Kashmiri separatist leaders have expressed dismay and anger at Pakistan Peoples' Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's announcement that the Kashmir issue should be set aside to focus on other aspects for improving relations with India.
Zardari, in an interview, asserted that, "The relations between India and Pakistan should not be held hostage to the Kashmir issue".
"The dispute constitutes a potential threat to nuclear peace in the south Asian region. Therefore, the dispute has to be addressed in the larger interest of peace, security and the stability in the region as a whole," Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, chief spokesperson of the moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference told rediff.com.
"We cannot wish it away. This has to be done. The dispute has to go. We cannot afford to live with tensions for all times to come," he said.
Prof Bhat said, "Zardari or any other person has to bear in mind that the survival of the region is inescapably linked with the resolution of Kashmir problem".
"Zardari has totally strayed away from the traditional Pakistan stand on Kashmir. It shows his political immaturity. He wants to appease India," said Nazir Ahmad Ronga, president of the Kashmir Bar Association.
Jammu and Kashmir [Images] Liberation Front chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, while reacting to Zardari's statement, said, "Nobody could overlook the sacrifices made by the people of Kashmir and the problem has to be resolved in line with people's aspirations".
Malik said he favoured India-Pakistan friendship but the same "should not be achieved by suppressing of the rights of Kashmiri people".
"We should not react in haste unless we find out the context in which Zardari made his assertions," said Shabir Shah, chairman of the Democratic Freedom Party.
Shah also said that the official stand of the new coalition government in Pakistan on Kashmir would be known only after they assume power.