PDP urges new Pak Govt to rejuvenate sagging peace process

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Islamabad, Mar 28 (UNI) Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) President , Mehbooba Mufti today said the stabilization of the political situation in Pakistan has rejuvenated the hope for peaceful and amicable settlement of the Kashmir issue with greater impetus on the Jammu and Kashmir specific confidence building measures.

"I am confident that the new Government in Pakistan will carry forward the peace process with fresh resolve to permanently end the decade-old hostilities, violence and economic deprivation in the region," Ms Mufti said at a joint press conference with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

The statement came after an hour-long meeting with the latter at Zardari House Islamabad, where she had gone to offer condolences over the tragic death of PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

The PDP President emphasised that in the new scenario the two governments must look forward to solutions without getting bogged down by the past.

"The developments of the last five years have to serve as a guide and as a source of encouragement," she said and added that the peace process started in 2002 can become a model for the rest of the world, provided a fair deal is ensured to the primary stake-holders - the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have suffered the worst tragedies because of the hostilities between the two countries.

"I am sure the sincerity of purpose with which the UPA leadership including Ms Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh carried forward the peace process started by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Musharraf will be replicated by the new Government in Pakistan," she said.

"What should, however, remain the core of fairness is the right of the people of Jammu and Kasmir to move across borders, unfettered and hassle-free, to gain uncontrolled access to our own resources and the bounties of nature that are shared by our region as a whole and harness them for our socio-economic benefit," Ms Mufti said.

She added that Jammu and Kashmir with its unrivalled legacy of creative talent has for ages been the store-house of knowledge and intellect for this region. "Having been at the receiving end of circumstances for centuries now, it is important that the whole region responds to our requirements and does not treat us as just another state," she said.

Reiterating that there must be greater thrust on the cross-border confidence building process in Jammu Kashmir the PDP President said the borders dividing the two parts of Kashmir must be thrown open for free movement of people and goods to revive the State's historic distinction as a hub of trade and commerce in the region.

"While a significant initiative was taken in this direction by re-opening the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in 2005, it must be now fully thrown open for free movement of people and goods," she said and added that similar measures should be taken to revive all such traditional routes throughout the State.

Ms Mufti said the developments of the last five years have to serve as a guide and as a source of encouragement for the region.

She said the peace movement started by the leaders of the two countries in 2002 and spearheaded by the elected government of J&K had a totally unprecedented impact.

"The series of CBMs that followed are too well-known to be recounted," she said and added that the process has to be strengthened and respected to help the prospects of Jammu and Kashmir and the South Asian region.

"It has to be respected as a rule and not treated as a tool of convenience to meet exigencies," she said and that the message has clearly got registered to the eternal benefit for not only the people of Jammu and Kashmir but the whole sub-continent.

Earlier, in her meeting with Asif Zardari, Ms Mufti had discussed in detail the confidence building measures taken by the two governments and the need for carrying forward these in the interest of region's peace and stability.

Mr Zardari assured the PDP President that the new Government in Pakistan will carry ahead the peace process with fresh resolve and determination UNI XC PDT VC2110

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