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Media hampering India, Pakistan peace process: Fazlur Rehman

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: July 19, 2003 15:50 IST
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Pakistan's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami leader Fazlur Rehman on Friday night accused the Indian media of trying to undermine the purpose of his visit.

"I have seen some newspapers reports about my visit. The media seems suspicious about my motives. They are questioning how a (Pakistani) religious organisation is talking of peace with India."

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"I have not come through the back door. I have come here by invitation. Ours may be a religious party but it believes in democracy. I have been to jail many times. We believe in sorting out matters through discussions," he told the 150-odd guests at a dinner hosted in his honour by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind at the Le Meridian Hotel in Delhi.

The JUH has invited Rehman and three of his colleagues to India as part of efforts to promote peace between India and Pakistan.

"I am convinced that no solution to the disputes between India and Pakistan can be found under media glare. We would have to meet in private and discuss the issues," he said.

A day after saying that the Simla Agreement could be the basis of talks between India and Pakistan, Rehman on Friday went a step further.

"Why stick to Simla Agreement? Why not go beyond it? We had made a beginning at Lahore and continued the efforts in Agra. Now, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made an offer of peace."

"Pakistan has responded in a positive manner and we should utilise this opportunity to solve the problem of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir want to live in peace. Who does not want peace?"

"I have met Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. The meeting has given me strength," he said.

He cautioned India and Pakistan against third party mediation.

"If someone comes as a friend, he is welcome. But no third party should impose any solution on India and Pakistan. We must strengthen this region. Both India and Pakistan have a great role to play in this matter," he said.

Reiterating that members of religious parties were not fundamentalists, Rehman called upon India and Pakistan to sink their differences and restore peace in South Asia.

"India and Pakistan have a responsibility to promote peace in the sub-continent. But to achieve that, it is necessary that our relationship improves."

This, Rehman said, would happen only through talks.

"We can overcome the environment of suspicion through talks. We can solve all problems through negotiations," he said.

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"We are considered as fundamentalist and conservative. But we have always campaigned for peace. My presence here itself proves that we really want peace in the world," Rehman said

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who arrived late, welcomed Rehman and the other dignitaries to Delhi.

Nirmala Deshpande presented Rehman with two books on Mahatma Gandhi.

Amongst others present were Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan, former Union minister Ram Jethmalani, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Indonesia and Jain Television owner Dr J K Jain.

Aziz Ahmed Khan chose to keep a low profile saying, "I am here for good. Today you should hear what Maulana Fazlur Rehman has to say."

Earlier in the day, Rehman met members of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and was appraised about the welfare activities taken up by the Jamiat.

He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani next week.

With inputs from Ehtasham Khan

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi