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Pak minister at his softest best
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 10
The usually fire-breathing Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was at his softest best tonight when he had a lengthy interaction with the visual and print media and did not mention the “core issue” of Kashmir.

The occasion was a dinner hosted in his honour at a five star hotel here by Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmad Khan. Mr Khan answered questions of a large number of Indian journalists till their questions ran out.

It was a far cry from the acidic rhetoric of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf during the failed Agra summit of July 2001 as Mr Ahmed did not refer to any contentious issues and dwelt on the need for India and Pakistan to sort out their differences through dialogue.

The Pakistani minister praised Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with choicest adjectives and phrases like: “He is the only leader in India who can take bold decisions”; and “Look at his experience. It is vast”.

The minister, however, spiced his praise for Mr Vajpayee with a pregnant remark that Mr Vajpayee could succeed in his peace mission vis-a-vis Pakistan “only if all his colleagues support him”. The remark is obviously aimed at Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani whom Pakistan considers “wrecker-in-chief” of Agra summit.

Mr Ahmed made it clear that he had not sought any appointment with Mr Vajpayee. Mr Ahmed, however, said since Mr Vajpayee was to inaugurate the third SAARC Information Ministers’ conference tomorrow before departing for his three-nation tour, he would try to talk to him at the conference venue only.

The Pakistani minister categorically dismissed newspaper reports which talked of he coming here armed with a message from Gen Musharraf. He said he had not brought any written message as such, but he would like to definitely give to the Indian people and leadership a message of peace and amity from the people and the Government of Pakistan.

A significant remark made by Mr Ahmed was that his government had not rejected the 12-point Indian peace proposals announced by External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on October 22.

“We have not rejected these 12 proposals of yours. But you should consider our proposals also,” Mr Ahmed said.

The minister said he would request the Indian authorities to allow him to visit the graves of his ancestors in Kashmir and he was also keen to see the home of his parents in Srinagar.

However, this is a discretion of the Indian Government to grant him permission or not, he was quoted as saying by official APP news agency.

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