The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistanwas held on Tuesday to discussissues pertaining to AJ&K and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Chaired by Senator Professor Sajid Mir; the meeting was attended by Senator Lt. Gen. (R) Abdul Qayyum, Senator Lt. Gen (R) SalahuddinTirmizi, Senator Shaheen Khalid Butt, Senator Abdul Rehmn Malik , Senator Anwar Lal Dean and senior officers from Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir Council.
The meeting commenced with a briefing given by Secretary Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, Tariq M. Pasha. He said that the mission of the Ministry was to assist and help the Government of AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan administration in developing institutions to ensure self-governance and sustainable economic development. He further briefed the Committee about the functions of the Ministry that included policy planning and development. The Committee was informed that the Ministry coordinated with Azad Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and AJ&K Council and all matters relating to the settlement of the Kashmir dispute other than those falling within the purview of the foreign Affairs Division.
Senator Lt. Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum was of the view that various issues such as government, refugees, militancy and the Kashmir cause cannot be separated. He asserted that a model must be set that can be shown to the world outside of Pakistan’s commitment to the issue. He asserted that this will strengthen the Kashmir cause.
Senator Abdul Rehman Malik while seconding the views of Senator Qayyum, condemned the government saying that the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan who is also the Prime Minister should have been present to discuss this all important issue as he is the ex-officio member of the Committee.
He further stated that in order to strengthen the region it was imperative to delegate financial powers to the region. He urged the Committee to review this issue in detail as well. He directed the Secretary Ministry Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, who was previously Chairman FBR, to enlighten the Committee with a plan regarding this.
Chairman Committee Senator Professor Sajid Mir was of the view that nothing in the rules of business or anything else would deter the Committee from pursuing its agenda which includes all aspects of the Kashmir issue whether or not under the purview of the Foreign Affairs Division.
Senator Lt.Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum highlighted the recent report that had been published in June by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This he stated had been published after a 70 year period in which a brief mention of Azad Kashmir has been made. The report stated that restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have limited the ability to obtain information about the situation. This impression, asserted Senator Lt.Gen (R) Abdul Qayyum, was a major impediment and must be countered.
Senator Abdul Rehman Malik was of the view that a media policy for AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan was imperative and enquired if such a policy was chalked out by the Ministry. He ensured the Ministry of all possible support regarding this and stressed that if Ministry needed funds for this, same could also be arranged.
While highlighting funding issues in AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan, Senator Abdul Rehman Malik stated that he had on numerous occasions been informed that funding in this area is a major issue and that there have been complaints of discrimination against AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan citizens. Secretary Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, Tariq M. Pasha clarified that that the provinces are allocated funds according to the NFC Award, however, Kashmir due to its special status according to the Constitution of Pakistan cannot avail this provision.
A resolution was passed by the Committee in which India was strongly condemned for its brutalities in Kashmir, unprovoked violations across the Line of Control (LOC) and for not allowing freedom leader Malik Yasin to attend his sister-in-laws wedding ceremony in Pakistan last week. The Committee stated that Mr. Yasin was not given visa to attend his family ceremony. It further asserted that restricting his total movement is the worst kind of violation of Human Rights Charter of the United Nations. The Committee called upon the UNO and other international Human Rights organizations to strongly condemn India for its brutalities and human rights violations in India and across LOC, killing of innocent civilians on Pakistani border and demanded that the Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi should stop this violation forthwith.