Pakistan willing to engage India in dialogue: Zardari

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 5 (PTI) Pakistan is willing to engageIndia in dialogue on all outstanding issues but will not makeany compromises on the Kashmir dispute, President Asif AliZaradri said today as people across the country observedKashmir Solidarity Day.

"Let me reiterate today that we are willing for peacewith India. We are looking to be partners with India andsharing the region in a peaceful manner but not at the priceof my brothers and sisters in Kashmir," Zardari told an eventheld in the presidency this evening to mark the day.

Addressing a gathering that included federal ministers,leaders of political parties and diplomats, Zardari said the"thousand year war" over Kashmir envisioned by PakistanPeople''s Party founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was "still on" andhad not ended though the ways and tactics had changed.

"Today it is not politically correct to raise weapons andgo to war but we must engage India," he said. Zardari quotedZulfiqar Ali Bhutto''s remark at the UN General Assembly in1963: "Let the chains break, free the Kashmiris and have thefriendship of Pakistan."

Zardari assured the Kashmiri people on behalf of Pakistanand the PPP that "all decisions will be made at the tablethrough negotiations but Pakistan will not compromise onKashmir". Noting that the Kashmir Solidarity Day is beingobserved in the presidency, he remarked: "It may be possiblethat our future generations may sit at the table where Indiacan be forced to give Kashmir to Pakistan. We will take it.

"But this should not be taken to mean that we don''t wantfriendship with India. We want friendship with all neighboursin the region but on the basis of equality and principles."

Zardari''s remarks came a day ahead of a crucial meetingbetween Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan one themargins of a SAARC conference in Bhutan. The top diplomats aremeeting to explore ways to revive a peace process that hasbeen stalled since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

While repeatedly referring to Kashmir as the "jugularvein" of Pakistan, Zardari pointed out that PPP founderZulfiqar Ali Bhutto laid the foundation of the party on theKashmir dispute. .

He said he wanted to give hope to "peaceful agitators and stone pelters" in Jammu and Kashmir by reminding them that"their movement has a place in the hearts of all Pakistanis".

Pakistan has fought two wars and "lost half itsterritory" over Kashmir and the country will continue to pressfor a solution of the dragging dispute in line with UNresolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people, he said.

"We today reiterate that Pakistan is willing to talk toour neighbour on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, butnot without the permission of the people of Kashmir," headded.

In an apparent reference to India''s aspiration to becomea permanent member of the UN Security Council, Zardari said:"You cannot expect to be acknowledged as a member of the UN ina responsible position when you are in fact negating theauthority of the UN by not accepting the resolutions of theUN."

The gathering was also addressed by leaders fromPakistan-occupied Kashmir and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the headof a special parliamentary committee on Kashmir. Rehman saidthere will be no peace between India and Pakistan and theproblems of region will not be resolved if the Kashmir issueis not resolved.

Religious and political parties and groups like theJamaat-ud-Dawah organised rallies and protests across Kashmirto mark the day, which has been observed by Pakistan since1990. The government declared a national holiday to supportthe Kashmiri people''s "right to self-determination".

Hundreds of people formed a human chain in PoK andparties put up banners and posters calling for Kashmir''s"freedom" in cities across Pakistan. Thousands of peoplejoined protest rallies in cities like Lahore and Karachi. PTIRHL

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