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Kashmir a litmus test of leaders’ foresight: Sharif

Kashmir a litmus test of leaders’ foresight: Sharif

MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has described the Kashmir issue as a litmus test of the political foresight of Indian and Pakistani leadership and expressed the hope that dialogue would be held soon to resolve the lingering dispute.

Addressing a joint sitting of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly and the AJK Council, especially convened on Friday to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day, he said there was a big question mark on the goodwill, prestige and authority of the United Nations because of the Kashmir issue.

Though the speech did carry implied notes of caution for India, Mr Sharif by and large adopted a soft and reconciliatory tone.

Kashmiri people are demanding nothing but what was pledged to them by the United Nations. The United Nations has to tell the world why it has failed to implement its own resolutions. “This question is not just linked to the Kashmir issue or Pakistan-India dispute, but to the goodwill, prestige and authority of the world body,” he said.

Rallies and other programmes were held across Pakistan and AJK in support of Kashmiris struggling for their right to self-determination.

Mr Sharif said Kashmir had been yearning for peace since 1947 and the situation warranted a new thinking in South Asia.

History is once again asking the leadership in India and Pakistan that what they will leave behind for the coming generations — peace or hostilities?

He said Pakistan had tried to give a new vision to the region, based on mutual respect and mutual struggle for peace and economic prosperity, adding that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a reflection of that desire.

“Prosperity and peace can be equally distributed only when the people of whole region are treated equally and respectfully. Human rights of all are respected and right to freedom of all is acknowledged,” he said. But how could South Asia remain in peace when one of its parts — Kashmir — languished in pain, he asked.

He said that the governments in Islamabad and New Delhi could not ignore these questions. “Both governments enjoy public mandate and both will have to think in the interest of their peoples.”

He said it was not unusual for countries to have differences but their failure to address them even after decades was definitely something unusual.

“That’s why I say Kashmir issue is the litmus test of the political foresight of present India-Pakistan leadership that whether they clear the debt of history or pass it on to the next generations.”

He said like the rest of the world the people of South Asia could also get over their bitter past. “I have drawn the attention of Indian leadership to it previously. Today I reiterate that solution to all of our issues lies in dialogue and I firmly hope that the dialogue process between Pakistan and India will progress in the days to come,” he said. Unless this is done, neither problems will be solved nor the people of South Asia will come out of their current plight.

The premier said that Pakistan had assured India of its cooperation on all issues, including the menace of terrorism. “Pakistan is the country worst hit by terrorism… Who else would wish for an end to this savagery?”

Coming back to CPEC, he said Azad Kashmir would also reap benefits from the project along with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.

He announced Rs250 million for development of Azad Kashmir.

“Nobody remains in power forever. Today we are in power, tomorrow someone else will be in our place, so should we leave a problem-infested Pakistan for our next generations?”

Apparently alluding to protests planned by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on the issue of PIA, he said that despite their sit-ins the government did not let them lose their seats in parliament.

“We tolerated their actions and language for the sake of democracy and this tolerance should be demonstrated by everyone,” he said.

He said democracy should be dear to everyone because whenever democracy was dented, Pakistan had to face its adverse impact, such as the dismemberment of East Pakistan.

“There should be an end to the culture of politics for the sake of politics… If we do it in parliament it will trickle down to the masses.”

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2016

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