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November 19, 1999
Work for open Kashmir borders: Benazir
Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said the new military regime in Islamabad should mitigate New Delhi's concerns on cross-border terrorism in the interest of South Asian security.
''India and Pakistan should sit down and discuss what steps can be taken... I would like India and Pakistan to work for open borders in Kashmir and indeed open economic borders in whole of South Asia,'' Bhutto said during a telephonic interview from London to All India Radio .
''These are the steps that need to be taken to tackle poverty and backwardness of the region and if Gen Pervez Musharraf (the chief executive of Pakistan) does it, we welcome it,'' she said.
Asked about the Indo-Pak relations in the backdrop of the changed political complexion of Pakistan with the overthrow of the Nawaz Sharief government, Bhutto said, ''In the short-term the military regime will try to secure the borders by making friendly gestures towards India, but in the long term if the internal crises multiply, a diversion could come up.''
Gen Musharraf is seen as the 'man behind Kargil' and after the conflict New Delhi had insisted that Pakistan must abjure cross-border terrorism before the spirit of the 'Lahore process' could be revived.
Bhutto described her being declared a ''fugitive'' by the military regime as a ''mockery of justice''. ''Without even giving me a notice, they declared me a fugitive of law... This undermines Pakistan's stature in the world community. I feel sorry for my country for the shabby manner in which we treat our elected representatives,'' she said.
She said the judicial system in Pakistan needed reforms. ''The new National Accountability Bureau is really old wine in new bottle because it is the same law (of Nawaz Sharief) made even worse... Instead of due process, it is summary trial.''
She said the Commonwealth's decision to suspend Pakistan indefinitely from the body at Durban (South Africa) was a ''bold step'' for the cause of democracy.
Asked why she was shying away from going back to her country, the former premier and leader of the Pakistan People's Party said, ''If I had been in collusion with them, I would have definitely gone back. My party is for democracy. I thought it was important for me to see how the situation unfolded. Now I will be only shifted from courtroom to courtroom.''
On her initial reactions which supported the October 12 coup in Pakistan, she said, ''I still welcome the fact that Nawaz Sharief's dictatorship ended... But we hoped the military regime would announce a schedule for switchover to democracy.''
Regarding the ongoing accountability drive, she said, ''They (the military rulers) are taking on the whole political class which is not good for Pakistan.''
She said she would continue to fight for the rights of the people of Pakistan to determine their own future. ''The real battlefield is Pakistan and half of day goes in talking to my party people there.''
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