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Peaceful Resolution of Kashmir Issue -- Joint Responsibility of Pakistan, India: Musharraf
( 2002-01-13 11:50 ) (8 )

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday night said the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute is a joint responsibility of both Pakistan and India.

"As the president of Pakistan, I want to convey a message to Prime Minister Vajpayee: If we want to normalize relations between Pakistan and India and bring harmony to the region, the Kashmir dispute will have to be resolved peacefully through a dialogue on the basis of the aspirations of the Kashmiri people," he said in a televised address to the Pakistani nation.

Meanwhile, he also warned that the Armed Forces of Pakistan are fully prepared and deployed to meet any challenge and are ready to fight against aggression till the last drop of blood.

"Let there be no attempt of crossing the border in any sector as it will be met with full force. Do not entertain any illusions on this count," he said.

He said Pakistan will never change its policy towards Kashmir but will not allow any organization to indulge in terrorism in the name of the disputed Himalayan region over which India and Pakistan fought two of their three wars.

President Musharraf appealed to the international community to play an active role in solving the Kashmir dispute for the sake of lasting peace and harmony in the region.

"We should be under no illusion that the legitimate demand of the people of Kashmir can ever be suppressed without their just resolution," he said.

The Pakistani president declared that his country condemns terrorism and will never allow terrorists to use its territory to conduct terrorist activities, saying five Islamic groups, accused of promoting terrorism and sectarianism in the country, have been banned by the government.

The five organizations include Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e- Taiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan and Tehrik-e-Nifaz- e-Shariat-e-Mohammedi.

He said any organization or individual would face strict punishment if found inciting people to violence in internal or external context.

In his address, Musharraf refused to hand over Pakistanis wanted by the Indian side.

"We have been sent a list of 20 people wanted by India. If we are given evidence against those people, we will take action against them in Pakistan under our own laws," he said, adding " there is no question of handing over any Pakistani."

As to religious affairs in the country, Musharraf said the misuse of mosques and madarasahs (Islamic Academies) will not be allowed. All mosques will be registered and no new mosques will be built without permission.

"If there is any instigation of sectarian hatred or propagation of extremism in any mosque, the management would be held responsible and proceeded against according to law," he said.

US and UN welcome Pakistan Prime Minister Musharraf speech

The United States and the United Nations on Saturday welcomed a speech by Pakistan's President Musharraf, in which he announced new steps to combat terrorism and extremism.

"I welcome President Musharraf's speech. He has taken a bold and principled stand to set Pakistan squarely against terrorism and extremism both in and outside of Pakistan," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Musharraf's emphasis on "tolerance, the rule of law and the need to fight terrorism and extremism," he said, through spokesman Fred Eckhard.

Musharraf banned two Kashmiri militant groups blamed by India for the December 13 attack on its parliament but warned his country would meet any aggression from its neighbor with "full force".

"The United States applauds the banning of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and welcomes President Musharraf's explicit statements against terrorism and particularly notes his pledge that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorism under any pretext, including Kashmir," said Powell.

India and Pakistan have massed an estimated 800,000 troops on their common border as the dispute over control of Kashmir continues to heat up between the two nuclear powers.

Britain also welcomed Musharraf's words. Indian leaders say they are examining his text closely.

Earlier, a senior State Department official said Musharraf's statement was "a very welcome statement of condemnation of terrorism, including of the groups that have been carrying out terrorism in Kashmir."

"It provides the basis for a Pakistani society for the future without extremism," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Annan said through his spokesman that Musharraf's words were a gesture toward regional peace.

"The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to reiterate his conviction that the differences between India and Pakistan can only be resolved peacefully," said Eckhard.

"He was glad to note in this connection the reference in President Musharraf's speech to the need for a solution in Kashmir through dialogue and by peaceful means."



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