‘Dispute resolution must to exploit SAARC potential’
* Aziz says fighting in Wana is success for govt strategy
* Govt wants amicable settlement of Jamia Hafsa issue
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said dispute resolution is key to exploiting the true potential of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation.
“SAARC has a lot of potential. But dispute resolution, particularly the Kashmir issue and peace and harmony, is a must to realise this potential,” he said in CNBC programme “Encounter” to be aired today (Sunday).
The prime minister said that if all stakeholders showed will and commitment, the disputes within the SAARC region could be resolved.
Aziz, who will represent Pakistan at the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi from April 3, said Pakistan welcomed Afghanistan as a member and other countries as observers in the regional organisation.
He said talks between Indian and Pakistan were in progress at various levels, though the formal composite dialogue and through back channels.
He said Pakistan wants a peaceful and amicable solution of the lingering Kashmir dispute that fulfils the wishes of Kashmiris.
To a question about the situation in Wana, Aziz referred to on-going operation by local tribesmen against foreign fighters in the area and said it vindicated the government’s strategy of signing peace accords with local jirgas. He said such peace accords could restore peace in Afghanistan.
About the Jamia Hafsa issue in Islamabad, he said the government wanted to resolve the issue amicably, but it would not allow anyone to challenge the writ of the government.
He did not agree that some law and order incidents in the country were a fallout of the government’s security efforts in the tribal areas along the Afghan border. He said with the local population taking action against foreign militants, the situation in North and South Waziristan had changed.
He said Pakistan does not want its territory to be used as a safe haven by foreign militants to launch terrorist activities across the border or within the country. “We want peace and prosperity and do not want any hurdle in Pakistan’s efforts towards achieving economic progress and raising our stature,” he added.
Aziz said the establishment of the Pak-Iran Investment Company, increased trade, plans to take the Gwadar Coastal Highway up to the Iranian border, a power purchase agreement and the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline would strengthen relations with Tehran.
He said Pakistan was opposed to nuclear proliferation, but supported Iran’s right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the guidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency.
He said Pakistan does not support the use of force against Iran and wants the issue to be resolved through diplomatic means, in which Russia, China and the European Union can play a key role. In case of military action, Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against Iran, he added.
The prime minister said there was now a greater understanding in the United States about Pakistan’s approach to Afghanistan, “as they are now supportive of Pakistan’s ideas of implementing a Marshal Plan-like scheme as well as ensuring the eradication of the drug problem in Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan wants gradual and systematic repatriation of three million Afghan refugees from Pakistan, so that these refugee camps are not used as safe havens by “terrorist elements” from across the border.
He said no one knew where Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are.
He said the US supported President General Pervez Musharraf, but Pakistan was a sovereign country that made its own decisions.
Aziz said the next general elections would be held after the current assemblies complete their tenure and all political parties would be allowed to participate. If former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif want to participate, a decision would have to be made in accordance with the law, he said. app