ISLAMABAD: Interim Information Minister Syed Ali Zafar on Friday attended the funeral of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
A four-member delegation from Pakistan attended the funeral of former Vajpayee who passed away on Thursday.
Talking to mediamen after attending final rites of Vajpayee, he said, “This is a very sombre occasion. I am here to offer condolences to the family and friends of the late Mr Vajpayee, the government and people of India on behalf of the government and people of Pakistan and to share in their grief.”
He said he believed in making SAARC a vehicle for effective progress and development of the region. “He will be missed, we believe that our two countries should move forward to resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute peacefully through dialogue. We hope there will be systemic engagement and structured dialogue.”
“I came to share the sentiments of the Pakistani people and I hope there will be different opportunities for future discussions but I have a flight to catch now. I shall leave you with the memory of Mr Vajpayee’s own words,” the minister said.
He quoted Vajpayee as saying India and Pakistan were neighbours and had to live together and both countries should avoid war for the sake of future generations.
Zafar had departed for India and represented the country at the funeral in New Delhi. Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal and information ministry officials also accompanied the minister to the Indian capital.
Vajpayee, a journalist and poet-turned-politician, is credited with helping lay the foundations for the meteoric rise of the far-right BJP which governs India today.
In a statement, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said Vajpayee was a renowned statesman who contributed to bringing a change in India-Pakistan relations in addition to being a noted votary of greater regional cooperation. “The government and people of Pakistan extend their heartfelt condolences to his family, government and people of India,” the statement read.
The 93-year-old had battled poor health for years but his condition deteriorated sharply in recent days, with doctors placing him on life support.
Vajpayee was being treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, where he was admitted nine weeks ago.
The former Indian premier, who was born in 1924 in Gwalior, was among the founding members of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
He first became PM of India for only 16 days — May 16-31, 1996 and was re-elected PM in March 1998, where he remained in the office until May 13, 2004.
Vajpayee withdrew from the public eye after the BJP-led alliance suffered a shock election defeat in 2004.
He had since rarely been seen or heard in public. It was widely reported that he suffered a stroke in 2009, which largely confined him to his New Delhi residence.
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