April 2021 News

No Change In Kashmir Policy, FO Tells Parliamentary Body

1 April 2021
The Dawn
Iftikhar A. Khan

Islamabad: Foreign Office (FO) Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri on Wednesday told the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir that there was no change whatsoever in Pakistan's position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. 'Pakistan's position is anchored on the United Nations (UN) resolutions on the Kashmir dispute. There is absolutely no change in Pakistan's stance on resolving Kashmir dispute through dialogue and under the UN resolutions,' the FO spokesman was quoted to have stated while briefing the committee members during an in-camera meeting presided over by its chairman Shehryar Afridi. The briefing was prompted by inclusion of an urgent item proposed by PML-N lawmaker Khurram Dastgir seeking an explanation on the rationale and possible consequences of Prime Minister's remarks in Kotli, AJK on Feb 5 that 'When the residents of Indian-occupied Kashmir as well as Azad Kashmir get the right to decide their future, and when the people of Kashmir will choose Pakistan InshAllah, then Pakistan will give Kashmiris the right to decide whether they want to become a part of Pakistan or remain independent.' Khurram Dastgir had also sought explanation on restoration of Line-of-Control ceasefire announced on Feb 25 in context of Prime Minister's earlier assertions that 'India was backing the militant Islamic State (IS) group to cause turmoil in Pakistan' and 'No talks possible with India until they restore the autonomous status' of Jammu and Kashmir. 'These grave policy issues warrant immediate, detailed discussion in the Committee under your esteemed stewardship. Kindly confirm the inclusion of this urgent item in the agenda for the next meeting', the PML-N lawmaker had said in a letter written to the Chairman parliamentary committee on Kashmir. The issue had been raised by PML-N's Khurram Dastagir Khan on the floor of the National Assembly. During the parliamentary committee meeting, the FO spokesman said the prime minister's statement made in Kotli, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, was consistent with Pakistan's longstanding policy on the Kashmir dispute and Pakistan would continue its support to Kashmiris at all forums. Mr Chaudhri said the recent understanding between the Pakistani and Indian military to observe the 2003 Line of Control (LoC) Agreement was aimed at saving lives and properties of the Kashmiri people living on both sides of the LoC. In order 'to provide some comfort' to Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC, it was necessary to abide by the ceasefire agreement, he said. The FO spokesman said Pakistan believed that any violation of the ceasefire agreement might jeopardise regional peace and also hurt the Kashmiris living along the LoC. The committee's chairman later said that the pertinent questions raised by Khurram Dastagir Khan would be addressed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in next meeting. Meanwhile, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Chairman Saleem Ahmed told the committee that 50 TV channels had given specific time for coverage of Kashmir issue and 38 channels had covered Kashmir in terms of documentaries, songs and programmes. He said the prime minister's speech in Kotli was covered by 48 TV channels. He said Pemra could direct private channels to air 10 per cent contents under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The chairman of the committee took exception to the absence of the regional head of social media site, Facebook, from the committee meeting following his refusal to attend the meeting. Mr Afridi directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman to ensure the presence of Facebook regional representative in the next meeting to respond to the questions of the committee members. The PTA chairman briefed the committee members that Facebook didn't block a single account of any Pakistani user while one such incident was reported in the year 2020. He said the PTA was in contact with the Facebook management and the organisation was establishing its office in Pakistan to ensure compliance with local laws. Mr Afridi asked the PTA chairman to fix an online meeting with the regional representative of Facebook to ensure that Kashmiri and Pakistani users were provided equal opportunities at social media. Later, Ministry of Information and its attached departments, including Radio Pakistan, EP Wing, PID, PTV, ISA and APP made presentations to brief the committee on projection of the Kashmir dispute. The committee also passed a resolution to welcome the commitment shown by Prime Minister Imran Khan for linking the resolution of Kashmir dispute with regional peace and stability.