M A I N   N E W S

Pervez hints at holding three rounds of talks
K. J. M. Varma

Islamabad, January 10
Ruling out chances of Islamabad accepting LoC as border to resolve the Kashmir issue, President Pervez Musharraf has indicated the holding of three rounds of talks between India and Pakistan at Foreign Secretary level, beginning next month, to work out a step-by-step approach to discuss Kashmir and other matters.

“We have neither accepted the idea of making the LoC a permanent border before nor is there any question of accepting it in future talks with India,” he reportedly told leaders of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), while apprising them of his meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Musharraf also admitted that the methodology for the talks agreed by the two countries at the meeting between him and Vajpayee was “a re-enactment of the Lahore process,” according to the resume of the President’s meeting on Thursday with PoK leaders, published in local daily Dawn today.

Musharraf told the Kashmiri leaders that as per the understanding reached during the recent political contacts between the leaders of the two countries, India and Pakistan have agreed for a “step-by-step approach” under which there would be “three crucial Foreign Secretary-level rounds of talks” between the two countries starting next month.

In the run-up to the proposed composite talks in February, different groups will be set up at the lower official level to discuss matters pertaining to trade, people-to-people contact, etc.

Musharraf told the leaders that during his meeting with Vajpayee Kashmir problem was not discussed, as both sides first had to make up their minds over the issue.

One Kashmiri leader said he believed Pakistan also decided to look for solution to Kashmir issue without insisting on the “division” of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines.

The unidentified Kashmiri leader also quoted the President as having said that during the second round of composite dialogue, the question of reducing Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir would also be addressed.

“And if that does not happen, there would be no point in holding talks, and also it would become difficult to start the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad,” he quoted Musharraf as saying.

Musharraf said international players involved in facilitating Indo-Pak talks had been told in “unequivocal terms” that Islamabad should not be expected to even consider making the cease-fire line a permanent border, let alone accepting it. — PTI 


Pakistan tightens anti-terrorism law
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, January 10
Within a week of committing itself along with other SAARC countries to eliminate terrorism in all forms and manifestations, Pakistan today tightened its anti-terrorism law enhancing punishment upto 10 years and making financing of terrorist activities a non-bailable offence.

The amendments in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 were approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali here.

Giving details of the amendments, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told reporters that any individual or entity involved in financing of terrorism shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment ranging from four to 10 years.

Financing of terrorism shall be non-bailable offence and also societies and other institutions which have a potential to act as conduits for such financing shall be obliged to establish bank accounts and maintain information about their employees and clients, failing which they will face fine and revocation of license, according to the amendments.

The amendments were carried out in line with the UN regulations formulated after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA, Ahmad said.

The government took the steps after Pakistan along with other SAARC countries last Tuesday signed an Additional Protocol on the Convention on Terrorism, pledging to eliminate the menace in all forms and manifestation in the region and to deal effectively with financing it. — PTI


Pak may reopen consulate in Mumbai

Islamabad, January 10
At a meeting with MQM parliamentarians, President Pervez Musharraf has said the ongoing confidence building measures between Pakistan and India could result in reopening of consulates in each others' countries in Karachi and Mumbai and opening of the road link between Khokhrapar in Sindh province and Rajasthan.

"President assured us that the government would consider opening of Khokhrapar border whenever there is exchange of more CBMs between India and Pakistan," MQM MP Farooq Sattar, who attended the meeting at Rawalpindi, told reporters here last night.

According to Pakistan news agency PPI, Musharraf also assured the Muthahida Quami Movement parliamentarians that the CBMs could result in reopening of the consulates in Mumbai and Karachi.

The consulates were closed in 1992 following a dispute between the two countries over Jinnah House in Mumbai.

"We are all set to hold composite dialogue with Indian leadership over the matter and deliberations to start ferry service between Mumbai and Karachi are going on," the MQM leaders quoted Musharraf as saying.

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