'Pak leaders not takeing key issues with India seriously'



Lahore: Former premier Nawaz Sharif on Friday acknowledged that Pakistan's leadership had been at fault for the lack of progress on key outstanding issues with India, saying they had not taken such matters "seriously".

"In the last 64 years, the two sides have sometimes stopped talking completely and sometimes they sat together and made decisions but there were no results," said Sharif, the head of the main opposition PML-N party.

"During democratic rule (in Pakistan), there was good progress (in talks with India) but we have our own faults. Some decisions that we made were counter-productive," he said while interacting with the media after a meeting with a visiting All Parties Hurriyat Conference team at his residence at Raiwind. "We were at fault to some extent, and so was India. What was the need for (former military ruler Pervez) Musharrraf to derail the peace process and to attack in Kargil?" he asked.

Pakistan's leadership had not taken issues with India "seriously", he added. Sharif acknowledged there were "irritants on both sides" and the two countries now want to remove them.

Reminiscing about former Indian premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Lahore in 1999 while he was in power, Sharif said the Lahore Declaration finalised by the two leaders had prominently mentioned the Kashmir issue and the need to find a solution through talks.

"Vajpayee had said that 1999 would be the year for solving India-Pakistan problems and I was pleasantly surprised. If the process was not derailed, it may have happened," he said.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is heading the Hurriyat delegation that is visiting Pakistan to discuss ways to give impetus to efforts to settle the dragging Kashmir issue, said all the Pakistani leaders they had met had assured them that "they were with the Kashmiri movement".

"We need a new approach and Kashmiris must be made part of the process," he said. Farooq contended that Kashmir-specific confidence- building measures should not be linked to the solution of the issue.

"Trade and people-to-people contacts are CBMs that can improve the atmosphere. The solution must be political and we have to ask the Kashmiris what they want," he said.

PTI