EU Set To Attack Pakistan For Lack Of Democracy In PoK
23 March 2007
The Times of India
Brussels: The European Parliament - the only democratically-elected body in the 27-country European Union (EU) - is set to accept a controversial new report on Kashmir, which categorically criticises Pakistan for a lack of progress on democracy and human rights in its half of the disputed territory. Once voted through in Parliament, Baroness Emma Nicholson's report is expected to signal the first clear signs of continental disaffection with President Musharraf's propaganda drive for Pakistan's claimed freedom-and-fairness stance on Kashmir. The report, officially described by the EU as 'own- initiative' that is prepared by Nicholson at her own behest was adopted earlier this week by the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee by 60 to one, with 11 abstentions. The report, which has been heavily criticised by Pakistani lobby-groups here, in London and Islamabad, controversially contrasts J & K and POK, saying that 'India is the world's largest secular democracy and has devolved democratic structures at all levels (while) Pakistan still lacks full implementation of democracy in Azad Jammu and Kashmir...and has yet to take steps towards democracy in Gilgit and Baltistan'. EU sources admitted the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee's majority backing for the criticism of Pakistan indicated Parliament as a whole was likely to vote it through as well, at a plenary session scheduled for May 23. But in bizarre indication the EU is desperate to distance itself from this first, very public and increasingly controversial thumbs-down for Pakistan on Kashmir, officials insisted on Friday, two days after the report was adopted by the Committee, that the European Parliament's expected 'oui' vote 'means nothing. It is merely the opinion of Parliament.' Officials say that despite being the EU's only democratically-elected body, Parliament's views are 'not important in the conduct of EU foreign affairs'. They say that the European Council of Ministers, composed of the 27 EU heads of government, has lead status when it comes to foreign affairs. And the European Council, they say, will not offer an opinion on Nicholson's report. The EU's fence-sitting on Nicholson's report is seen to be yet another instance of its instinctive refusal to abandon its traditionally anodyne public posture on 'difficult' issues such as J&K. Till now, the EU, including its Parliament, has publicly taken a neutral view on J&K in recognition of New Delhi's resistance to 'internationalising the dispute'. In a further swingeing blow to Musharraf's claims to being a slow-but-steady grassroots democrat, the report calls on the Pakistani regime to ensure free and fair elections in POK, Gilgit and Baltistan. It expresses concern at 'documented human rights violations by Pakistan' in Gilgit and Baltistan, while even-handedly also calling for India to 'put an end to all practices of extrajudicial killings, 'disappearances', torture and detention in J&K'.