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|February 20, 1999||
Urdu press spews venom against Vajpayee-Sharief summit
Sharat Pradhan in Lahore
The Urdu press in Pakistan has been spewing venom against the visit of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was received at the Wagah border by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief at 4.30pm IST today.
Significantly, while the Pakistani government is trying to convince the public that the two-day summit is aimed at paving the way for a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, the opposition is busy building an atmosphere of hostility against the event, and the Urdu press is playing its tune.
While reports in the English dailies have been balanced, popular Urdu papers have highlighted only the anti view, saying any "talk with India is meaningless without India's withdrawal from Kashmir".
A leading Urdu daily, Nawa-e-Waqt (New Era), yesterday carried an editorial describing Vajpayee as a "murderer of Muslims in India and Kashmir".
The editorial said: "The murderer of Indian and Kashmiri Muslims, Atal Bihari Vjapayee, who was also responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid, is arriving in Lahore, the heart of Pakistan, today."
The language in the press was akin to what used to be seen until recently in Kashmir when an Indian prime minister came visiting. This is all the more ironic because the initiative for the summit came from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief. Obviously, the local media is speaking the language of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is at the forefront of protests against the summit.
While welcoming Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's statement that "it is in the interests of the people of Kashmir, for whom Pakistan wants to ensure the right to self-determination, that this initiative had been taken", Nawa-e-Waqt asked, "When the Kashmiri people are not happy with any such move, what is the point in only opening doors for middlemen dealing in coal and sugar?"
Another leading Urdu daily, Jung (Battle), doubted "whether pleasantries like travelling in a bus will bring an end to inherent hostilities that were amply evident in the statements issued by the foreign ministries of the two nations".
Its editorial, headlined 'Welcome Vajpayee, but...', said, "It is good that the prime ministers of the two countries will meet at the historic Wagah border, where people living across have been prevented from embracing one another for 50 years; the border that has remained a symbol of tensions and hatred."
But it added sarcastically, "Having failed to resolve the deep-rooted hatred and hostility through exchange of travel by air, the two prime ministers have now chosen to use the bus to sort out what could not be done in five decades; and both are trying to impress upon their respective peoples that they will be able to open a new era of ties between the two nations."
The paper went on, "While Vajpayee lands on Pakistani soil today, he is reviving the gory memories of the demolition of the Babri mosque among millions of people of this country."
The only touch of optimism is in the concluding lines, where it asked, "Whether the new initiative will end the five-decades-old history of hatred and new generations will grow up without this deep-rooted feeling; the onus now lies on Vajpayee."
Other local Urdu dailies like Ausaf, Pakistan, Khabrein and Lashkar too have carried articles, editorials and advertisements condemning the visit.
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