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News from Pakistan
During his week-long stay in the capital, Khan became the first political leader from PoK to meet an Indian prime minister. While refusing to divulge details of what he discussed with Dr Manmohan Singh, he said the talks obviously centred on the Kashmir issue.
At the Heart to Heart talks, organised by Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh, the 84-year old Khan captivated his audiences with his views and powerful speech.
In an exclusive interview with Senior Associate Editor Onkar Singh, during which he spoke mostly in Urdu, Khan said he does not empahsise on the word 'solution' because it inevitably turns out to be the viewpoint of only one party which is not accepted by the other. He kept shifting his stand on various issues and blamed the media for "putting words into his mouth which forced him to give explanations to the administration back home".
What is the difference between your last visit to India and this one?
A lot of progress has been made in the last two years. The two nations have made substantial progress on almost all fronts. I hope they will continue to hold talks.
Has something tangible come out of these talks?
We are talking of a problem which is more than 50 years old. It cannot be solved overnight. It is going to take time. Hence we should continue to hold discussions; after all, a solution would emerge from these talks only. If not in the immediate future then may be later.
What according to you is the solution to the Kashmir problem?
I feel that while the talks between India and Pakistan continue, we should also give a thought to the self-determination of the people of Kashmir. Once I said that we could go back to 1947 and have Dr Karan Singh as Sadar-e-Riyasat. I was only replying to a question put to me by a journalist and I was criticised for making that statement.
Let me emphasise once again that we should not focus on the solution but on the peace process between India and Pakistan.
'You can't win hearts and minds with a gun'
The United Jihad Council has criticised you for making different statements at different places.
I am not aware of any recent criticism.
What would you have done if you were in Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's place and you were invited for last week's Kashmir Round Table Conference?
I was in New Delhi when the Round Table Conference was going on and I wish Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had invited me to join the talks. I would advise the Hurriyat Conference not to boycott the talks but seize the initiative and join the Round Table Conference along with other parties.
'You cannot resolve Kashmir on religious lines'
What did you discuss with Dr Singh and how long did the meeting last?
The meeting lasted over 25 minutes. It was a courtesy call. We discussed a lot of things during our meeting but that is not for the media. Naturally, Kashmir was the main topic, if you want to know what was discussed.
Are you also one of those who believe that General Pervez Musharraf could solve the Kashmir problem?
Because he is the most powerful man. He has the uniform as well as is the president of Pakistan.
Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has reportedly said it would be a good combination to have her as prime minister and Musharraf as president.
Let us wait and watch the developments. It is too early to comment on such matters.
There were allegations in the Pakistani media -- a white paper was even issued against you -- which claimed that you paid Rs 50 crore to make your son the prime minister.
These are absurd and baseless allegations levelled by our opponents. These elements even brought out a white paper in the hope of winning the election. They did not succeed. Nobody tells me who I paid Rs 50 crore to. I would be happier if someone gave me Rs 2 lakhs. Some Pakistani papers have printed stories alleging that I have paid Rs 56 crore to Bhim Singh to organise this Heart-to-Heart talk.
In politics such frivolous allegations are often thrown in the hope that some mud will stick.
You have said that all terrorist camps in PoK should be dismantled?
This is an attempt to put words in my mouth. I never said that. Some terrorist camps were there in Pakistan -- but not in our part of Kashmir -- which were dismantled by General Musharraf's army and that is why there were three attacks on him. But there are no terror camps in Azad Kashmir (PoK).
Even America has said there are terrorist camps in PoK.
After 9/11 the concept of the United States of America and the world has undergone a tremendous change. Till that happened and the two towers of economic propriety were razed to the ground, Americans used to call jihadis as freedom fighters. Now they call them terrorists.
Aren't people like Hizbul Mujahideen commander Syed Salahuddin terrorists?
You call them by any other name but we call them freedom fighters because they are also aspiring for what both India and Pakistan aspired for before 1947. If we can have freedom why can't they?
Is it true that the Pakistan army told you that if you were to visit India you would be killed?
Yes, this incident happened five years ago. They asked me not to visit India because there was a threat to my life and went on to threaten me that if I still went ahead with my plans they would have to place me under house arrest.
You have been to India twice but there is no threat to your life.
The situation has improved tremendously. The atmosphere between the two nations has undergone an enormous change. I have moved around freely, but, of course, with security cover provided by the Government of India.
It is possible that as part of a long-term solution the Line of Control should be made transparent.
Let there be people-to-people interaction. Let people meet each other like they used to do in 1956 where the relatives come to a common ground and under the watchful eyes of the guards meet their relatives. I personally believe that peace can come only if there is freedom of movement and trade.
You have in the joint statement called for the release of prisoners in Indian and Pakistani jails. Are you asking for the release of terrorists as well?
Well, release of all means that their release from jails is also part of our demand. They would like to return home where they belong.
Would you set up any timeframe for a solution to the Kashmir problem?
Nobody can set up a timeframe. It is a problem that needs to be resolved but it would take time. Baatcheet se hi hul nikalte hain (Solutions come out of talks).
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