But he stopped short of claiming that the military establishment was under civilian control as it should be in a democracy. “Whatever our policies from the day we arrived, on peace with India, they were behind (me, when I decided to release the Indian pilot who had been shot down in Pakistan, the army was right behind me,” Khan said. “So today as we speak, you know, there is no difference between the policies of the Pakistan security forces or Pakistan’s democratic government”.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan when his Mig-21 was shot down along the Kashmir border in the days after the Phulwama attack in February and returned to India. He said that even before the Phulwama terrorist attack in which a convoy of Indian security forces were attacked by a car bomb, Pakistan had decided to disarm “all militant groups” and all the political parties had backed it. “But because this group claimed responsibility, which was in India as well — Jaish-e-Mohammed was operating in India — Pakistan suddenly came in the limelight,” he said. “Even before this had happened, we had already decided that we will disarm all militant groups in Pakistan. And it is Pakistan’s interest, I repeat it is in our interest, because the country has had enough of militant groups,” he added.
However, Khan tried to brush off the role of Pakistan-based terror groups in the Phulwama incident claiming that it was an indigenous attack by a “Kashmiri boy radicalised by the brutality of the security forces”. Khan admitted that whenever there was progress in improving ties between India and Pakistan it was met by some incident that caused a reversal. But he did not say who was behind the incidents that setback peace. He said, “Unfortunately because of one issue of Kashmir whenever we have tried, whenever our relationship has started to move in the right direction with India, some incident happens — and that is all related to Kashmir — we go back to square one.”
Khan claimed that two of the three former Foreign Ministers who had joined his party “told me that actually, they came pretty close in the time of General (Pervez Musharraf and when (Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India, apparently they came pretty close, there was some sort of convergence on a phased movement on Kashmir, on various steps to be taken and over a period of time some sort of a referendum”.
He did not say who they were, but one of the former foreign ministers with him is Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who holds the portfolio now, and another is Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who was in office when Vajpayee was Prime Minister. “Anyway, I don’t want to say anything right now because it is a delicate issue, but there is a solution and the solution has to be with the will of the people of Kashmir”, he added.