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Nawaz backs Pak overture to India

india Updated: Aug 24, 2009 12:12 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reassured India of the political consensus within his country for a joint fight against terrorism and rebuilding relations derailed by the Mumbai terror attack.

Read Nawaz Sharif's full interview

“I know India is hurt, I admit that. Pakistan has a duty to do and it should do that duty as quickly as possible to get the peace process going (by) establishing the back channel once again,” he told HT in an exclusive interview. Recognising the need of a having all parties, including the BJP, on board in India, he promised his Pakistan Muslim League’s full cooperation with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party in its peace efforts with New Delhi.

He praised Indian Premier Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani for their sincerity in seeking to put relations on track. On the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement that caused a furore in India, he said: “If they have reached an understanding, it should be taken as a positive step.”

As for Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Hafeez Saeed’s release by the Lahore High Court, Sharif underscored the need for evidence that would pass the test of judicial scrutiny. “Governments (in Lahore and Islamabad) are doing their best. The situation would be different if evidence is strong,” he remarked, explaining the withdrawal of appeal in the Supreme Court against Saeed’s release by the PML (N) regime in West Punjab.

Sharif was cautious while commenting on Jaswant Singh’s expulsion from the BJP for authoring a laudatory book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He felt Atal Bihar Vajpayee who surmounted a bigger psychological barrier by visiting Minar-e-Pakistan -- the memorial to the Pakistan movement-- during his 1999 Lahore bus ride would have handled the crisis differently.

"The comment he entered in the visitors' book is part of history," the PML chief said. He hailed Vajpayee as a statesman and Jaswant as one for whom he has personal regard.

Sharif agreed that India and Pakistan must build trust, give up the arms race and revisit either other’s national heroes for an objective view of their role and contribution. That alone would break the “deadlock” that has lasted 62 years since the Partition.

Read Nawaz Sharif's full interview