February 2007 News

Kashmir report sparks heated debate in European Parliament

27 February 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

Brussels: A debate in the European Parliament on compromise amendments to a draft report on Kashmir turned into acrimonious exchanges between some of the pro-Pakistani parliament members and the rapporteur of the report, Baroness Emma Nicholson.'The report remains a patronizing, insulting piece of work,' shouted British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sajjad Karim, who is of Pakistani origin, during the debate Monday evening in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The report if adopted, he warned, could do 'potential damage to EU-Pakistan relations', reported INEP news agency. James Elles, co-founder of the All-Party Group on Kashmir, condemned the report as 'unbalanced and biased' and called for the creation of a drafting committee to amend the report.A visibly indignant but composed Nicholson retorted by saying 'it is a pity that the British are washing their dirty linen in public'.Most of the MEPs interested in the Kashmir report are British who have large Pakistani, Indian and Kashmiri communities in their constituencies back home.Earlier, Nicholson had urged that the debate on the 16 compromise proposals be held in an 'open and constructive spirit'. She said she has been working with shadow rapporteurs from other political groups on the compromise proposals to the report titled 'Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects'.Nicholson noted that the record 450 amendments tabled at the last hearing on the Kashmir draft report in January showed the huge level of interest and concern the issue generates.When during the heated exchanges, she suggested that the amendment proposals 'have come straight from Islamabad', and accused Karim of writing to the Pakistani diaspora to press for the amendments, Karim shouted: 'Outrageous, outrageous.'The pro-Indian MEP Charles Tannock said he found the report 'factually correct in content' and added that it was open to compromise amendments.Jo linen, a German MEP, said, 'We should provide an objective report' and noted that 'it was on a good path'.On her part, Baroness Sarah Ludford, said she 'still didn't think the Balance was right'.'There is a hole in the middle of the report,' she said, while another British MEP Richard Howitt even suggested to let the report 'sit on the table' and halt the debate. The pro-Pakistani MEPs are particularly agitated about one reference in the report that describes demand for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir to be 'wholly out of step', and demanded that it be removed from the report. Tannock replied that a resolution passed by the UN Security Council 58 years ago is a dead letter.The committee is expected to vote on the amended report on March 21 and, if adopted, it will go before the plenary session of the European Parliament, probably in May, for approval.The new chairman of the committee Jacek Saryusz-Wolski closed the two-hour debate by urging a compromise.'The final clearance is the democratic vote,' said the Polish MEP.Although neutral observers are confident that the amended report will be adopted in March, the shouting match on Monday was clearly won by the pro-Pakistani lobby. Barrsiter Majid Tramboo, director of the Brussels-based Kashmir Centre, who is spearheading the Pakistani lobbying machine, asserted that, 'this report will never pass in the committee'.The draft report was due to be adopted by the committee on Jan 30, but following two-day discussions last month the debate was postponed to Feb 26. Pakistan and Pakistani- supported Kashmir groups had launched a campaign against the draft report and termed it as a 'one-sided and unrealistic document' because it criticizes the democracy-deficit in Pakistan and the human rights situation in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir. 'India is the world's largest democracy and has a functioning democracy at local level, whereas Pakistan still has to show that it is respecting democratic principles in a great many areas,' said the report. Islamabad is particularly irked over the report's dismissal of calls for plebiscite to resolve the Kashmir issue.


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