Sunday January 8, 2017
At the conclusion of the two-day International Parliamentary Seminar on Kashmir on January 6, 2017, a ringing declaration was issued condemning Indian atrocities against the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir. Organized by the Young Parliamentarians’ Forum, delegates from Britain, the European Union, Canada as well as Indian occupied Kashmir attended the two-day event.
The unique features of this seminar/conference were that young members of the Pakistani Parliament were in the forefront of organizing it and that a very large number of young people, mainly students, attended it. Two parliamentarians in particular, both females—Shaza Fatima Khawaja and Rumina Khursheed Allam—were in the forefront of the organizing effort.
The concluding session of the Seminar on Friday January 6, was addressed by Chairman of the Pakistan Senate, Senator Raza Rabbani who in his wide-ranging remarks took to task both the United Nations as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for their failure to address in meaningful way the long-festering problem of Kashmir. Senator Rabbani emphasized that it was not merely a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan but at its core, it was about the fundamental right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination.
Two members of the British House of Lords, Lord Nazir Ahmed and Lord Qurban Husain, both originally from Azad Kashmir, participated in the Seminar delivering passionate speeches on the Kashmir dispute. Three members of the European Parliament, Ms Julie Ward, a long-time peace activist, Amjad Bashir and Muhammad Afzal Khan, all based in Britain, also attended. President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Masood Khan, Prime Minister Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan and Speaker of the AJK Shah Ghulam Qadir Khan as well as a number of Pakistani parliamentarians also delivered speeches.
On the first day of the seminar, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan Sardar Ayaz Sadiq spoke in the opening session to an audience of more than 500, the vast majority being students, another important point.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, speaking in English, seems to have touched India’s raw nerve when he called the young Kashmiri Burhan Wani a “vibrant and charismatic leader”. It was Burhan Wani’s martyrdom on July 8 that sparked the latest uprising in Kashmir resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Sharif said his “martyrdom has become a rallying point for the freedom loving people of the territory.”
The Pakistani prime minister also said Islamabad would continue to offer all moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir that he described an integral part of Pakistan’s vision. There was visceral reaction in Indian newspapers to Nawaz Sharif’s statement.
There were several themes addressed by the conference: Role of the UN and World Powers; Legal basis of the Kashmir dispute; Human Rights violations and the Humanitarian crisis in Kashmir; and the Socioeconomic and Security implications of India-Pakistan relations. Narrating the suffering of the Kashmiri people, two panelists in particular—Mushaal Hussain Malik (wife of detained Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik) and Suhail A Shah (a young journalist from Indian Occupied Kashmir)—made a great impact. They brought firsthand accounts of the suffering of the people in the Valley.