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Pak begins consultations on India's peace proposals

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
Last updated on: October 24, 2003 03:11 IST
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Pakistan on Thursday began consultations within various government departments on the series of proposals made by India to normalise bilateral ties before formulating a formal response, even as top Kashmiri politicians cautiously welcomed the proposal of a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

The ministries of Interior, Transport, Fisheries and Foreign Affairs were involved in the consultations, sources in Islamabad said.

While India's proposal to have bus links between Khokharapar in Sindh and Munabao in Rajasthan was on the cards, Islamabad appeared to be caught by surprise over New Delhi's "daring" proposal to have a bus service between Srinagar and Muzafarabad, which is the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan officials admit a bus service connecting the two sides of Kashmir could lead to softening the Line of Control (LoC) and may open the floodgates of migration.

Pakistan also has to evaluate the impact of such a bus service on militant groups as well as PoK-based political parties. "In view of the complexities, Pakistan may take some time to react to the proposal," the sources said.

Former prime minister and president of PoK Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan said it was "welcome" if aimed at bringing Kashmiris on both sides closer. He, however, wondered if such a service was feasible given the constant "heavy firing" along the LoC.

Qayyum, who heads the ruling Muslim Conference Party in PoK, said both the countries should not insist on passport and visa requirements for Kashmiris. "They should be allowed to travel on the basis of identity cards issued by their provinces," he suggested.

Qayyum, considered a moderate, wants India to permit Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan to find an amicable solution to the Kashmir issue.
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K J M Varma in Islamabad
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