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We can influence, not control, militants: Pakistan
K J M Varma in Islamabad
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March 11, 2006 16:29 IST

Claiming that it does not command militant groups active in Kashmir, Pakistan has said, however, that it has influence over them, which it would like to use to bring down violence.

"Pakistan does have influence (over the militant groups) but we do not command (them). And it has influence because it has been advocating and highlighting the Kashmir issue," Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri said Friday night at a dinner he hosted in the honour of the delegates attending the Kashmir conference in Islamabad.

"Pakistan is interested in bringing down the level of violence because we feel that will definitely facilitate resolution of (the issue of) Jammu and Kashmir [Images]. This is necessary for durable peace," he said.

Kasuri was responding to Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, a Kashmiri leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), when he remarked that Pakistan should help bring down violence in the Kashmir valley by using its influence over militant groups.

At the dinner, attended by 50 delegates who took part in the conference organised by Pugwash, the US-based non-governmental organisation, Taragami also said that India and Pakistan should facilitate the return of scores of Kashmiri youth who have crossed into Pakistan.

He added that India and Pakistan should consider creation of peace zones in the Kashmir region by withdrawing security forces.

In his response, Kasuri said Pakistan wanted demilitarisation to raise the 'comfort level' of the Kashmiri people, which in turn would enable President Pervez Musharraf [Images] and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] to carry forward their efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue.

He said withdrawal of troops is also a 'great confidence-building measure' and Pakistan, too, is prepared to pull out its security forces from the areas under its control.

Apart from several Kashmiri leaders from both sides of LoC and representatives of think-tanks, those who attended the dinner included Indian High Commissioner Shivshankar Menon and Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan.

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