Pakistan's new human rights minister Shireen Mazari

Pakistan's new human rights minister Shireen Mazari, not especially known for being well disposed toward India, may have trodden on the toes of her colleague, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, by announcing she has a formula to resolve the Kashmir issue. The spat may play into the hands of the military, which keeps the country’s civilian governments on a tight leash, analysts said.

Kashmir is integral to Pakistan’s foreign policy and relations with India are part of Qureshi's portfolio. The foreign minister made this clear in his first press briefing.

Said to have been previously eyeing the defence portfolio in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, Mazari is venturing into foreign policy, which could end up creating separate power centres in Islamabad. That would make it easy for the army to control the body politic, suggested a person familiar with India-Pakistan ties. Once in charge of foreign policy in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Mazari has been dubbed Lady Taliban for her political views.

“Mazari, a known hawk on India, has indicated that she has a potential Kashmir solution and described it as a model for conflict resolution. While details are not known and not discounting that this could be pure kite flying on her part, two points are relevant,” said Tilak Devasher, author of a recent book on Pakistan and formerly a senior Cabinet Secretariat official.

“First, it is a premature announcement because, as per her own admission, it does not yet have the approval of the new government,” he said. “Second, as minister for human rights, she is treading on the toes of the foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, under whose remit fall Indo-Pak relations. Mazari is clearly trying to muscle into areas of foreign policy that she considers her forte but quite likely will be snubbed or asked to pipe down.”

Mazari, considered close to the powerful Pakistan army, has so far refused to share details of the proposal aimed at resolving the imbroglio.

Successive governments on both sides of the border have tried to find a solution to the Kashmir impasse over several decades and for Mazari to say that she has a formula to address the issue is an attempt to gain the limelight, said a person familiar with the dynamics of bilateral ties.
Islamabad is trying hard to arrange a meeting between Qureshi and Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of the month. An informal session of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) council of ministers takes place every year on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York and will be held this year too. Swaraj and Qureshi will be leading their respective country delegations but there is no certainty yet over a standalone meeting between them in New York.

The Pakistan foreign office has even said that it will announce a few steps to help improve relations. Prime Minister Khan may even send an envoy to Delhi and a formal invite for the Saarc summit to be held in Pakistan is also in the pipeline.

Pakistan may seek a quid pro quo in return for opening the Kartarpur border for Sikh pilgrims from India but such a demand may not be entertained, said one of the persons cited above. Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur district.