UK House Of Commons Launches 'Conservative Friends Of Kashmir'
11 March 2005
The Pakistan Tribune
London: The second largest party in the House of Commons launched 'Conservative Friends of Kashmir' and pledged working for a just solution of the Kashmir issue in line with wishes of Kashmiri people. 'The Conservatives will support India's quest for a seat on the UN Security Council if there is progress on Kashmir. And the people of Kashmir must have a place at any conference table at which their future is determined,' said Chairman of the Group MP Paul Goodman while launching the group in a Committee Room of the Commons here the other day. Pakistan High Commissioner to Britain Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Vice Chairman of the Group MP David Lidington, Conservative Party Prospective Parliamentary Party Candidates Sayeeda Warsi, Tariq Ahmed, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum Mohamed Sheikh, Executive Director Kashmir Centre London Prof. Mohammad Shawl, AJK member Legislative Assembly for Overseas Kashmiris in Britain Ch. Mohammad Khan and Chairman District Council Mehboob Bhatti were present on the occasion. Goodman said resolution of the Kashmir issue was a key to a lasting peace and prosperity in the region. He said Conservative Friends of Kashmir would be guided in their endeavors to seek a negotiated solution of the issue by three basic principles. First, the parliamentary group's attention would be concentrated on the Kashmir issue alone while it would like to have good relations with both the Governments of Pakistan and India and 'warmly welcome in particular some of the recent initiatives undertaken by President Musharraf. ' Second, the Kashmir issue must be resolved by peaceful and democratic means alone. Third that at some stage the people of Kashmir themselves must have a place at any conference table at which their future is determined. 'The last word in this dispute must be spoken by the Kashmiri people themselves,' said Paul Goodman. Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain Dr. Maleeha Lodhi speaking on the occasion said the objective of the Group to help find a lasting and just solution of the Kashmir dispute 'mirrors our objective and will have our full support.' She said the establishment of the Group would compliment the work being done by the All Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group. Maleeha said the Kashmir dispute in its essence was about the people of Kashmir, about their aspirations, about their freedom, about their right to determine their own destiny. That was why Pakistan, she said, had in the talks with India emphasized the need to evolve modalities to involve the Kashmiris in the dialogue process. So far India had not responded to this proposal, she said, adding the association of Kashmiris with the dialogue would be imperative because Kashmir was an issue pertaining to their right to self- determination. 'The dialogue process remains fragile. Unless there is substantive movement , i.e progress on Kashmir, the process can come to a grinding halt,' said the envoy. She said the sustained interest and engagement of the international community was critical to the resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India. That would continue to be an important factor in helping to sustain the peace process, she added. Maleeha said 'the cycle of violence in Kashmir must be brought to an end' but she listed several steps to create such an environment. That would involve end to combat operations against the Kashmiris, release of political prisoners, repeal of draconian laws, ending travel restrictions and pullout of Indian troops from Kashmir. Speaking on the occasion Vice Chairman of Conservative Friends of Kashmir MP David Lidington said 'the Kashmir issue must be resolved by peaceful and democratic means alone. 'He said Kashmir was an issue which just could not be left to Pakistan and India alone as now its had a nuclear dimension as well because it involved two countries with a nuclear capability. So the world could not ignore this long simmering issue. Kashmiri people had suffered and continued to suffer, he said. T he solution of the issue would help divert the current resources being consumed by their defence, towards the economic development of the two countries, said MP Lidington.He said the Group would create more awareness on Kashmir both among British MPs and in the society to get a broader involvement of the British people who uptill now, had not taken interest in the issue. Lidington said Conservative Friends of Kashmir would also approach Conservative Friends of India to discuss how Kashmiris on the both sides of the Lind of Control could be brought together to talk about their future destiny. The Group would work to seeking an end to human rights abuses in held Kashmir and help find a negotiated settlement acceptable to Kashmiris, he said. In her remarks on the occasion Prospective Parliamentary Candidate from Dewsbury Sayeeda Warsi said until and unless the Kashmir issue was resolved , efforts should be made to stop human rights abuses taking place in Indian occupied Kashmir. She said women were being raped as a form of torture which was being used by India Security Forces to destroy the families. She urged Indian Government to allow independent human rights observers like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to visit Indian occupied Kashmir. On the Indian quest to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Warsi said India could not aspire to do so unless it implemented the UN resolutions on Kashmir. Another Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Tariq Ahmed called for sustained efforts over a period of time for working a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue. Prof. Shawl Executive Director Kashmir Centre and AJK member Legislative Assembly Mohammad Khan on the occasion thanked the Conservative party for constituting its parliamentary group for projecting the cause of Kashmir.