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India should stop blaming Pakistan for the terrorist actions of non-state actors “, President Asif Ali Zardari told a delegation of Indian jurists which recently returned from a visit to Islamabad.

According to Zardari, India should discriminate between the action of “non-state actors” and that of the Pakistan state, said former Supreme Court Bar Association president M.N. Krishnamani, who headed the delegation that returned late last month.

Zardari, Krishnamani told  on return, repeatedly made this point, saying New Delhi should not attribute acts of violence and terrorism by “non-state actors” to Pakistan or its government.

Zardari’s argument remains the same as the one he and other Pakistani leaders put forward after Pakistani terrorists sneaked into Mumbai in November 2008 and killed 166 people, mostly Indians.

Krishnamani, senior counsel, visited Pakistan at the head of a team at the invitation of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary . The visit took place just a few days before US forces killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2.

Amongst those in the delegation were eminent jurists Ram Jethmalani and Rajiv Dhawan.

After talking to policymakers in Islamabad , Krishnamani is of the view that India-Pakistan relations will normalise only when democracy flourishes in that country without the military’s tentacles.

“If there is anything that holds up the resolution of disputes between India and Pakistan, it is their (Pakistan’s) fragile democracy and military’s overwhelming control,” he said.

“If democracy flourishes in Pakistan, then automatically there will be resolution of all issues with India.”

Krishnamani said his impression was that Pakistan’s political leadership was reeling under some “suffocation”.

The people of Pakistan, he said, realise that it was the army’s ambitious generals and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that do not let democracy blossom.

But the growing assertion by the legal fraternity of Pakistan and the respect it has earned from people give hope that the country would one day emerge from its crisis.

His optimism rests on the successful battle the lawyers of Pakistan waged, forcing then president Pervez Musharraf to retreat and restore Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary as the chief justice.

He said there were many similarities between the legal systems of India and Pakistan, including long delays in disposal of cases, backlog of cases and vacant judicial positions.

Krishnamani was surprised to learn that Pakistan’s higher judiciary refers to judgments of the Indian apex court on issues involving personal liberty, fundamental rights and human rights.

And while the Indian Supreme Court is revisiting its 1996 judgment in the Bhopal disaster case, Pakistan’s apex court is revisiting its 1979 ruling that upheld the death sentence given to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Krishnamani has been bowled over by Pakistani hospitality. Whatever may be the irritants between India and Pakistan at the level of the state, “there is awesome cordiality between the two people”, he said, echoing a widely held opinion.

“There is no air of hatred between the people. We think we Indians are second to none in hospitality but I must say they are a few steps ahead of us.”

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