Musharraf's formula: Bhutto's aide refutes Baru's claims

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Musharraf's formula: Bhutto's aide refutes Baru's claims
Islamabad, April 18: A close aide of Benazir Bhutto, the slain Pakistani leader, on Thursday made statements refuting the claims made by Manmohan Singh's former media adviser Sanjaya Baruthat in his new book, says an India Today report.

Baru has claimed in his book that Benazir Bhutto backed Pervez Musharraf's four- point formula to settle the Kashmir dispute. Sherry Rehman, a former information minister and chair of policy planning in the Pakistan People's Party ( PPP) under Bhutto, says that the Pakistani premier never brought such a proposal.

In the book, The Accidental Prime Minister, Baru says that Manmohan was "crestfallen" when he learnt of Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi in December 2007.

"India waited to see what would happen to President Musharraf before reviving the dialogue process, while keeping in touch with Benazir Bhutto, who had indicated her support for the Manmohan- Musharraf formula ( for settling the Kashmir issue)," he wrote.

Later, the formula was stalled after Musharraf got stuck in Pakistani lawyers' movement in 2007. Soon, Musharraf was ousted.

"Benazir was privy to his consultations with Musharraf and he ( Singh) was confident she would back their effort and extend the required popular support to their plans," Baru added.

However, Sherry Rehman said Bhutto was never taken into confidence on Musharraf's formula.

" We are very clear - she was not taken into confidence on these talks. She had no buy- in with Musharraf on his four- point formula for Kashmir, and we did not hesitate in saying so both in parliament and other public forums," Rehman told Mail Today . " This is a canard that may suit a racy account such as the book by Baru, but it is certainly not the way democratic parties operate," she said.

The PPP had not accepted the " bartering away" of Pakistan's position on Kashmir at the UN and there was no consultation with Bhutto at all, Rehman said. " In fact, Musharraf had not even consulted his own cabinet, let alone other political parties or parliament," she added.

According to several accounts, Pakistan and India worked on Musharraf's formula in several rounds of back channel talks since 2004. The proposal envisaged easing cross- LoC travel and trade, strengthening local selfgovernment in both parts of Kashmir, joint institutions under Kashmiri leaders to coordinate policies on everything except defence and foreign policy, and finally, the mutual withdrawal of troops.

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