The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jamali calls all parties with Kashmir balm

Islamabad, May 4: Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has convened a meeting of all parties on Monday to discuss possible talks with India.

Jamali has invited all Opposition leaders, members of his own party and allies for a meeting at 8 pm local time tomorrow.

“Let us sit together and talk on the issue and take a decision unanimously,” Jamali told a public rally in the northwestern town of Manshera, indicating he wanted a national consensus before taking any steps to improve ties with India.

Some Opposition parties had complained that the government was taking critical initiatives to improve ties with India without holding any talks with them.

Jamali said the government may also call a special meeting of Parliament to discuss new moves with India but gave no details.

Keeping domestic compulsions in mind, Jamali has been treading with caution on the invitation to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

A couple of days ago, asked whether he would be sending a formal invitation to Vajpayee, Jamali had said he had spoken to Vajpayee and invited him. At that time, it did not appear that Jamali would be sending a formal invitation.

Even yesterday, the reference to the formal invitation to Vajpayee was “embedded” in an official announcement which dealt with the Pakistani Prime Minister’s conversation with US secretary of state Colin Powell.

Jamali said today that Monday’s meeting is aimed at taking the Opposition leaders and the allies of the ruling party into confidence on “vital national issues”. “I have invited the Opposition and the allies of the government to discuss and devise a unified stand on talks with India,” he said.

“For the last five to six days, new developments have started with India,” Jamali told the rally, held in honour of Fatima Jinnah, the late sister of Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

“Vajpayee talked about it in his Srinagar address and then in a speech in the Indian Parliament. We have given a positive and honourable response to Vajpayee’s offer. I phoned him and have also written a letter,” Jamali said.

“All parliamentary leaders have been called,” Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, chairman of the right-wing, six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance, told Reuters, referring to tomorrow’s meeting.

He said he would attend the meeting to press the MMA’s point of view on Jamali, insisting that Kashmir should top the agenda for any talks, rather than trade or communication issues.

Jamali’s invitation was also accepted by the Pakistan People’s Party, led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, headed by deposed premier Nawaz Sharif.

“There is no doubt that war is not in the interest of anyone,” Noorani said. “So the process of dialogue should take place but it should have a result.”

“We have been holding talks in the past. Talks are not the issue, the real issue is that of Kashmir,” he said, adding that the MMA would tell the government that unless Kashmir was the main issue to be resolved, all other matters were secondary.

Kashmir has become a tricky issue for Pakistan after foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told BBC that trade ties with India could be resumed without linking them to Kashmir.

The Pakistan foreign ministry today sought to soothe domestic nerves by issuing a carefully-worded “clarification” which said Kasuri was quoted out of context.

“Pakistan’s policy is quite clear and unambiguous in this regard. It has been reiterated that Pakistan desires a meaningful and result-oriented composite dialogue on all issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. There has been no change in this policy,” it said.

The Pakistani government and the Opposition, dominated by the MMA, are already locked in a bitter row over President Pervez Musharraf’s powers and the constitutional amendments he introduced before holding elections in October 2002.

The two sides are holding talks to break the impasse, which has kept any major parliamentary business from being transacted in the last six months.

The foreign office later said Pakistan has decided to resume full diplomatic ties with India.

The decision is likely to be made public on Monday.

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