'Pakistan should think about Kashmiris'

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New Delhi, Jun 8: Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has said that India and Pakistan cannot afford to put Kashmir on the back burner. "No government in Pakistan can sideline the Kashmir issue, as long as the Kashmir issue is alive in the hearts and minds of people in Pakistan," he told a local news channel on Saturday, June 7.

Regarding the apparent change in Pakistan's traditional position on the Kashmir issue, the Mirwaiz said: "The time has come when Pakistan has to think in terms of ... what is in the interest of the Kashmiris rather than what Pakistan will get out of Kashmir." He also said the Pakistan Army was "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, that has to be in consultation with the Army." "It is very difficult for any prime minister in Pakistan to come up with a set of ideas and try to implement it on its own, unless and until there is the backing of the other institutions in Pakistan," he said while explaining his stance.

"I don't think there is a change in Pakistan's policy, but definitely there is a change in its approach, and which I feel is a welcome sign because if we have to address the issue of Kashmir ... an 'outside the box' approach is needed," he said. After first saying that the Hurriyat was not against India-Pakistan dialogue or the two countries coming together, Mirwaiz disagreed with the Pakistan People's Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's opinion that Kashmir should not be an obstacle to an improvement of India-Pakistan relations.

"We have been seeing India and Pakistan talking over the years, and now it's a fact that Kashmir can not be resolved bilaterally. You have to involve the third party that is Kashmir," he said. "Shimla, Tashkent, Agra, New Delhi, these are all agreements which have failed primarily because Kashmiris were never consulted and involved," the Mirwaiz added.

Asked about Gilani's reference to President Pervez Musharraf's ideas for a solution to Kashmir as "half-baked", he blamed the Indian government for the failure of Musharraf's efforts.

Mirwaiz insisted that Musharraf's four-point proposal was key to solve the Kashmir problem.

ANI

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