Kashmiri leadership not satisfied with Northern Areas’ empowerment plan

4 September 2009
The Daily Times

Islamabad: Kashmiri leaders on Friday expressed reservations over the proposed empowerment plan for the Northern Areas and asked the government to change the nomenclature of the posts of governor and chief minister. “Under the new plan, the Northern Areas will become a de-facto fifth province of Pakistan, which will damage Pakistan’s historical position on Kashmir,” Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir told Daily Times after attending a briefing at the Foreign Office. Rejecting the impression that AJK leaders were against the empowerment plan, he said they supported the proposal but it should not affect the Kashmir cause. He said Kashmir was a disputed territory and Pakistan should not implement the empowerment plan, placing the governor and the CM on top of the hierarchy. Not included: Diplomatic sources said Kashmiri leaders had expressed concerns over the plan and said the government did not take them into confidence before announcing the package. A Foreign Office spokesman said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA) Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira had briefed the participants of the meeting on the proposed empowerment plan. “Participants of the meeting appreciated the steps taken by the government to empower the people of the Northern Areas,” the spokesman said. The meeting also discussed the overall situation in Kashmir and the foreign minister informed the participants about the forthcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York, where he is expected to meet his Indian counterpart. “Pakistan will continue its moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir,” Qureshi said, adding that all political parties in Pakistan speak with one voice on the Kashmir issue. He said the issue should be projected more vigorously, adding that Kashmiri bodies could play an important role in this regard. Violations: The participants urged India to put an end to the human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) and release all political prisoners. The meeting endorsed the decision to hold of a conference on Kashmir early next year. The meeting rejected the elections in IHK, saying they were not a substitute for the right to self-determination. It termed the cross-border measures on Kashmir, including cross Line of Control (LoC) travel and trade, as a positive sign. The participants of the meeting also called for a resolution of water issues between Pakistan and India in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty. They also regretted that India had paused the composite dialogue process. Demanding including Kashmiris in talks between Pakistan and India, the participants said both Islamabad and New Delhi would benefit from the resumption of the dialogue process, which would ensure peace and security in the regional. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan, AJK President Raja Zulqarnain Khan, AJK PM Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan and former AJK PM Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan also attended the meeting.