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October 28, 1999
No compromise on Kashmir: Musharraf
Ashok Tuteja in Abu Dhabi
Pakistan's new military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has said he wanted peace with India but made it clear that there was no question of any compromise on the Kashmir issue.
''We sincerely want peace and tranquillity in the region without any preconditions,'' he told members of the Pakistani community in Abu Dhabi yesterday during a day-long visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Asked by a member of the audience if he planned to visit India, General Musharraf said any such move on his part would be hypocritical as long as Kashmir and other related problems remained unsolved.
''I am not a hypocrite. I am a straight talker and doer. Therefore, I sincerely hope for peace with India but with honour and dignity and no compromise,'' he said.
''We want peace with India without any preconditions, and unless the core issue of enmity between the two countries, Kashmir, is addressed, it would appear hypocritical for me to think of visiting India,'' he said.
To a question from a journalist, General Musharraf said he had not yet made up his mind on whether to attend the coming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Kathmandu. ''Let us see,'' he said.
He had talks with UAE President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and other senior leaders on relations between the two countries and on ways of strengthening their ties.
In Saudi Arabia, General Musharraf had meetings with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah, among others.
He said the leaders of both countries had assured him of full support and expressed total understanding of the situation in Pakistan.
''I have a vision of optimism and not pessimism,'' he told the members of the Pakistani community.
In reply to a question about pressure from Western powers for the early restoration of democracy in Pakistan, he said all his actions would be dictated by national interests and not world pressure.
''I am very sure the world will understand, and it is understanding. All those I have spoken to fully understood our situation,'' he said.
In an obvious reference to deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharief and other leading politicians, General Musharraf said the accountability cell had drawn up a list of people who had committed financial crimes.
He said three people owed as much as Rs 3.7 billion to banks and other institutions, while many others also owed huge amounts. ''We will target these people and try to recover all the money,'' he said.
He said most of these people were based in places like Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad. ''You can draw your own inferences about where the money has gone. Those who had political linkages, those who enjoyed power, had benefited from the system and not the poor man,'' he said.
He said the army would continue to be his eyes and ears and promised that the forces would work for the betterment of the country.
''I will try to provide effective, transparent, efficient and competent governance,'' he added.
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