July 2001 News

New AJK PM wants visa-free travel through Kashmir

26 July 2001
The News International

MUZAFFARABAD: The new chief executive of Azad Jammu and Kashmir wants people to be permitted to travel without visas to and from the held Kashmir, to let divided families meet. Sardar Sikandar Hayat told Reuters Television in an interview after taking over as the prime minister on Wednesday that he would urge Pakistan to pursue his proposal in future talks with India. Hayat said he wanted a revival of that system, which he said stopped in 1957, the year a legislative assembly in held Kashmir voted for the state''s accession to India. Pakistan rejects the vote.India proposed earlier this month to ease travel restrictions for Pakistanis, intending to visit India and open a checkpoint on its side of a military Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir to issue visas to applicants immediately. But Hayat said he would oppose such a course because it would amount to accepting the LoC as a permanent border. ''Why visa, Kashmir is a disputed territory,'' he said. ''The United Nations resolutions allow Kashmiris to travel freely. So I will oppose (visa) as a Kashmiri, as a prime minister, as a representative of Kashmiris. This system will not work and we will not accept it,'' he added.''But if both the governments allow Kashmiris to travel freely on both sides we will welcome it,'' Hayat said. ''And I will suggest to Pakistani authorities that this should be done and Kashmiris should be allowed to travel on both sides.''Hayat denied Indian charges that militant groups fighting India in held Kashmir had training camps in Azad Kashmir. But he said Azad Kashmir would continue as a ''base camp'' for the struggle in the Indian-occupied portion. ''I assure the world community that Azad Kashmir is no doubt a base camp but we are not going to allow any militant group or any sort of terrorism,'' Hayat said.Hayat, whose All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference won the July 5 state election, said his top priority would be to ''make this base camp so peaceful and developed and give it such a government that it is source of attraction to the other side.''


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