February 2007 News

European official's visit to 'redraft' Kashmir report?

24 February 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
F. Ahmed

Srinagar: A senior British politician ended his two-day long visit to Jammu and Kashmir Saturday - a trip that, sources say, was aimed at redrafting a European Parliament report that had been highly critical of Pakistan. Richard Howitt, the spokesman of the British Labour Party and a European Parliament member, apparently visited Kashmir for 'acquainting himself with the ground realities and to find out what was happening here'.Highly placed sources, however, told IANS that his visit was actually a mission to redraft the report that had been filed on Kashmir by Baroness Emma Nicholson, the chairperson of European Parliament's foreign relations committee last year.The report by Nicholson had slammed Pakistan for what it called 'gross and blatant violations of human rights in the Pakistan administered part of Kashmir'.The report had in fact praised India for its role on various fronts in Kashmir.Howitt's Kashmir visit is being seen here in the backdrop of pressure mounted on European Union members by scores of Kashmiri lobbyists and Pakistani intellectuals in Europe who had called Nicholson's report 'highly uneven'.When asked what he thought of the previous report, Howitt labelled it 'as Emma Nicholson's personal views on the situation based on perceptions she had gathered here'.Howitt met representatives of many NGOs like the Orphans' Welfare Trust, Aga Khan Foundation, Action Aid India, Helpage India etc during his stay at the Grand Palace Hotel in summer capital Srinagar.He interacted with some local journalists and academicians.Howitt also met Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Basharat Ahmad Dhar and Inspector General of Police S.M. Sahai.He left for the state's winter capital Jammu, where he was to meet a number of other delegations.


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