SRINAGAR: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said “Pakistan will accept” the decision of the people of Kashmir through plebiscite.
Qureshi was responding to the Sky News journalist Dominic Waghorn in an exclusive interview on World View whether Pakistan had plans to “liberate” Kashmir.
Waghorn noted that “there are many in Kashmir who don’t want freedom on Pakistani terms”, to which Qureshi said: “Fine, let’s have a plebiscite. Let the people decide. That’s a commitment, that’s a commitment by India as part of the UN agenda. Give the people the right to self-determination, and whatever they decide, Pakistan will accept.”
The foreign minister also said that the government of Pakistan is ready for talks with India.
The host observed that the back and forth between Pakistan and India had continued “for decades”, and asked why both sides “won’t sit down in the spirit of friendliness”.
“Through your programme, I’m telling the Indians ‘Let’s sit and talk’. I’m ready. Are they?” Qureshi challenged.
Mwanwhile, Waghorn, referring to the ongoing Afghan peace talks, asked Qureshi what he expected to happen in the current situation “When the Taliban get into power, will they allow the Al Qaeda back in under their coattails?”
Qureshi said he didn’t think so. “It’s not in their interest to do that. They are smart people, they want to get on, they want to rebuild their country,” he explained.
“It’s been ravaged ─ for decades they’ve been in a war situation. Any nation, any people would want reconstruction, education, health, happiness, prosperity, livelihoods. They’re not any different from us,” he told Waghorn.
The interviewer was curious as to whether re-integrating the Taliban back into the Afghan political system meant “women back under the burqa”.
The foreign minister was quick to dispel this notion. “Not at all. Afghanistan has changed over the years … The sooner everyone realises this, the better.”
“You cannot lock women up anymore, you cannot bar them from education. Those days are gone,” he asserted.
Waghorn wondered whether it was a “naive expectation” to assume the Taliban were “new and improved”.
“I think they’re realistic, pragmatic, and that they’ll move on,” Qureshi stated.