Pakistanis upbeat ahead of talks with India

May 19th, 2008 - 3:51 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 19 (IANS) Ahead of the start of the peace process between India and Pakistan here Tuesday, leading members of the political establishment are optimistic about the engagement process between the two South Asian neighbours. “I expect the two sides to move forward in their dialogue. Basically, it will be a continuation of what the earlier government was trying to do to normalize relations with India,” Aftab Sherpao, a former interior minister and a close aide of President Pervez Musharraf, told IANS.

Sherpao said people and political players in Pakistan appreciated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for blaming the terrorist attack in India’s Jaipur city on those who want to derail the bilateral peace process.

“We appreciate that New Delhi has not indulged in the usual finger pointing this time. The Indian prime minister’s statement has been received positively,” Sherpao, who heads Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao), said.

Added a leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who did not want to be named: “We are for peace and friendship with India. We are optimistic about the progress in normalization of relations between India and Pakistan.

“It’s time for India to take advantage of democracy in Pakistan and solve all issues in an atmosphere of peace and friendship,” the PPP leader added, a day before the foreign secretaries of the two countries meet here.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon will review the fourth round of composite dialogue with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir here and discuss bilateral issues such as Kashmir, peace and security, terrorism and cross-border confidence-building measures.

Nusrat Javeed, president of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), pointed out that there was absolute unanimity in the trinity in the ruling coalition - PPP, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Awami National Party (ANP) on taking forward the peace process.

“The peace process is going to accelerate. The political will is there. There is an across-the-board consensus on better relations with India,” said Javeed.

Asfandyar Wali Khan, the leader of ANP and grandson of the legendary Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, has advocated for long the need to have good relations with India, Javeed added.

The way ahead, he says, is visa-free travel and promotion of more cross-border trade and travel.

Many Pakistanis agree.

“Where is the threat from India? Why does our country spend so much on military hardware? Peace and friendship with India will liberate resources to tackle the real problems of Pakistan like poverty and illiteracy,” argued Muneeza Sadiq, a consultant with an international charity.

Referring to the Jaipur bomb blasts that have killed over 60 people, Sherpao said it was time for both countries to act with maturity.

“Such incidents should not be allowed to cloud the peace process,” he said, and sought “greater objectivity” in pursuing terrorist investigations.

But he warned that the two-month-old government in Pakistan was still in the process of settling down and it would be unrealistic to expect any significant progress in India-Pakistan ties immediately.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who heads the PML (N), is pitching for the abolition of the visa regime between the countries and wants both sides to take advantage of the “positive atmosphere” to resolve their disputes.

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