A group of six British parliamentarians from the ruling Conservative Party on Thursday called for a just and early solution to the lingering Kashmir issue in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
The visiting MPs, who termed themselves as advocates of Kashmir, suggested that the UN should send an independent and impartial commission to both parts of the disputed Himalayan region to ascertain the situation on the ground.
They expressed these views at a reception in their honour by AJK President Sardar Masood Khan at the presidency. Members of the AJK cabinet and Legislative Assembly, senior government officials and civil society activists were among the audience.
The British lawmakers, who had arrived in Pakistan reportedly on the invitation of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on April 2, travelled to Muzaffarabad by road for a daylong visit to see government officials and people from other walks of life, including Kashmiri refugees living in different camps.
Speaking on the occasion, group leader MP Rehman Chishti, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pakistan, recalled that during his previous visit to Muzaffarabad in 2012 he had promised to bring along his fellow parliamentarians in his next trip.
“It’s important for the parliamentarians of United Kingdom to come to Kashmir, meet people and ask them about their problems and that how can they (MPs) help resolve Kashmir issue in accordance with their wishes,” said the MP, who was born in a suburban area of Muzaffarabad.
Expressing his gratitude to the AJK government for ensuring free and open access to the parliamentary delegation, he said: “When we go back, we will make a similar request to the Indian authorities to let us visit the part of Kashmir under their control the way AJK has allowed us so that we can take into consideration the wishes on both sides of the divide.”
“If they (Indian authorities) allow us, well and good, (but) if they don’t we will publish it so that the world community knows the difference between response (from Pakistan and India),” he added.
Referring to the human rights situation in India held Kashmir, he said the UN should constitute an “independent international commission” which should visit both parts of Kashmir.
“Its finding, whatever those might be, should be accepted by everyone,” he said.
He said the people of Kashmir were like any other citizens of the world and they had every right to determine their destiny.
“That can be the only way forward,” he said.
Between the lines, he said it would be premature to waste energies on the future status. “To me, as a parliamentarian who believes in democracy and who was born on the soil of Kashmir, right to self determination is important. People ask me what’s my view on (future of) Kashmir. I tell them that I will give my view at the time when every other Kashmiri is given a chance to determine his fate,” he said.
MP Royston Smith said that during their meetings with different people in their first visit to Pakistan and AJK, he had observed that there was complete unanimity that the situation in Kashmir needed to be resolved without further delay.
“Indeed, this issue needs to be resolved by the United Nations. If the UN cannot resolve it over the past 70 years then my question is: What role the UN has at all,” he said.
Assuring the audience that they would do whatever they could to get this issue settled, he said amid clapping: “You have five more advocates, other than Mr Chishti in the Parliament.”
He expressed the hope that this year when India and Pakistan would be celebrating their anniversaries, there would be some progress on Kashmir and the Kashmiris would soon be able to decide their destiny.
MP Matthew Offord spoke about the opportunities in different sectors in AJK and said he would ensure that AJK got services in health and education sectors on a par with other parts of Pakistan through DFID funding.
Terming Kashmir as a very special part of the world, he also reiterated the views of his colleague that Kashmiris had got five more advocates today.
MP Mark Pawsey told the audience that he and his colleagues would be leaving Pakistan with a much greater understanding of Kashmir issue.
MP Henry Smith also voiced his support for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris, without mincing words.
“Somebody who is a democrat, somebody who is the beneficiary of elected democratic process can realise that the future of this region should be decided by you - people of Kashmir… That is the message we will take back to London.”