European MPs concerned at rights violations in Pakistani Kashmir

April 13th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by admin  

Brussels, April 13 (IANS) Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have expressed concern over human rights violations in Gilgit and Baltistan, and urged the Pakistan government to establish democratic institutions and the rule of law in this area, EuAsiaNews reported. Baroness Emma Nicholson, the author of the European Parliament’s (EP) Kashmir report, said Gilgit and Baltistan will be a litmus test for Pakistan’s new government.

She was addressing a two-day conference on Gilgit and Baltistan held in the European Parliament here last week under the auspices of the International Kashmir Alliance (IKA).

The IKA in a press release issued Sunday quoted Nicholson saying that “it is matter of regret that Pakistan has illegally ceded this region and separated it from rest of ‘Azad Kashmir’ without the democratically collected will of the local people.

“Pakistan’s failure to introduce and install meaningful democratic institutions in this area was and still is a matter of concern for the world community,” said Nicholson.

MEP Geoffrey Van Orden said: “The European Parliament has a special focus on Gilgit Baltistan, the most neglected and marginalized region of former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

He said that EP would urge the Pakistani government to restore the fundamental rights of the people, install democratic institutions including a constitutional assembly, self-rule and an independent judiciary.

MEP Charles Tannock criticized what he called “discriminatory policies” of Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas.

Tannock said he supported the “constitutional, political and socio-economic freedom and right of self-rule” of the two million people of Gilgit and Baltistan.

MEP Nirj Deva pointed out that unemployment and marginalized trade and business opportunities have made this area poor and underdeveloped.

He said it is the right of the people of that region to govern themselves through democratically elected representatives and Pakistan should end its control.

IKA secretary-general Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri suggested that the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir must be opened and a bus service should be initiated between Ladakh and Gilgit so that cultural links could be revitalized and divided families could be reunited in this region.

He also called on the EP to send a fact-finding mission to Gilgit and Baltistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

“On one hand Pakistan claims to be the champion of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but she has denied the same rights under its controlled parts of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan,” said Shaukat Ali.

IKA chairman Syed Nazir Gilani made a review of the Kashmir issue from a historical perspective.

Abdul Hamid Khan, chairman of the Balawaristan National Front (BNF), said: “No democratically elected representative was included when the Karachi agreement was signed between Pakistan and Muslim Conference leaders in 1949.”

He said that the Muslim Conference was not given any mandate by the people of Gilgit and Baltistan “to hand them over and leave them at the mercy of the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas”.

Besides several MEPs, representatives of civil society in Europe, the Kashmir diaspora and journalists attended the conference, noted the press release.

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