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ISLAMABAD, Dec 11: The Foreign Office on Monday declared that Pakistan had never claimed Kashmir as its integral part and underscored that there was no shift in the country’s legal position on the Kashmir dispute which was based on the UN Security Council resolutions.

“For the past 60 years, we have never claimed Kashmir to be an integral part of Pakistan. What we have said is that Kashmiris should be able to decide their future and we hope that they would opt for Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly news briefing here.

In this context, she cited a provision in Pakistan’s Constitution that provides that if the Kashmiris choose to accede to Pakistan in a plebiscite even then the Pakistan government would negotiate with the Kashmiri leaders the future status of relationship between the two. Noting that it was sufficient proof that Pakistan had not made any territorial claims on Kashmir, she emphasised that the Kashmir dispute was about the aspirations of the Kashmiris.

“According to the UNSC Resolutions Pakistan and India are parties to this dispute and essentially, Kashmiris have to decide their future,” she said. The spokesperson was responding to questions with reference to President Pervez Musharraf’s interview with NDTV on the issue of Kashmir and his proposals.She clarified that Pakistan had not announced any new position on Kashmir and stated: “Our legal position is based on the UN Security Council resolutions (on Kashmir).”

Referring to the NDTV interview, the spokesperson asserted that the president had never said that Pakistan was giving up its position on Kashmir and would be ready to make unilateral concessions or show unilateral flexibility.

“The President was talking about the need for flexibility by both sides to reach a final settlement that is acceptable to Pakistan, India and first and foremost to people of Kashmir. He was talking about a situation where there is a settlement which is acceptable to all the stakeholders,” she explained.

To a query about the new position on Kashmir, she told a questioner: “When you have a settlement which is acceptable to all the parties then naturally that would become the new position. So where is the conflict?”

Asked if Pakistan had received any official response from India on the president’s ideas on Kashmir, she said: “Not specifically.” She, however, pointed out that Kashmir, along with other issues, was being discussed between the two countries within the framework of the composite dialogue and remained a very important part of the peace process.

She said: “We respect the wishes of the Kashmiris and this is where we support them.”

When Ms Aslam was reminded that the slogan of the Pakistani nation for past 60 years had been: ‘Kashmir banay ga Pakistan’ her response was: “That is a slogan of Kashmiris not Pakistan.”

Ms Aslam declined to comment when asked what if Kashmiris opted for independence, saying that she did not want to prejudge the outcome of a settlement that may actually take place.

Asserting that Pakistan had never claimed that Azad Kashmir was part of Pakistan, the Spokesperson said: “Azad Kashmir has its own president and prime minister. If we were claiming it as integral part of Pakistan then we would have had a governor and a chief minister there.” The spokesperson urged the reporters to study Pakistan’s historical position on Kashmir.

GCC DECLARATION: On the declaration of GCC leaders that they were considering a plan for a shared nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, the spokesperson said: “We believe every country has the right to access civilian nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to meet their energy requirements under safeguards.” Ms Aslam reiterated Pakistan’s position that it should have access to nuclear technology to meet its energy requirements.

AFGHANISTAN: Ms Aslam termed media reports baseless that an understanding between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the question of peace jirgas could not be reached because of one side’s objection to the inclusion of a certain group. She said during Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri’s visit to Afghanistan last week, Pakistan gave a comprehensive proposal on how the jirgas should take place, adding that it was appreciated by the Afghan side. She said that Afghan proposal on jirgas was to be handed over to the Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul on Monday.

On President Karzai’s latest outburst and his statement that due to terrorists from Pakistan and Nato bombings civilians and children in Afghanistan were being killed, the spokesperson said: “It is an emotional statement.” She pointed out that due to the Afghan situation Pakistan was also suffering and had been the target of suicide attacks.

ICG REPORT: Ms Aslam was generally dismissive of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) latest Report on Afghanistan and said she had yet to see one positive report from the Group. In this context the spokesperson she mentioned the recent UN secretary-general’s report on Afghanistan and also the UNSC mission’s report which she believed had more credibility regarding the factors responsible for the present situation I Afghanistan. When her attention was drawn to the claim in ICG’s report that the North Waziristan peace deal was threatening for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, she pointed to the latest ISAF report which said that cross-border violence had drastically come down in the past two month.