A series of comments from Islamabad on the status of Jammu and Kashmir are indicative that discussions between India and Pakistan have thrown up viable options for a possible solution to the issue that has plagued bilateral relations for almost six decades.
According to senior government sources, President Pervez Musharraf’s comments to NDTV, followed by those of the Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam and Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, are akin to "vaccinating the people of Pakistan" to face an outcome which may not be up to their expectations.
Speaking particularly of Kasuri and Aslam stating Pakistan had never claimed J&K as part of that country, the sources said the statements were "economical with the truth" and "not entirely accurate." They were clearly targeted at the domestic constituency.
While the government of India has chosen not to officially react to the statements, Aslam has drawn the ire of political and religious groups within that country for stating that Pakistan never claimed Kashmir as its integral part.
"Pakistan's claim is self-evident. Our legitimacy derives from UN resolutions. There can be no two opinions. Where else is our claim, it is UN Security Council resolutions," Kasuri said.
According to officials at the Ministry of External Affairs, Pakistan did not concern itself with legalities earlier, but the existence of a Ministry for Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad and the Constitution of what Pakistan calls Azad J&K (AJK and India calls Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) clearly tell a different story.
The AJK Interim Constitution Act of 1974, in the preambular section, (Section 7.2) clearly states: "No person or political party in AJK shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan."
Interestingly, the Azad J&K Council comprises the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, who, in turn, nominates five members to the Council "from amongst Federal Ministers and members of Parliament." The President and PM are, respectively, the Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Council.
The Constitution does not permit either the AJK Council or the Assembly to enact any law concerning "the responsibilities of the government of Pakistan under the UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions," or the "defence and security of AJK," "the current coin or the issue of any bills, notes or other paper currency," or "the external affairs of AJK including foreign trade and foreign aid."
In the First Schedule of the Constitution, the President (of AJK) and other government functionaries, in their oath of office, have to begin by stating allegiance to Pakistan.
"As President (or Prime Minister or Minister) of AJK, I will remain loyal to the country and to the cause of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan."
Diplomatically, officials said, over the past six decades since the state’s then ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, acceded the state to the Union of India in 1947, Islamabad has flouted the law and tried surreptitiously to wrest control of the territory.