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Who said we'd forget plebiscite demand?

Who said we'd forget plebiscite demand?

Author: Our Political Bureau
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: December 20, 2003

Introduction: Pak Backtracks On Gen's Promise In Under 24 Hrs

Barely 24 hours after creating a major stir, Pakistan today went back on President Pervez Musharraf's remarks and claimed that it had never dropped the demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir. President Musharraf, while maintaining that there was a need for flexibility and to move beyond stated positions, had told Reuters yesterday that Pakistan had "left aside" the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.

Islamabad's backtracking, forced by sharp criticism from political parties as well as hard-line groups in Pakistan, came with a clear denial from Pakistani information minister Sheikh Rashid. "He has not dropping the call of plebiscite. He's saying that we can think of certain other things, we have some alternative proposals," Rashid said, according to AFP. He, however, declined to outline the alternative proposals contending that Mr Musharraf would raise them with Indian leaders when "serious talks" are held.

The Pakistan foreign office, which as as a matter of routine, reiterates the need lore implementation of UN resolutions, put up a brave face by claiming that Mr Musharraf has been quoted out of context in the interview. Its spokesperson Ma-sood Khan was quoted, according to reports from Islamabad, as having said that Mr. Musharraf did not state that the resolution of the issue should not be in accordance with UN resolutions. He said that Pakistan could neither sideline nor forget the Kashmir issue and would pursue it on every front. New Delhi, however, refrained from taking any position either on President Musharraf's remarks nor on the subsequent brouhaha that followed, indicating its inclination to watch developments rather than rush to judgment. Prompt responses had come in from several quarters including the US, which had welcomed President Musharraf's proposal.

Analysts here felt that there was a clear element of grandstanding by Mr Musharraf, induced by a desire to take the centre stage on the eve of the Saarc summit. Some others however interpreted it as an indication of the Pakistani leadership moving towards the Shimla agreement.

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