Efforts on to unite Kashmiri nationalists: Shaukat Kashmiri
2 October 2000
The News International
Peshawar: Noted Kashmiri leader Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri has said fresh efforts were being made to bring together all nationalist and democratic forces which believe in the sovereignty and independence of the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview with The News in Switzerland’s capital, Berne, he said he was in touch with all the secular, liberal and nationalist parties and groups operating on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir and in the Northern Areas and was hopeful of convening their meeting in the near future to make them agree on a collective agenda. ''We already share many views and values as we are against the division of the multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state of Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines,'' he said. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, a lawyer by profession belonging to Trarkhal in Azad Kashmir and chairman of the United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP), is living in self-exile in Switzerland. He says he was forced to leave Azad Kashmir and Pakistan when his life was threatened after his arrest by an intelligence agency on January 18, 1998 and his illegal detention for over eight months. Human rights organisations had protested his kidnapping and the Amnesty International had declared him a possible prisoner of conscience. For over a year now his application for political asylum is pending with the Swiss government. The system of granting asylum is painfully slow in Switzerland, particularly in the Berne canton where he is based. The asylum application of another UKPNP activist is also under process in Berne, along with a Pakistani couple aligned with the Mohajir Qaumi Movement and some Afghans and people from other Third World countries. He said he had made use of his stay in Switzerland by attending the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Sub-Commission at Geneva to highlight the plight of the Kashmiri people and argue their case for independence. Besides, he said, he had toured several countries in Europe to organise his party. He alleged he was kidnapped and kept in illegal confinement in Pakistan because he dared demand independent Jammu & Kashmir.