Twenty political leaders who attended a meeting convened by Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf today extended their full support to him for his summit talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The meeting was boycotted by the mainstream 19-party Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), which included PPP and PML (Nawaz) of former premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif respectively. Politicians who took part in the five-hour meeting assured Musharraf of their "fullest support in his endeavours to solve the long-standing issue of Kashmir and prayed for his success, their domestic differences notwithstanding," the state-run APP news agency said.
During the meeting, Musharraf asserted that in his talks with Vajpayee on July 15 Kashmir would be the core issue and everything else would follow it, the agency said.
"The Line of Control (LoC) is the problem and could not be interpreted as a solution to the problem of Kashmir," Musharraf was quoted as saying by APP.
Both PPP vice president Mukhdoom Fahim and ARD chairman Nawabzada Nasurullah Khan boycotted the meeting, which was attended by Pakistan's third largest party Mutahida Quami Movement and Jammat-e-Islami.
Two of the pro-military leaders of the PML, the speakers of the dissolved National Assembly and Senate also attended the meeting.
PPP and PML said their boycott had noting to do with Musharraf's July 14-16 visit to India. They said their protest was against Musharraf's "illegal and unconstitutional" step to assume presidency.
According to APP news agency, Musharraf told the leaders attending the meeting that he was "encouraged by their sense of patriotism and commitment to the cause of Kashmiri people." Cricketer-turned-politician and president of Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, said after the meeting that Musharraf told the leaders that he was going to India with an open mind and without any specific agenda.
"All the leaders who attended the meeting extended their full support to Gen Musharraf. After all Kashmir is the main irritant between the two countries and once it is solved the two countries could divert their energies to develop trade and political relations," he said.
Imran said extension of support by the political parties should not be construed that they were endorsing the "military dictatorship" in the country.
"We have our differences with the government but we are united on the issue of Kashmir and General Musharraf's summit meeting with India," he said.
Imran said the military regime should not have interfered with the process of democracy in the name of eradicating corruption.