June 2006 News

Kashmir-EU week in Brussels

27 June 2006
The News International

Brussels: The Kashmir-EU week was inaugurated at the European Parliament on Tuesday, by Gary Titley MEP, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. The whole week is dedicated to the earthquake of October 2005 with concerns being raised about the condition of those who survived and about the need for funding emergency aid for rehabilitation and reconstruction work. Nearly nine months on I, together with my other colleagues and the Kashmir Centre EU, remain concerned about the situation of the survivors, particularly in relation to their shelter, sanitation facilities, medical care, water and food. All of us believe that there is an urgent need for funding emergency aid for rehabilitation and reconstruction work. With this in mind, I along with the All Party Group for Kashmir, and Kashmir Centre EU have dedicated Kashmir-EU Week to the victims and survivors of the earthquake. The exhibition is intended to highlight the impact of the earthquake and focus on increasing awareness, said Gary Titley. Pakistan made a strong pitch for at least $6.6 billion for reconstruction. The reconstruction phase is moving at a slow pace and I hope that this week would help focus on the issue and the EU would pledge the speeding up of promised funds as well as create more funds, said Pakistan Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Major (r) Tahir Iqbal when he met with Sajjad Karim, MEP and the Chairman of Friends of Pakistan, in his chamber in parliament. Executive Director of Kashmir Centre, Barrister Majid Tramboo was also present. Tahir Iqbal briefed Sajjad Karim about the latest political moves made by Pakistan towards finding a solution to the Kashmir problem and also updated the MEP on the support that Islamabad needed from the most developed countries of the world to help in the reconstruction of the earthquake-hit zones. Sajjad Karim who represents North West England said that the EU Trade Committee was concentrating on trade relations which would provide long term benefits. He also disclosed that a draft copy of the EU Foreign Affairs Committee report on Kashmir has been prepared and would be finalized next month. Today we have a unique opportunity to come forward with a constructive report on how the EU could help improve relations between India and Pakistan. I am not very confident that this report will move things forward, therefore the real need is for Pakistanis and the Kashmir communities all over to come forward and speak to their MEPs. If we lose this opportunity I do not see another opportunity in a generation, said Karim. He also told the Pakistani minister about the concerns of Kashmiris in his constituency who are worried about the raising of the level of the Mangla Dam. People are concerned about not being taken into confidence by the government in its policies and voiced fears that they had earlier been displaced when the Mangla Dam was constructed, he told the minister. Tahir Iqbal reassured him that the government was sensitive to the problems of the Kashmiris in this regard saying the government was very seriously looking into funds for a resettlement plan. Visitors gathered in a big crowd to look at the huge tent that had been set up at the display centre. Inside was a scene from a typical survivors family. Impressive photographs of the haunting images of the earthquake had been displayed around the area with footage of the earthquake devastation being run on a television screen. Supporters of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir hope that the whole week would draw similar crowds inside the parliament so that the daily images on world television screens (which have been replaced with new stories) jolt their memories about a disaster which is still there.


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