May 2007 News

Pakistan's claim rejected

25 May 2007
The Hindu
Hasan Suroor

London: Baroness Emma Nicholson, whose report, criticising lack of democracy in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), passed by the European Parliament on Thursday, has rejected Pakistan's complaint that it contains too many 'factual inaccuracies' for it to help find a solution to the Kashmir dispute. Baroness Nicholson, a Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament, said on Friday that Pakistan was entitled to express its views but insisted that her findings were based on facts as she found them on the ground after visiting both sides of Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking at a press conference here, she said her report represented the 'will' of the European Parliament, which approved it with an overwhelming majority with 522 MEPs voting in favour and only 9 against. She intended to pursue various forums within the European Union to push for its implementation. The European Commission and the Council of Ministers were to study the report and suggest a way forward. She said that her call for the people of Gilgit and Baltistan to be given their democratic and political rights was consistent with EU's 'core' values. The report received support from Benzair Bhutto, the former Pakistan Prime Minister, and Imran Khan, cricketer-turned- politician, now leading a pro-democracy campaign in Pakistan. Shabir Chaudhry, a leading UK-based activist of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, described the report as a 'victory' for his group's campaign in support of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan. 'It vindicates our position and we are going to mobilise support in favour of its implementation,' he said. The report, while extremely critical of Pakistan, also highlights human rights violations by the Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir. It calls on Islamabad and New Delhi to allow international rights organisations to monitor human rights on either side of the border. Rights violation PTI reports from New Delhi: The European Parliament has come down heavily on Pakistan's repeated failure to protect human rights in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan and asked Islamabad to close down militant camps operating from that country. It asked militants to declare a ceasefire followed by demobilisation and reintegration process and recognised that 'without an end to terrorism, there can be no real progress towards a political solution to Kashmir issue or in improving the economic condition of the people in J and K.' It also urged Pakistan to close militant websites and magazines and suggested Pakistani and Indian Governments consider introducing a law against hate speech. While asking New Delhi to put an end to alleged practices of extra-judicial killings, 'disappearances,' torture and arbitrary detentions in Jammu and Kashmir, the European Union was appreciative of the Indian stand on Jammu and Kashmir. 'It is pleased to see recent moves in J and K to strengthen democracy (as evidenced by the 75 per cent turnout in recent local elections), and the moves by Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) to reopen dialogue' with separatists, the resolution said. Condemning Pakistan for 'documented human rights violations' in Gilgit and Baltistan, it asked Islamabad to revisit its concepts of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religious practice in PoK, and Gilgit and Baltistan.


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