Ensure rule of law, democracy, elimination of terrorism, and equal treatment of all ethnic, linguistic and religious groups of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to promote peace
A conference titled “India Pakistan Peace Process: The Way Forward” was organized in the Grand Committee Room of the The Houses of Parliament, London on February 28, 2012. The event was sponsored by MP Simon Danczuk and Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies in collaboration with International Pahari Literary Society and International Center for Peace and Democracy.
Keynote speakers included MP Andrew Stephenson (Conservative) who is the Chairperson of All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan and Member of All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir; MP Paul Uppal; Lord Qurban Hussain, MP Yasmin Qureshi (Labor) who is the Chairperson of All Party Parliamentary Group on International Justice; MP Simon Danczuk (Labor) who is the Member of All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir; Dr. Nazir Gilani, who is Secretary General of Jammu & Kashmir Council of Human Rights; M. Mumtaz Khan, who is the Executive Director of International Center for Peace and Democracy; Councillor Ali Adaalat who is also the Executive Director of International Pahari Literary Society; and Senge Hasnan Sering who is the President of Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies. The organizers also received letter of support and solidarity from seven MPs who couldn’t attend the event.
MP Simon Danczuk began the session by stating that issues of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are very fundamental to the interests of the British parliamentarians. He called for creating peace, encouraging cooperation and finding solutions to bring India and Pakistan closer.
Lord Qurban in his capacity as a representative of Her Majesty the Queen urged India and Pakistan to make peace and end human rights violations on both sides of line of control including Gilgit-Baltistan. He demanded that Pandit community should be enabled to return to their homeland. He requested the government of Pakistan to allow him to visit Gilgit-Baltistan.
MP Yasmeen Qureshi asked all South Asian countries to initiate free trade agreements and urged India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir issue to bring peace.
MP Stephenson asked Pakistan to improve its judicial system and ensure that rule of law and democracy prevails in the country. He urged Pakistan to eliminate terrorism to improve ties with India. He stated that people like Shehbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer were murdered for supporting rights for the minority. He said that India is a booming economy because of security, rule of law and democracy and Pakistan should follow India’s footsteps.
Dr. Nazir Gilani stated that Pakistan has separated Gilgit-Baltistan from rest of Jammu & Kashmir and rules the region without constitutional cover, which exposes the legal realities. He said that self-determination is also the right of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and asked both India and Pakistan to grant the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan a role in peace building. He said that AJK provisional constitution denies the right of self-determination to its citizens. He said that India was invited by government of Jammu & Kashmir to protect the locals and her responsibility also extends to AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. People who authored militancy and terrorism killed the right of self-determination for Kashmiris in the 1990s.
Mumtaz Khan talked about empowering local people of Pakistan controlled Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and redefining relationship between Kashmir and Pakistan to ensure long term peace in the region. He said that AJK issues are overshadowed by Pakistani narratives on Indian Kashmir which restricts maintaining a balanced approach on regional issue. He said that militants are very much responsible for human rights violations in Kashmir. He said that as per UNCIP resolutions, withdrawal of Pakistani military and citizens from Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is the first condition to ensure peaceful settlement of Kashmir issue.
Ali Adalat said that insurgents have damaged social fabric of the state and provided Pakistan the excuse to attack India on several occasions. He said Pakistan lacks inclusive policy on Kashmir and looks at the issue from a religious prism. He condemned demographic change in Gilgit-Baltistan and termed it as absolute gross human rights violations. He condemned Pakistan for violating state subject rule (SSR) in Gilgit-Baltistan and ill treatment of Kashmiri refugees living in different camps in Muzaffarabad (AJK). He said, “State Subject Rule protects political, economic and demographic rights of residents of former state of Jammu & Kashmir. Violation of SSR and demographic change in Gilgit-Baltistan benefits both Pakistan and China and it is Chinese pressure, which is stopping Pakistan from taking initiative to open LOC between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan.”
Krishna Bhan talked about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and called them victims of terrorism and communalism. She said that Pandit refugees have been living in camps outside Kashmir Valley since 1989, when Muslim insurgents engineered their exodus and genocide.
Zafar Iqbal Khwaja condemned human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani Kashmir. He asked Pakistani government to release all political prisoners of Gilgit-Baltistan as a goodwill gesture to promote peace and appreciated Babajan’s efforts in raising awareness about the flood victims of Hunza. He demanded that hurdles should be removed to enhance trade across the LOC and asked Pakistan to allow Hindus of Jammu to visit religious shrines in Mirpur.
Senge Sering talked about extending CBMs on Kashmir to Gilgit-Baltistan. He requested both India and Pakistan to open LOC for trade between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan. He said, “More than 10,000 Ladakhis living in Gilgit-Baltistan demand resumption of travel to Ladakh on humanitarian basis. Travel between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan will help revive secular culture and help counter terrorism and communalism”. He asked both countries to treat all ethnic, religious and linguistic groups of former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir equally. He asked Pakistan to demilitarize Gilgit-Baltistan in general and Gilgit city in particular.
In the end, MP Simon Danczuk thanked the participants for their valuable inputs.
Director, Hindu Council UK