Zardari should mean what he says: Pakistani daily

October 7th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Oct 7 (IANS) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari should mean what he says in his intention to improve ties with India as “this will be a huge service to both countries and their people”, a leading English daily said Tuesday in a carefully worded editorial on Zardari’s statements on terrorism in Kashmir.”If Mr Zardari is to follow up on his words, he must indeed work towards developing closer links with India, tackling cross-border militancy, urging India to end repression in Kashmir and setting in place the stones on which to build a new relationship,” The News said.

“These are all huge tasks, but with will and commitment they can be attained. We must then hope the president means what he says,” the newspaper added in its editorial headlined “Terrorists or freedom fighters?”

In a major break from the past, Zardari, in an interview to the Wall Street Journal published Monday, had described the militants operating in Kashmir as “terrorists”. Hitherto, every Pakistani leader has described the ultras as “freedom fighters”.

And, in another diversion from the past, Zardari stated that India posed no threat to Pakistan and that Islamabad was not intimidated by New Delhi’s international influence.

The editorial was the first in a mainline English newspaper on Zardari’s comments. Surprisingly, two other major English dailies, Dawn and Daily Times, have refrained from comment.

The News noted that if Zardari’s words “mean a change in Pakistan’s policies” towards India, “they could be immensely significant - not least the fact that in all likelihood they run counter to the thinking still in currency at GHQ (General Head Quarters of the Pakistan Army)”.

“For the past many decades, indeed since 1947 and the violent birth of the country, Pakistan’s strategy in Kashmir has revolved around backing the freedom struggle in the Indian-held territory. A number of jihadi groups have taken centre-stage in this.

“The Pakistani establishment has always distinguished these forces from militants engaged in terrorism, although the line of distinction has become increasingly hazy over time,” the editorial said.

Now, Zardari “seems to be lumping Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the jihadis all together when he uses the term ‘terrorist’”, The News said.

At the same time, it noted that Zardari “seems eager to build new, closer bonds with India and put behind the acrimony of the past”, adding: “He has, in previous comments, also stated the democratic government is eager to resolve the issue of Kashmir.

“This of course, as former president Musharraf found, is a task fraught with very many difficulties.”

“But, if the Pakistan government can overcome the odds and move towards some kind of settlement, or even towards a more stable relationship with India, this will be a huge service to both countries and their people,” the editorial added.

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