Pakistan parties back Sharif on Kashmir stance
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Pakistan parties back Sharif on Kashmir stance

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday chaired a meeting of the heads of parliamentary parties in the National Assembly to discuss the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday chaired a meeting of the heads of parliamentary parties in the National Assembly to discuss the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Kashmir issue.

The meeting was convened with the one-point agenda to send a "clear message to the outside world" regarding situation along the Line of Control as well as "Indian atrocities" in Kashmir, Dawn online reported.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry briefed the leaders about the latest situation in Kashmir and the LoC.

Chaudhry said that Islamabad "continues to adopt policy of non-interference" in Kashmir. The parliamentary leaders declared that the entire nation stands together when it comes to Kashmir issue and the Indian aggression.

Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was part of the meeting, said: "Despite our differences with the government on multiple issues, we are with you, Prime Minister."

The PPP supports Sharif and the party has taken "a clear stance on these issues", Zardari said, telling the leaders that current tension between the two countries "is a turning point in Pak-India relations".

Chief of Jamaat-e-Islaami Siraj ul Haq congratulated Sharif for organising the meeting, He said that Sharif's speech at the UN General Assembly reflected the emotions of Pakistani people.

According to Haq, under the present circumstances the party was with the government, the military and the people of Pakistan.

The leaders also decided to send delegations to countries to highlight the Kashmir issue.

Chaudhry who briefed the leaders said: "Pakistan wants peace and Kashmir and other bilateral issues should be discussed with India."

He denied the Indian claim of surgical strikes and dismissed New Delhi's allegations against Islamabad regarding the September 18 attack at an Army camp in Uri town of Kashmir, which left 19 security personnel dead, as "baseless".

India has blamed Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group for the attack.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Sheireen Mazari represented the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, while Farooq Sattar represented the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the conference.

Qureshi said the PTI was with "the government on the Kashmir issue. The present government tried very hard to improve relations with India. Unfortunately India did not respond with the same vigour."

The country's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Khan were also present.

The meeting called by Sharif united the country's otherwise wrangling political leaders as the government and opposition said they stood united against "Indian aggression".

"We don't want our disagreements to damage the Kashmir cause," said Bilawal as the conference concluded and the heads of political parties spoke to journalists about their hours-long deliberation.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Farooq Sattar said: "We want to send a message to the outside world that our unity is undeterred. All political leaders were given a "warm welcome" by the PM at the conference."

"India should know that it will get a befitting response for its terrorism over water in Jammu and Kashmir," he said, adding that Pakistan needs to "fine tune" its diplomatic efforts on Kashmir.

Despite their major reservations with the government and prime minister on individual issues, the usually disgruntled political leaders spoke with one voice at the conference today, setting aside all differences to project a united front on the India issue.

Just days earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan held a massive rally in the prime minister's homeground of Raiwind, demanding that he be held accountable for his family's links to offshore accounts.

But today, PTI leader Qureshi talked about a need for all parties to "put up a united front before the world."

The PTI leader, before the meeting, appreciated PM Nawaz's speech at the United Nations General Assembly and noted that the "present government has taken positive steps regarding improvement in relations with India but regrettably, the other side has not reciprocated."

The PM said Pakistan's political leadership stands united on matters of national importance, particularly the Kashmir cause, a statement that was echoed by parliamentary leaders after the meeting.

The Kashmir movement cannot be suppressed by Indian brutalities, the PM said, adding that the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination is legitimate and mandated by the United Nations Security Council. Kashmiris and Pakistanis are inseparable, he said.

Earlier, Bilawal said: "A united Pakistan can counter Indian aggression and by working together we can achieve our national security goals. There is no military solution to Kashmir."

"It is a proud moment for Pakistan that all parties are together on Kashmir issue," he told reporters after the meeting. "We all agreed to work together for national unity of Kashmir issue. If we don't answer India collectively, our diplomatic stance gets week internationally."

"This resolution is on the issue Kashmir, we don't want our disagreements to damage Kashmir cause."

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: "India's behaviour, the way they have tried to breach the Indus Waters Treaty, should be considered an act of aggression, a hostile act."

The PTI leader was referring to Indian Prime Minister Modi's move to suspend Indus Waters Commission talks and reports that India plans to accelerate building of new hydro-power plants along three rivers that flow into Pakistan.

Qureshi added that the situation in Balochistan should be kept separate from the ongoing situation in held Kashmir. "Kashmir is an internationally-recognised dispute whereas Balochistan is a part of our sovereign nation," he said.

As reported by Radio Pakistan, PML (Q) leader Kamil Ali Agha said no compromise can be made on Pakistan defence. "We are one nation and one voice on this issue."

He said Indian "state sponsored terrorism" is condemnable and Pakistan should expose Indian propaganda on Balochistan and Gilgit. He said Pakistan should work hard to forge new alliances at international forums.

Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of Awami National Party said the prime minister's speech at the UNGA has given a new life to Kashmir dispute on diplomatic front.

He congratulated the Prime Minister for holding the meeting of parliamentary leaders at this critical juncture.

Addressing the conference, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, "We need to form national unity at this critical moment and we need the collective voice and resolve of the entire nation at the political and diplomatic level."

He added, "We need to denounce and highlight the brutal atrocities in IHK. Today's meeting has sent a positive message to the world over."

During the meeting, political leaders decided to send delegations to countries in order to highlight Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Political parties have also demanded that a security committee should be formed.

It was also said that the United Nations Commission of Human Rights should be made aware of Indian atrocities in the valley and that a delegation from the international body should be sent there to investigate the ground reality.

An invitation to attend the meeting was extended to heads of all parties across the two houses of parliament without discrimination. The only exception was Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the sole member of his Awami Muslim League in the National Assembly. According to a senior PM official the exception has been made at all such gatherings during the term of the current government.

SALIENT POINTS OF THE MEETING

The resolution passed after the meeting read: "To urge international community to take concrete steps for implementation of UNSC resolutions in Kashmir; Condemn killing of Kashmiris and provide political, moral and diplomatic support to people of Indian-held Kashmir: Resolve current national issues; Recognise recent unprovoked Indian aggression, ceasefire violations as a threat to regional peace and security; Reject Indian efforts to shift focus from Kashmir atrocities through false claims of cross-border terrorism; Condemn Indian intent to use water as a weapon; Regret Indian designs to scuttle diplomatic efforts, including refusal to engage constructively at SAARC; Condemn Indian interference in Balochistan; Condemn Indian attempts to destabilise Pakistan." (Agencies)

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