London, Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, in his meeting with Lord Richard Newby, Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Lords, urged the United Kingdom to play a more active and decisive role in the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Lord Qurban Hussain facilitated and hosted the meeting.
The President said that the United Kingdom, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, should work for the maintenance of peace and security in South Asia and help put an end to the systematic violations of human rights in the Indian Occupied Kashmir being committed by Indian occupation forces. Drawing Lord Newby’s attention to the Office of the High Commissioner’s report on the human rights situation in IOK, the President said that the UK should support the repeal of the two draconian laws – Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act – and the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council to investigate rights abuses , as recommended in the Report.
President Masood Khan also requested the Lib-Dem Party to raise the questions related to human rights violations in IOK in the House of Lords as well as in the party conferences.
President Masood Khan extended an invitation to Lord Newby to visit Azad Kashmir along with Baroness Lindsay Northover, Sir Vincent Gable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons and Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.
Lord Newby accepted the invitation, in principle, and said that he had the pleasure of visiting Muzaffarabad and Mirpur years ago. Lord Newby said that he was aware of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and was regularly briefed on it by Lord Qurban. Lord Newby said that he would find ways to engage on the proposals made by the President Azad Kashmir.
Earlier, President Masood Khan visited Central Mosque London and the Islamic Cultural Centre, where he was received by Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre. During the visit, Sardar Masood Khan addressed members of the Islamic Cultural Centre on the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The audience included MPs and Lords of the British Parliament as well as the representatives of other religions, including Christianity and Judaism.
On the occasion, the President said that the constant violations of the ceasefire line along the Line of Control have endangered the lives of the civilians living on this side of the LoC. He demanded that India must abide by the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement between Pakistan and India and stop targeting civilians through its hostile fire and seriously injuring civilians resulting in lifelong disabilities, as well as the destruction of houses, crops and livestock.
He informed his audience about the horrendous human rights situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir characterized by mass killings, mass blindings, torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and use of rape and sexual violence as an instrument of war.
The President said that the plight of the Kashmiris should be the concern of the entire humanity and all those who believe in peace and harmony. Kashmiris’ suffering, he said, should come to an end with the help of enlightened and peace-loving religious communities around the world. In this context, he welcomed any interfaith initiative.
The religious leaders assembled at the Islamic Cultural Centre expressed their grave concern over the situation in IOK and expressed the hope that all efforts would be made to end the repression in IOK and find a just and fair solution.
President Masood Khan also addressed a symposium “Leadership, Empowerment and Human Rights with reference to the struggle for freedom in Kashmir”, organised and hosted by Barrister Abid Hussain, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist in the United Kingdom. The symposium was attended by a large number of young British politicians of Pakistani-Kashmiri origin. While addressing the symposium’s participants and responding to their questions, President Masood Khan said that 1.2 million Pakistani-Kashmiri community in the UK is the largest concentration of the Pakistani-Kashmiri diaspora in a single country anywhere in the world. He said that young politicians of Pakistani-Kashmir extraction have a responsibility to the people of Kashmir who are suffering under Indian occupation.
The President said that the people of IOK had kept the flame of liberty and self-determination alive by giving their blood and by facing one of the strongest and ruthless occupation forces in the world. At the same time, the people of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir had held their ground on the diplomatic front and had firmly and steadfastly upheld the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people.
The future path that we should travel, he said, requires intensification of the diplomatic and political campaign which should be steered and sustained by the youth.
Comparing the issues of Kashmir and Palestine, the President said that the latter got all the attention of the international community whereas the Kashmir issue was mostly swept under the carpet. Despite this difference in the international community’s attention towards the two issues, he said, both remained unresolved .
He commended the resolve of the young politicians and activists, who were attending the symposium, to introduce motions on the situation in Kashmir in the Conservative, Labor and Liberal Democratic party meetings and have them endorsed.
The President said that the international community was breaking its silence on Kashmir. Reputable human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and the Crisis Watch were publishing substantive reports on the massive human rights violations in IOK. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a comprehensive report on large-scale human rights violation in IOK in June this year and the British All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir had also prepared a similar report. Against this backdrop, it was imperative to intensify outreach on Kashmir to the youth, academic institutions, civil society organizations and the media networks.
Talking about a practical strategy, the President said that young politicians and political activisits in the UK need not focus on Kashmir because they felt that its was a “burden” left by the older generation. They should, he said, pursue peace in Kashmir out of their concern for humanity and a firm conviction to help Kashmiris move out of their misery. In this context, it was necessary to arouse interest and raise consciousness about the human rights and humanitarian crises should be the first priority, he said.
Young anchors, the President said, should step forward to form formal and informal networks and, in due course, task forces in order to make political and diplomatic campaigns for the liberty and self-determination of the Kahsmiris more effective.
President Masood Khan also briefed the symposium participants about the priorities of the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which included: a) intensifying political and diplomatic struggle for the self-determination of the Kashmiris; b) promotion of the rule of law and good governance; and c) economic development covering road construction, energy generation, quality education, universal access to health, promotion of tourism and development of agricultural and industrial sectors.