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Govt convenes all-party conference

December 01, 2008

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 30: Political and diplomatic activities revolving round the possible fallout of the Mumbai carnage on Pakistan-India relations acquired a hectic pace on Sunday with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani going all out to defuse tension that many believe could bring South Asia on the verge of a conflict.

With disturbing signals emanating from New Delhi suggesting the Indian government’s attempt to raise the ante by discussing ‘all possible actions’, President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani secured the support of a large number of politicians, including the main opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, for the way they are handling the situation.

President Zardari contacted a number of world leaders to present Pakistan’s case and ask them to use their good offices to make India realise that it could be suicidal to indulge in a blame-game even before the completion of initial investigations.

The first bit of somewhat encouraging news came from the armed forces when their spokesman said that no movement of Indian troops towards border areas had been noticed.

Some TV channels quoted the chief of Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, as saying that the army was ready for national defence and to handle any untoward situation.

Talking to AFP, Maj-Gen Abbas said: “We have seen reports in media suggesting suspension of ceasefire and movement of troops on the Indian side of the border. As far as the official authenticated reports are concerned, there is no such movement or mobilisation of troops. The ceasefire is holding.”

However, there are reports that the armed forces have been put on high alert in view of a possible military build-up by India along the border.

The prime minister has invited the heads of all political parties to a conference on national security on Tuesday to evolve consensus on how Pakistan should act in the prevailing situation and what steps should be taken if it gets worse.President Zardari called Afghan President Hamid Karzai, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and sought their intervention for normalising the situation.

In another significant development, Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili community, arrived in Islamabad and he will meet President Zardari and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The president’s spokesman, Mr Farhatullah Babar, told Dawn that “the matter of regional security will also come under discussion” during the meeting between the Aga Khan and Mr Zardari on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League-N extended full support to the government through a resolution it adopted at a meeting presided over by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“We have assured the government of our complete support and we request the neighbouring country to stop accusing Pakistan of having links with the terrorists involved in the Mumbai carnage,” PML-N information secretary Ahsan Iqbal said.

He said a delegation of his party led by the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, would call on Prime Minister Gilani on Monday. He said the PML-N would attend the conference convened by the prime minister.

Prime Minister Gilani, who postponed his scheduled visit to Hong Kong, said he had received full support from all the democratic forces.

The leaders contacted on Sunday included former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali, AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, Allama Sajid Naqvi, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Dr Abdul Malik, Israrullah Zehri, Munir Khan Orakzai, Shahid Bugti, Ismail Baladi and Mohammad Hanif Tayyab.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told an international channel that the Indian government had not given to Pakistan any evidence about the Mumbai incident.

“If the Indian government provides proof against any group or individual,

Pakistan will take action against them,” he said. He said good relations with India were in the interest of Pakistan.