Three US Senators back Pak stand on Kashmir
28 February 2004
Lahore: Three US Senators belonging the opposition Democratic party Friday night pledged to defend Pakistan's interests in Congress, and called for settling the Kashmir dispute by allowing the people of the state to speak for themselves. In their speeches at a dinner hosted by the Pakistani community and while talking to Pakistani journalists, they also praised President Pervez Musharraf for joining the war on terrorism and for the 'good job' he was doing at home. 'There is a general desire to keep President Musharraf in power,' Sen. Chuck Schummar of Brooklyn New York said. Sen. Tom Harkins of Iowa was the most vocal on Kashmir. Amidst applause, he called for a UN supervised free and fair plebiscite following the withdrawal of all military troops from the state. Such a course, he said, was the most democratic way to resolve the longstanding dispute. Senator. Jon Corzine of New Jersey called for a just solution of the Kashmir dispute, based on 'people's choice'. Senator. Schummar welcomed the start of a dialogue between Pakistan and India and said he believed in the principle of self-determination to resolve the Kashmir problem. At the same time, he called for an end to violence in the territory. Senators Harkin and Corzine urged Washington to play the role of an 'honest broker' in resolving the differences between India and Pakistan. The well-attended dinner at a local hotel was arranged by a committee representing the Pakistanis settled in and around New York area to raise funds for the Democratic party candidates in the November elections. This is probably the first time that the Pakistanis have been able to attract to their function three senior senators who seemed impressed by the turnout. Among the guests was Pakistan's Consul General in New York Haroon Shaukat and some prominent politicians. Shafqat Tanveer, an accountant by profession, helped by Shahid Khan and Dr. Salman Zafar, worked hard to organise the impressive function. In fact, he was the moving spirit behind the move. Shahid Khan and Dr. Salman Zafar made moving presentations about the way Pakistanis were harassed after the 9-11 attacks in total violation of their rights, despite the fact that Islamabad has always sided with the United States. They told them how much Pakistan had suffered on account of its pro-American policies. The Senators warmly praised the contribution made by the Pakistani immigrants to the advancement of their adopted country- the United States. They expressed deep sorrow over the hardships the Pakistanis had faced and pledged to amend the tough Patriotic Act, under which Muslim people were persecuted, as also the immigration policy. Both the legislations were enacted by the Bush administration, which came under strong attack at the function. The three senators said that immigrants were an asset to the United States and no one should be discriminated on the basis of his colour and ethnicity. The senators made it a point to say that going after the terrorists should not be taken as a conflict between the West and Islam. 'This is a war against those spreading chaos,' Sen. Corzine said. They urged the Pakistanis to support the Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry in his bid to oust President Bush. They said Mr. Kerry would ensure justice for all and make the promotion of democracy and human rights around the world as his priorities. When a journalist drew attention to the ongoing media campaign against Pakistan on the nuclear question, Senator Corzine, while expressing his regrets, said some people were using it as a 'political tool' to suit their ends. But Mr. Schummar said the sale of nuclear weapons' technology was a 'bad thing.' Stating that he had great respect for Pakistan and its founder, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Senator Harkin said he would soon be visiting the country. If the democrats were voted to power, he would make spreading of education in Pakistan as a top priority to fulfil the dream of the Quaid.