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Pak ministers divided on 'India's role' in Baloch

Last updated on: December 09, 2009 22:47 IST

The Pakistani leadership appeared divided over the issue of "Indian interference in Balochistan" on Wednesday, with Premier Yousuf Gilani saying evidence would be provided "at the necessary forum" while Pakistani foreign minister cautioning that information was still "insufficient".

Prime Minister Gilani said he had told his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh during their meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh in July that there is "Indian interference in Balochistan" and that Singh had then included the issue in the joint statement.

The government has received numerous reports from the foreign and interior ministries about "foreign interference" in Balochistan, he said.

This information could be presented "when necessary and at the necessary forum", he added.

"We have to decide when, where and at what time the evidence is to be presented," Gilani said addressing a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament at the end of a debate on a new development package for Balochistan.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in his hometown Multan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi struck a note of caution and said more information is needed to argue Pakistan's point of view on Indian interference in the country.

"The possibility that there are elements who want to destabilise the country cannot be ruled out. But information received by us in this regard is insufficient.

"We need more information and material to plausibly argue our case," Qureshi said.

"We will have to be cautious and careful. If it is challenged in a court of law, then we will have to ensure that it meets its logical end," he said.

Several Pakistani leaders, including Qureshi and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, have earlier claimed the government has evidence that India is fomenting unrest in Balochistan and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

India has dismissed these allegations and said Pakistan has nothing to fear from it.

During his address, Gilani also reiterated his offer of talks with dissident Baloch nationalist leaders and announced that army troops deployed in Balochistan would be replaced with the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

The Frontier Corps is now replacing the army and, as a first step, the army has been withdrawn from Kohlu cantonment. He said his government would do all within its means to end years of deprivation and injustice in the province.

Orders for payment of dues amounting to Rs 120 billion for Balochistan have also been issued, he added.

"We have never shied away from meeting any stakeholder," Gilani said, adding that that he was ready to personally visit and meet any Baloch political leader for greater reconciliation in the larger interest of Pakistan.

Baloch nationalist groups have been waging a violent campaign for the past few years, demanding more autonomy and a greater say in decision-making. Scores of people have died in attacks blamed on Baloch insurgent groups.
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