ISLAMABAD, July 29: Pakistan said on Monday elections in occupied Kashmir were no substitute to a free and fair plebiscite, promised to the Kashmiri people by the international community and the UN resolutions.

Speaking at his weekly press briefing, Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan also dispelled the impression of any outside pressure on Pakistan to support these elections scheduled to be held in October this year.

He disagreed with the views expressed by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that the elections would be a first step towards resolution of the Kashmir problem, and said farcical elections would be of no help.

The spokesman said that elections were also held in the past and consistently boycotted by the Kashmiri people amid allegations of massive rigging.

“Elections have been held in Kashmir previously, they were massively rigged, they were boycotted by the Kashmiri people,” he told reporters.

“These are not the first elections that are being held and we should not look at them with a very great degree of hope or anything,” he added.

To a question about visits of foreign dignitaries to Islamabad and New Delhi, the spokesman said Pakistan welcomed shuttle diplomacy by the Western government as the next best available alternative in view of India’s persistent refusal to start bilateral negotiations to resolve contentious issues between the two countries.

He said Pakistan believed such visits would help create a positive impact on the tense situation in the area and also enabled the international community to better understand the situation.

The spokesman said Pakistan had taken the steps required of it and what was needed was the reduction of tension and withdrawal of forces to peacetime locations. “There are no more de-escalatory steps Pakistan can take,” he added.

He said the sooner the dialogue process starts, the better it would be not only for the people of Pakistan and India, but also for the suffering Kashmiris who had been struggling to achieve their right to self-determination.

Pakistan had been suggesting to India to start withdrawing the forces massed on the border to peacetime locations and open dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir for which a methodology had been defined by the UN and the two sides, he said, asserting that the visiting ministers of the US, UK and EU had upheld Pakistan’s position.

The spokesman said he could not say why India insisted in avoiding negotiations with Pakistan except that it was not ready to face up to reality although the only civilized way to resolve problems was to hold negotiations.

Answering another question, the spokesman said while it was not for the Foreign Office to comment on internal matters, it could be said that no government ban had been imposed on anyone or any party against participation in the coming elections so long as they qualified under the laws set for the elections.

He referred the questioner to contact the interior ministry who had asked whether the spokesman could confirm and give details about the alleged arrest of an important Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan recently.

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