No Pakistan govt can sideline Kashmir issue: Mirwaiz

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New Delhi, Jun 7 (UNI) India and Pakistan cannot afford to put Kashmir on the backburner as no government in Islamabad can sideline the issue without the approval of the Pakistan Army, Hurriyat Conference Chairperson Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has said.

Reacting to the recent statements by the new Pakistan leadership, including that of PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that the Kashmir issue should not be an obstacle to an improvement in the Indo-Pak relations, the Mirwaiz said, ''No government in Pakistan can sideline the Kashmir issue...as long as the issue is alive in the hearts and minds of the people in Pakistan, no government can afford (to sideline) it.'' He also maintained that the Pakistan Army is the most important factor and any change in Pakistan's policy on Kashmir would not be possible without consulting it. ''The most important factor in Pakistan is the Army. So, I think any Kashmir policy, if it has to be changed, has to be in consultation with the Army,'' he added.

In an interview to Karan Thapar in 'Devil's Advocate to be telecast on CNN-IBN, the Hurriyat chairperson also defended besieged Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on his proposed Kashmir solution based on self-governance or joint management.

''He still commands respect among the people, and in terms of Kashmir, I believe personally that if I have to move forward, it is in and around the four-point proposal of Mushrarraf.'' After first claiming that the Hurriyat was not against the Indo-Pak dialogue or the two countries coming together, Mirwaiz Farooq disagreed with the comments of Asif Zardari and PM Gilani suggesting that Kashmir should not be an obstacle to an improvement of India-Pak relations, and, specifically, emphasising the need to boost trade in a way to bring the two countries together.

Speaking specifically about Pakistan, the Mirwaiz noted Islamabad has to place the interests of Kashmiris ahead of its own, when it thinks about Kashmir.

Mirwaiz Farooq claimed Hurriyat is not an obstacle to the resolution of the Kashmir issue, but wants to be a bridge between the two countries.

He observed that India and Pakistan could not have a workable relationship till the Kashmir issue gets resolved.

UNI NAB ATI RN1601

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