Pakistan paper welcomes Gen Kayani's statement on Kashmir

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Islamabad, Mar 14 : A leading Pakistani English daily has hailed COAS Gen Asfhaq Pervez Kayani's recent statement that the Pakistan Army was "committed to the Kashmir cause in line with the aspirations of Pakistani nation".

The paper described the statement as a correct stance since, it said, the Army was "ancillary" to the democratic institutions of the state. "He did not say what the verdict of the people was on Kashmir; but he did make clear the army's position of subservience to the will of the people," said an editorial in the Daily Times.

According to it, in the past the political parties showed courage in the face of a dominant and unaccountable GHQ to approach the Kashmir problem and relations with India with innovative vigour. The mainstream parties, the PPP and the PML, defied the dictates of the GHQ to reach out to the governments in New Delhi with the intention of normalising bilateral relations despite the outstanding issue of Kashmir. Former premier Benazir Bhutto was pilloried for being "pro-India" when she attempted to reach an understanding with her counterpart Rajiv Gandhi in 1989. Her party was accused of being a "security risk" by the state's intelligence agencies.

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif too tried to reach out to his Indian counterpart Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 at the very time when the GHQ was busy executing its disastrous Kargil Operation in Kashmir. One can say that Mr Sharif and his party were punished even more after the differences deepened over the Kargil adventure. At the time the PML government was deposed, it was seriously involved in back-channel diplomacy over what was then called the "Chenab formula". But after 1999, the GHQ itself pursued normalisation with New Delhi while allowing "out-of-the-box" thinking on the issue of Kashmir.

Judging from the increasing regionalisation of politics of Pakistan - and a hung parliament in 2008 is a manifestation of it - the old "national consensus" on Kashmir has frayed in the smaller provinces. In Punjab, too, a new realisation is dawning about the use the smaller provinces are making of the Kashmir issue to oppose the "hegemony" of Punjab. Dangerously, the Pakistan army is seen in the provinces as a partisan of Punjab's monopolisation of national politics. That is why we welcome General Kayani's clear formulation that the army will stand with the people and their changing perspective on the issue.

It is wrong, therefore, for one section of the media to add a gloss of its own on General Kayani's statement, said the editorial.

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