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Peace shouldn't be hostage to Kashmir: Advani

By K G Suresh in Islamabad
June 01, 2005 23:53 IST
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Bharatiya Janata Party president Lal Kishenchand Advani on Wednesday met Pakistan opposition leaders, including the hardline Jamat Ulema Islami leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and said peace should not be held hostage for resolution of the Kashmir issue.

Leaders of all parties shared a unanimous desire that the two countries should shed earlier hostilities and sort out their problems, said Advani, after a 30-minute meeting with Rehman, also the leader of opposition in Pakistan's national assembly.

On Tuesday, after meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Advani had said he agreed with the latter's view that progress on all fronts in Indo-Pak ties should be in tandem with the progress on resolving the Kashmir issue.

Advani's meeting with Rehman assumes significance as Rehman is also the general secretary of the hardline Islamic alliance, Muthahida Majlis Amal.

Rehman visited New Delhi in 2003 well before the two countries kicked off the peace process and met among others, the then prime minister A B Vajpayee and leaders of the Sangh Parivar.

The BJP chief said while discussion on specific issues were the responsibility of those in government, his party and the National Democratic Alliance wanted to ensure that the peace process was not impeded.

Rehman expressed hope that Advani's visit will further strengthen the peace process.

Later, a delegation of the mainstream opposition, Pakistan People's Party, led by its senior leader Amin Fahim conveyed to Advani his party has been consistently in favour of resolving all problems through dialogue.

This process was initiated by party leader Benazir Bhutto who lived in self-exile abroad, Fahim said.

He said, "While it may take some time for resolving some long-standing issues, we realise that cooperation in other matters should continue."

He also said Advani's visit has gone a long way in changing people's perceptions about him and his party.

Earlier in the day, Advani met Pakistan National Assembly Speaker Amir Hussain and suggested formation of a friendship association of the parliamentarians of India and Pakistan.

Advani said he would take up the issue with Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on his return, while Hussain said he would discuss the issue with other Pakistani leaders.

Advani also visited the ancient site of Takshila near Islamabad along with his family.

Writing in the visitors' book of the Takshila museum, he said Takshila is a name which evokes memories of the 'great heights our civilisation had once reached'.

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K G Suresh in Islamabad
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