Speakers at a seminar in London last Tuesday urged India and Pakistan to include people from all parts of the former state of Jammu & Kashmir in a meaningful dialogue for establishment of permanent peace in South Asia. While addressing the seminar titled “India-Pakistan Peace Process: The Way Forward”, a select group of British MPs, experts in international relations and Kashmiri peace activists demanded that Kashmir conflict should be resolved according to the aspirations of people of Jammu & Kashmir.
The seminar was co-sponsored by MP Simon Danczuk, International Centre for Peace and Democracy, International Pahari Literary Society and Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies.
Prominent among speakers were Chairperson All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan Andrew Stephenson (Conservative), Member House of Lords Qurban Hussain, MP Paul Uppal, Member All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir MP Simon Danczuk, President Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies Senge Hasnan Sering , MP Yasmin Qureshi, Executive Director International Pahari Literary Society Ali Adaalat and Secretary General Jammu & Kashmir Council for Human Rights Dr. Nazir Gilani. Chief Executive Press for Peace Zafar Iqbal and Chairperson Indo European Forum Krishna Bhan also spoke on the occasion.
MP Simon Danczuk opened the house for discussion with his keynote address. He said that Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan were very important issues for British parliamentarians. He stressed the need for creating peace, encouraging cooperation and finding solutions to bring India and Pakistan closer.
Andrew Stephenson said that lower level judiciary in Pakistan was not functioning properly due to corruption and bribery. He stressed the need of a complete overhaul of judicial system in Pakistan. He stressed that British Pakistanis should help Pakistan by investing in the country to bring it out of the economic downfall. He said that deteriorating security situation was pushing Pakistan toward destruction whereas its neighbor India was fast progressing.
Member Parliament Yasmin Qureshi said that India and Pakistan both were nuclear powers and Kashmir conflict could be a war trigger between these two countries. She said both were spending billions of Pounds on defense matters and weapons that could be spent on people’s wellbeing.
Senge Hasnan Sering said that Confidenc Building Measures on Kashmir to be extened Gilgit-Baltistan. He urged India and Pakistan to open ancient routes for trade between Laddakh and Gilgit-Baltistan. He expressed that more than 10,000 Ladakhis living in Gilgit-Baltistan demand resumption of travel to Ladakh on urgent and humanitarian basis. He was of the view that opening up of travel routes between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan will help revive secular culture and help counter terrorism.
Sardar Mumtaz Khan said that we should take a collective stance on Kashmir Conflict by leaving differences of caste, creed, religion and regional identity aside. He said that tribal intrusion at the time of partition paved way for external intruders in Kashmir. He was of the opinion that for a peaceful settlement of Kashmir Conflict all unsolved matters of the people of all parts of Jammu and Kashmir should be resolved and included in peace efforts.
Lord Qurban Hussain said that instead of killing innocent people of Kashmir, India and Pakistan should listen them. He further said that dialogue process was only possible if violations of human rights were stopped, removal of forces from populated areas was guaranteed and restrictions on travel across LoC were withdrawn. He condemned the forced migration of Kashmiri Pandits from different parts of the state.
Daalat Ali said that one million British Kashmiris were facing problem of identity as they are considered either Pakistani or Indian nationals in Britain. He said all parts of Jammu & Kashmir including Indian and Pakistani Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan were colonies of India and Pakistan.
He demanded that British Kashmiris should be issued with special permits like state subject certificates and they should be allowed to visit all parts of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. He called upon British MPs to play their active part in giving Kashmiris their right of self-determination.
Mumtaz Khan highlighted the need of reopening of old trade routes between different parts of the state. He criticized the role of Kashmir Council and said that it was impossible to give Kashmiris their due rights in presence of such brutal authority.
Syed Nazir Gilani said that militancy in Kashmir had murdered the right of self-determination of Kashmiri people. He said the AJK act was against the universal declaration of human rights and it was meant to subjugate people of the area. He also stressed MPs’ role to give people of Kashmir their democratic rights.
Krishna Bhan said that Kashmiri Pandits were forced to migrate from Kashmir due to extremist tendencies in the state and growing militancy. She said that any development on Kashmir without involvement of Kashmiri Pandits would be unfruitful. Chief Executive Press for Peace Zafar Iqbal highlighted the human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir. He said that all political prisoners of Gilgit-Baltistan should be released immediately as a goodwill gesture to promote peace. He strongly appreciated local human rights activist Babajan’s efforts in raising awareness about the flood victims of Hunza. He asked India and Pakistan to remove hurdles in cross-LoC trade. He said that people of different religion in Jammu & Kashmir must be allowed to visit religious shrines in across the Line of Control.