'India, Pakistan cannot sideline Kashmir'
The new civilian government in Pakistan has to take the army on board before implementing its ideas on the Kashmir issue, Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said.
"It is very difficult for any prime minister in Pakistan to come up with a set of ideas and try to implement it on its own unless and until there is a backing of other institutions in Pakistan," he told Karan Thapar in a TV interview.
Asked whether he was referring to the Pakistan army in particular, Mirwaiz replied, "In particular ... We know it for sure."
His response came after constant questioning over the spate of statements by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari indicative of a change in Kashmir policy by the new regime in Islamabad.
Farooq was replying after he was asked about the comments of Zardari that India and Pakistan should not be hostage to the UN resolution but could agree to disagree and, additionally, they should leave the Kashmir dispute to a later wiser generation and instead get on with improving their relationship.
Mirwaiz insisted that Kashmir was important to the Pakistani people and could not be sidelined. And it did not matter what individual politicians said.
"In reality if we have to move forward, we have to understand the fact that Kashmir is a very vibrant issue in Pakistan....I am absolutely confident that no government in Pakistan can sideline the Kashmir issue...No government can afford (to do) it," he said.
"The Hurriyat Conference is always of the view that we as Kashmiris believe that the time has come when Pakistan has to think in terms of what is in the interest of Kashmiris rather than what Pakistan is going to get out of Kashmir," he added.
India and Pakistan cannot have a workable relationship till the Kashmir issue is resolved, Farooq said. Rejecting that Hurriyat was an obstacle in Indo-Pak friendship, he said: "We want to be a bridge of friendship between the two countries. But whatever Zardari is saying or Gilani is saying, the fact is that Kashmir is a bone of contention and you cannot have a workable relations between India and Pakistan unless and until there is some movement on Kashmir."
The Hurriyat chairman was categorical in extending support to the four-point solution on Kashmir issue like joint management and self-governance by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf despite being termed as "half-baked" by the Pakistan Prime Minister.
"I think Musharraf's ideas could not go further because there was no response from India. If India had responded to the suggestions and proposals given by Musharraf, I think a lot of headway could have been made," he said.
He went a step ahead and said: "He (Musharraf) still commands respect among people and, in terms of Kashmir policy, I would say that I believe personally if we have to move forward it is in and around the four point proposal (of) Musharraf."
The Hurriyat chairman also chose an opportunity to take a dig at PDP President Mehbooba Mufti saying "I think she needs Pakistan's certificate. If you look at the events after she has come from Pakistan, she is going to every election rally and saying that 'I went to Pakistan, and I spoke this and I got this.'
"So this says that even for the mainstream politics, the ashirwad (blessing) or the support of Pakistan is very important."