Pak Minister Sheikh Ahmed Joins Vajpayee In Flaying Saarc

New Delhi, November 12 | Updated: Nov 13 2003, 05:30am hrs
Picking up from where Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had left on Tuesday, Pakistans information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday criticised Saarc for not realising the potential of the South Asian region. I came to Delhi with an open mind, high hopes and expec-tations....Unfortunately, so far Saarc has been unable to realise even a fraction of that (South Asian regions) potential, he said in a statement, before taking questions from mediapersons.

Sheikh Ahmed was addressing the press conference after the two-day Saarc information ministers meeting in the Capital. Interestingly, at the inaugural, Mr Vajpayee was critical of Saarc and had said: If Saarc cannot organise itself, it will simply miss the boat.

Also, if Mr Vajpayee had hit out at Pakistans restrictive media policy, and ban on Indian TV channels and films on Tuesday, Pak minister blamed India squarely while highlighting the hostility between the two nations and non-resolution of Kashmir dispute.

Mr Vajpayee had said: We need to use the (media) technologies rather than suppress them. We should try to ensure that our population have free access to all the media platforms in our region....In this way, media can be a powerful force for information rather than propaganda.... And, a day later, Sheikh Ahmed said: The continued hostility between India and Pakistan has quite adversely affected the growth of trade, economic and cultural relations in South Asia. And, then he added: Pakistan stands for tension-free, co-operative and friendly relations with India. It is in our mutual interest.

Although the Pak minister dismissed most media questions with let us see and we will see, he urged the media to play a meaningful role in bridging the gap between India and Pakistan. He said while the issue of over-flying would be taken up at a meeting scheduled for December 2, lifting of the ban on Indian TV channels would be discussed after that.