides agreed to continue talking. Initially the focus would be on withdrawing forces from Siachen and halting skirmishes on the Line of Control (LoC).

“President Musharraf and the Indian premier have had telephonic discussion three times recently. Both agreed that it was becoming difficult to sustain their huge armies due to their economic problems for which it was necessary to sit and negotiate and come to terms,” the daily quoted the sources as saying. UNI

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