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Since 1st March, 1999
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Jamali courts Atal, Pervez hawks

May 15: Heaping praise on Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has called for a “few gestures” towards “hawks” on both sides and Pervez Musharraf has obliged.

Jamali said he would find a way out of domestic pressures to resolve the Kashmir issue and there would be “no break” in the dialogue process from now on.

“The unfortunate part is having some of the hawks on both sides.… I think a few gestures and acts have to be made so that we can get to a consensus at a level where we could take proper and appropriate decisions,” Jamali told BBC’s Urdu service in an interview.

A few hours later, President Musharraf, who met Jamali twice in the past 24 hours, appeared on national television to reassure Pakistan that the Kashmir issue would never be sidelined.

“I would like to send a message to the Indian leadership: Pakistan will deal with sovereign equality. Pakistan will never compromise on its honour and dignity. Pakistan will never get coerced,” Musharraf, who is also the army chief, said.

“Within these three parameters, we look for a composite dialogue on all issues, including Kashmir. We cannot sideline Kashmir,” he told a banquet for Pakistan’s aid donors.

Musharraf will travel to Washington in the third week of June at the invitation of President George W. Bush. A meeting at the White House is scheduled for June 24.

If Musharraf played the martinet at home, Jamali took the international stage as a statesman.

The Pakistani Prime Minister said in the interview that he wished that his Indian counterpart and he could make history by taking initiatives that would resolve the Kashmir problem. “If we can do this, we will both always live in history.” Jamali said.

“As I spoke to Mr Vajpayee on telephone (on April 28), I felt that he has the will to resolve this long-standing dispute and I am sure we can do it and we will do it,” he added.

Jamali said he does not doubt the intentions of Vajpayee this time. “I can tell from my own experience in politics that Mr Vajpayee is serious about business this time and let me assure that there is going to be no break from now on.”

Advocating a measured approach towards building a consensus for resolution of problems, he said: “Well, you can’t just jump up and start talking at once. It has to be a step-by-step measure that has to be taken. They have said a few things, we have said a few things. I think at a best time, it has to start.”

Jamali admitted that there were “hawks” in both India and Pakistan and they could create complications. But he hoped that they would be bridled. “We can control them.”

As Jamali spoke in Islamabad, a hardline Islamic militant leader rejected the peace initiative and said holy war was the only way to end Indian rule in Kashmir.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba group banned by Pakistan, told a gathering in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that the thaw between India and Pakistan was aimed at weakening the insurgency in Kashmir.

“Kashmir cannot be settled on the negotiating table,” the extremist said in Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan- controlled zone. “The solution lies in jihad, not in dialogue,” he said.

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