In his address to the joint sitting of the Kashmir Legislative Assembly and the Kashmir Council, President Zardari said all the right things. However, the policies of the outgoing government sharply contradict these words. Mr Zardari, among other things, said that the hanging of Kashmiri leader Afzal Guru was an "abuse of judicial process". The President said that Pakistan would continue moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir for their just and principled struggle for the right to self-determination. However, India must make a move to accord them this right, according to the UN resolutions. It is unfortunate that whereas he said this forthrightly and bluntly to the joint sitting, the previous government, of the party of which he was Co-Chairman, did not even deign to list Kashmir on the agenda in its bilateral discussions with India.

Mr Zardari may have noted that Azad Kashmir is in the hands of his party. Both AJK President Sardar Yaqub Ibrahim and AJK Prime Minister Ch Abdul Majid who also addressed the joint session, belong to the AJKPP. The question of Kashmiri self-determination is thus the subject of a bipartisan consensus in the Free State. However, there have been doubts about Pakistan’s willingness to provide the kind of support needed by the Kashmiris. The UN resolutions on the subject are clear: a UN-supervised plebiscite is to be held to allow the Kashmiri people to exercise their inherent right of self-determination. For that, Pakistan should only be discussing modalities with India, not discussing merely bilateral ties. The President should not forget that his party’s founding Chairman, and his father-in-law, famously vowed to struggle for Kashmir for a thousand years, but perhaps the five years that the first democratic government has ever completed in Pakistan's history have been deemed to be equal to a thousand ordinary years. With Kashmiris feeling betrayed and sidelined by Pakistan's visible coyness at discussing the Kashmir issue before all others with India, there is much ground to be covered before Pakistanis can reassure their Kashmiri brothers and sisters that they are willing to invest more effort than just tall speeches and reassuring words, in ensuring resolution of the Kashmir issue according to the wishes of its people.

However, as elections are to be held in Pakistan in less than a month, it should be left to the new government how it handles the Kashmir issue. As the popular groundswell has shown, the outgoing government’s pusillanimous attitude towards India and apologetic attitude towards it on Kashmir, even though it is the core issue between the two countries, has not been appreciated, and the incoming government should prepare to take a stance more supportive of the Kashmiris than has been the case, and also more in line with the words of the President to the joint session. Even if the PPP is not re-elected, he remains in office until September, In either case, his words demand that he play his role in guiding the new government, whatever its party affiliation, to a more proactive Kashmir policy than has been the case so far.