M A I N   N E W S

Musharraf’s new Kashmir formula
Favours gradual demilitarisation
K.J.M. Verma

Islamabad, October 26
In a new formulation to resolve the vexed Kashmir issue, President Pervez Musharraf last night suggested that India and Pakistan consider the option of identifying some “regions” of Kashmir on both sides of Line of Control, demilitarise them and grant them the status of independence or joint control or under UN mandate.

“I will leave a food for thought for you. Take Kashmir in its entirety. It has seven regions. Two of the regions are in Pakistan and five are in India. In my view, identify a region, whether it is the whole, or seven, or part, I do not know. Identify the region, demilitarise the region for ever and change its status,” Musharraf said at an Iftar dinner attended by diplomats, government officials and mediapersons here.

Elaborating further, he said the “status can be independence, condominium where there can be a joint control or there can be UN mandate” which has to be defined by “legal people”. State-run PTV quoted Musharraf as saying that a solution to the lingering Kashmir problem cannot be found either by insisting on plebiscite or making the LOC into a permanent border.

Musharraf said since both India and Pakistan agreed to consider options to resolve Kashmir after his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York in September he wanted to suggest a solution as a “food for thought”.

“We have to consider the options in a purposeful manner going towards a solution. I strongly believe that there are options and there is a solution,” he said.

Summing up his suggestion, the Pakistan President said: “Identify the regions, demilitarise them and change their status. The whole debate of options will be based on this. We have to find a way out.”

Musharraf said if there is a way out both countries could claim victory and Kashmiris too will be happy as they would acquire some authority to manage their affairs.

“I have never spoken like this before to anyone. I request you to debate in line with this. It is a food for thought,” he said.

President Musharraf said Pakistan had effectively countered some misperceptions it faced until recently, including the allegation of cross-border terrorism by India and there is a marked change.

“The world leaders, including the Indian leadership, accepts that there is no infiltration and now the world is calling for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute,” he said.

Pakistan, he said, is a moderate progressive Islamic country and not a proextremism society and regretted that unfortunately the country suffers from a negative projection.

“We are endeavouring to bring about a societal change and give voice to the vast moderate majority — here the media has to come out with a powerful role in casting off negative image of the country by encouraging the moderates and quelling the extremists.”

On the controversy over his plans to retain the post of Army Chief after this year, Gen. Musharraf said it should not be viewed as a personal matter but evaluated in the large national context at a time when the country needed political stability, stable democracy and was also striving for societal change to contain extremism and continue its march on the path of economic progress.

He also said the country should overcome the opposition to big dams and build them at the earliest to overcome water shortage.

Musharraf pointed out that today the most important challenge which Pakistan was facing was the issue of extremism.

“We are being viewed as an extremist society. On the contrary, we are a nation of moderates,” he said. He called upon the media to project Pakistan’s image as a dynamic, progressive and moderate Islamic state. — PTI

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