ISLAMABAD, Feb 3: Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has expressed his disappointment over slow progress on Kashmir dispute due to lack of sincerity on the part of Indian government.

He was speaking at a musical show organized by the Central Production Unit of Radio Pakistan in Islamabad on Thursday. The show is part of a series of programmes arranged to express solidarity with the Kashmiris' struggle for their right to self-determination.

A sense of disappointment was visible on the face of the information minister as he turned to speak to guests present at the concert. He said a number of extraneous factors were brought to the fore while the core problem of Kashmir was pushed aside.

A sense of disappointment is setting in the negotiation aimed at resolving the Kashmir dispute which has remained with the UN for more than 5O years. Pakistan has always tried to promote goodwill with India and it had taken more than 100 confidence building measures, including resumption of rail and air links as well as trade.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf was found to be always ready to extend his hand of friendship, but Sheikh Rashid regretted that 'our desire for peace is interpreted as weakness'.

He said there could be no peace in the region without resolution of the Kashmir dispute which had to be resolved in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The information minister said peace could not prevail in the world if irritants like Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine problems remained unresolved.

Sheikh Rashid also donated Rs100,000 for the promotion and welfare of Kashmiri artistes who were participating in the concert. He asked Radio Pakistan director-general to establish an academy to train young artistes desirous of adopting careers in Kashmiri cultural arts and music.

Folk songs highlighting Kashmiris' struggle for the right to self-determination were presented in the concert. Among the artistes was singer Asifa Iqbal, a recipient of Noorjehan award, who sang Kashmir Tere Mang Sey Ati Hai Lahoo Ki Lahar. Azhar Jafari sang a song prophesying a new dawn in the valley, while Shaukat Mirza sang a prayer asking God Almighty to bless the Kashmiri struggle.

Mukhtar Ahmad Malik gave a delightful demonstration of instrumental music on his 'Santoor' while flute player Sulaiman charmed everyone with his haunting and plaintive notes.

Ten instrumentalists on the stage were dressed in traditional dresses, sporting saffron coloured skull caps. Instruments like Santoor, Rabab, Kashmiri Sarangi, Ghara, Tumak Tari (Zeer Baghli in Iran) were also typically Kashmiri, reflecting Central Asian and Iranian origins. The concert was produced by Nayeera Mahmood and Nargis Rashid was the compere.

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