M A I N   N E W S

Gilani to join PM at Mohali match
Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani also believed to be on board
Ashok Tuteja & Afzal Khan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/ Islamabad, Mar 27
The guessing game is over. Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted Prime Minister Manmohan Manmohan Singh's invitation to visit India to watch the much-awaited India-Pakistan cricket world cup semi-final at Mohali on Wednesday.

"We have welcomed the invitation of the Indian Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh and it has now been decided that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will visit India to watch the match,” Pakistan President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said today.

Gilani had called on President Asif Ali Zardari late last night in Islamabad and it was decided at their nearly two-hour meeting that the Pakistan Premier would visit India to watch the cricket tie in the company of Singh. Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is also believed to be on board as far as Gilani’s visit to India is concerned.

The decision has paved the way for a third round of cricket diplomacy between the two South Asian neighbours at a time when they are trying to put the peace process, stalled since the Mumbai attacks, back on the track. The bilateral dialogue process is set to resume from tomorrow when the home secretaries of the two countries hold their two-day talks in New Delhi.

The Singh-Gilani meeting will be the first major bilateral event at the summit level between the two countries in India or Pakistan since the Mumbai carnage.

In a surprise move, Singh had on Friday invited both Zardari and Gilani to join him in watching the match that promises to be a thriller.

The Presidential spokesman said President Zardari would not be able to travel to India because of the illness of his father Hakim Ali Zardari. The elder Hakim was admitted to Islamabad’s premier hospital PIMS where he is reportedly being kept on a support system. According to Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik, the two PMs were likely to hold informal talks on the margins of the sporting event.

Sources in the High Commission in New Delhi said Islamabad was quite confident that the visit would go a long way in reducing tension between the two countries.

Gilani, accompanied by the Senate Chairman and some close aides, would be landing at the IAF Airbase, which is just three km from the PCA Stadium at Mohali, shortly before the start of the match in the afternoon. It is, however, not clear whether he would return to Pakistan after the match or stay overnight.

Sources in the Indian establishment said preparations were now on in full swing for Gilani’s visit. Asked if the Pakistani side had formally sent its response to Singh’s invite, the sources said “it is quite obvious.”

Pakistani media and analysts lauded Singh’s gesture, hoping it would provide a more congenial atmosphere for the upcoming series of meetings between senior officials of the two countries to revive the dialogue process.

“This will be a good occasion for both leaders to put the dialogue process on a faster track since India snapped all contacts after the Mumbai carnage in November 2008,” former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar said.

The match between two arch rivals is being labelled as the “ultimate contest”, given the passion and enthusiasm the game of cricket arouses among people of the two countries.

The media in both countries has already raised the excitement to a feverish pitch in the run up to the high voltage match. Thousands of Pakistanis have applied for visa after Indian authorities relaxed restrictions but most would be disappointed because of non-availability of tickets and hotel accommodation. 

1st major bilateral meeting since 26\11 carnage
* The Singh-Gilani meeting will be the 1st major bilateral event at summit level between the two nations since 26\11.
* The two PMs likely to hold informal talks on the margins of the sporting event. 
*Islamabad quite confident that the visit would go a long way in reducing tension between the two countries.
&Gilani will also be accompanied by the Senate Chairman and some close aides










India, Pak Home Secys to meet today
Joint statement likely on Tuesday
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, March 27
Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan, GK Pillai and Chaudhary Qamar Zaman, will meet here tomorrow. This will be the first formal secretary-level dialogue after the suspension of peace process following the Mumbai terror attacks.

Despite tricky issues between the two countries, like prosecution of the Mumbai terror attack suspects, counter-terrorism, visa rules and smuggling of narcotics, a joint statement is expected at the end of the two-day talks, on Tuesday. The statement will touch upon internal security matters. However, a “breakthrough” is not expected. India and Pakistan agreed to restart dialogue process after the Foreign Secretaries met in Thimpu in February.

On landing in New Delhi this evening, Pakistan Home Secretary Chaudhary Qamar Zaman told reporters, “We are trying to do our very best to satisfy India on 26/11.” The two sides would talk about the voice samples in detail, he said in response to a question if Pakistan would hand over voice samples of handlers of the 26/11 attackers.

Zaman entered India through the land route at Wagah-Attari this afternoon. He paid obeisance at the Golden Temple at Amritsar before boarding a flight to Delhi.

The expected joint statement will come just a day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani are scheduled to watch the World Cup cricket semifinal match at Mohali on Wednesday.

The talks between the two Home Secretaries will kick start a series of meetings between officials. The series will culminate in July when the Foreign Ministers of the two countries are slated to meet. The Commerce and Water Resources Secretaries of the two countries are expected to meet in near future.

New Delhi blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba for the Mumbai attacks and has named its founder Hafiz Saeed as one of the masterminds of the carnage that left 166 persons dead. The Indian delegation is expected to raise the long-standing demand for voice samples of some of the 26/11 handlers, to match them with the taped telephone calls between terrorists in Mumbai with their handlers based in Pakistan.

In June last year, during a visit to Islamabad Home Minister P Chidambaram had asked for action against the 26/11 perpetrators and voice samples of handlers. His Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik had told him that “you would not be disappointed by our response”. However, there has been no response nine months down the line. India has provided names, photographs and addresses of the handlers and Pakistan just needs to match their voices. Pakistan’s lack of sincerity in cooperating with India in any anti-terror initiatives is also a reason behind lack of enthusiasm on the part of Indian security establishment. New Delhi had also conveyed to Islamabad that it wants to send a commission to Pakistan to question jailed LeT terrorists, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Issues like dismantling of terror camps across the border and progress in the Samjhauta Express blast probe are expected to dominate the talks between the two Home Secretaries.








Pak ready to discuss all issues: Zaman
PK Jaiswar/TNS

Attari, March 27
Pakistan is ready to talk on all issues that can help augment bilateral ties with India.

This was stated by Qamar Zaman, Secretary (Interior Ministry), Government of Pakistan, who entered India through the Attari-Wagah land route for two-day Secretary-level talks with his Indian counterpart, GK Pillai. The talks will be held in New Delhi on March 28.

Talking to the media, Zaman said a six-member delegation had arrived with a message of friendship and peace. “We will be meeting after a gap of over two years to deliberate on the issues concerning the people of both countries. We have come with an open mind to discuss all the issues for strengthening bilateral ties between the two neighbouring countries,” he said.

Answering media queries, he appreciated the step of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in extending an invitation to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch India-Pakistan semifinal at Mohali on March 30. He added he would also try to watch the match at Mohali.



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