ISLAMABAD: Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security, said on Tuesday that Pakistan’s position on polls in India-held Kashmir remained unchanged.
Mr Aziz was replying to queries at a meeting of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee on a statement by Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed crediting Pakistan and All Parties Hurriyat Conference for smooth conduct of elections in the held valley.
“Our position remains unchanged. Elections in occupied Kashmir are no substitute for plebiscite under the UN auspices,” Mr Aziz said.
Soon after taking oath as chief minister, Mr Sayeed had said: “I want to say on record and I have told this to the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) that we must credit the Hurriyat, Pakistan and militant outfits for the conduct of assembly elections in the state... people from across the border made the atmosphere conducive. They also have assets – Hurriyat, militants... if they had done something (during the election) such a participation of people would not have been possible. This gives us hope.”
The statement caused a stir in India and the Modi government had to distance itself from it.
Senators attending the committee’s meeting sought clarification from the government on Mufti Sayeed’s remarks.
Despite efforts by officials of the Foreign Office to sidestep the matter, Committee Chairman Haji Adeel insisted on getting a response.
Senator Farhatullah Babar also put weight behind Mr Adeel, saying the government’s silence was puzzling.
The situation compelled Sartaj Aziz to come up with a reply.
“The statement by PDP Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed has its own context. It is concerned with the internal politics of India,” he maintained.
PROTOCOL FOR FOREIGN SECRETAEY: A number of senators criticised the protocol extended to the Indian foreign secretary during his courtesy call on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week. They were particularly upset over the seating arrangement during the meeting at PM House.
“Why do we want to appear soft on Indians? Would our foreign secretary get similar treatment whenever he visits Delhi?” Mr Adeel asked.
Sughra Imam seconded Mr Adeel and said: “The concern is genuine. Our secretary would not get the same respect in Delhi.”
The matter was disposed of with Mr Aziz’s observation that all visiting delegations get similar treatment at the PM House.
The briefing on Indian foreign secretary’s visit for the committee members was very much similar to the press statement issued by the Foreign Office after his meetings on March 3.
Officials of the Foreign Office parried many of the questions by the senators regarding the implications of BJP’s alliance with PDP in occupied Kashmir; Indian reaction to Pakistani allegations of its involvement in terrorism in Fata and Balochistan; and the role of US in nudging Indian government to resume contacts with Pakistan.
The members of the committee were also briefed on Pakistan’s role in facilitating a dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
Published in Dawn March 11th , 2015