Kashmir key to peace in region: Zardari

MUZAFFARABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari urged the world community on Tuesday to pay attention to the Kashmir issue and expressed the hope that superpowers would take a decision in favour of the people of Kashmir.

“If the world is attentive towards Pakistan and its issue(s) then it will have to talk about the Kashmir issue,” he said in an address to a special joint sitting of the AJK Legislative Assembly and AJK Council during his first visit to Muzaffarabad as president.

Pakistan, he said, considered that peace in Kashmir was linked to peace in the region. “I think time is near when superpowers and countries of this region will have to make serious decision about Kashmir.”

The president said Pakistan never objected to India’s friendship with the United States and did not grumble about anything else because it knew that neighbours could not be changed. But they (India) too should accept this reality.

“We are a very prominent neighbourhood. We happen to be 180 million Pakistanis who have the heart of lions with Kashmir leading them,” he said.

President Zardari regretted that whenever dictators and oppressors came to power in Pakistan they pursued a policy of “appeasement” whereas “we have always talked about dialogue with India on equal terms” with emphasis on the rights of Kashmiris.

He said “today’s developed democratic India” vainly believed that it could suppress any nation by force.

“Perhaps they think Kashmiris are a weak nation. But they have seen for themselves that Kashmiris have sacrificed their sons and daughters but did not quit their popular slogan of Kashmir becoming Pakistan.”

Referring to the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s famous statement that we will fight for Kashmir for 1000 years, Mr Zardari said he and Bilawal Bhutto would guarantee that.

However, he repeatedly stated that the war would be of thoughts, willpower and patience and avoided any mention of armed conflicts.

“Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did not say that he won’t fight with pen and mouth.”

In the same context, Mr Zardari said the imprisonment he had undergone for years was a war of patience for democracy.

“Democracy stands for giving rights to oppressed and downtrodden people and also to the Kashmiris,” he said.

“If Kashmiris say that whatever they do for Pakistan is not a favour then I am compelled to say that we don’t extend any favour to them either. Fighting your war is our duty from day one. It’s our own movement,” he added.

He said his attention had been drawn to the felling of trees in AJK which fetched up to Rs300 million a year to the state exchequer.

“Your trees keep waters flowing in Pakistan. I will ask this assembly to pass a resolution to completely ban timber felling and we will meet the shortfall,” he declared.

Referring to demands earlier raised by AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, the president said Kashmiris had the right over the waters flowing from their area.

“We will convey this issue of yours to the parliament. We have to make both Pakistan and Kashmir greener,” he said.

He declared that there would not be cut in AJK’s budget and Islamabad would ensure that this region got the maximum share.

Mr Zardari said that electing the AJK prime minister was the business of its assembly and Islamabad’s job was to work for Kashmir cause.

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