US team calls for settlement of Kashmir issue
7 January 2004
Our Staff Correspondent
MUZAFFARABAD: A delegation of the US Congress visited a refugee camp near here on Wednesday and called for the resolution of the longstanding Kashmir dispute for lasting peace in the South Asia. The tour of the delegation, comprising congressmen Joseph Pitts, William Todd and Steven Chabot, was reportedly organized by the Inayat Begum Foundation - a non-governmental organization of some US based Pakistanis. Mr Omar Ghumman, the member the National Assembly of Pakistan who also holds United States citizenship accompanied the delegation to the AJK capital in their high security visit. At the Ambore refugee camp, where the delegation was taken after its arrival, AJK rehabilitation department commissioner Khwaja Sadiq Dar briefed them on the number of the refugees as well as the facilities being provided to them by the AJK government. He said around 22,000 Kashmiri refugees who fled occupied Kashmir due to Indian brutalities had been rehabilitated in 15 different camps in different parts of Azad Kashmir. The visiting delegation was also shown pictorial record of Indian atrocities in the held territory. Speaking to the gathering of the refugees on the occasion, delegation leader Mr Pitts said that settlement of Kashmir issue was essential for durable peace, stability and prosperity of the South Asian region. He appreciated the efforts by India and Pakistan for normalization of relations and settlement of their long running dispute over Kashmir. He said 'We pay tributes to Indian and Pakistani leaders for their desire to resolve the issue in consultation with each other.' However, he stressed that the choice of the Kashmiris should rein supreme in the likely solution of the issue. He said 'You people should have right to decide about yourself and no decision should be imposed on you.' Mr Pitts who had earlier visited Azad Kashmir thrice told refugees that he would apprise the American people and the Congress of their plight. 'We will also look into (launching) some projects to create employment opportunities for you,' he said, announcing that they would send a container of wheelchairs for those migrants who had been rendered handicapped in Indian repression. Later delegation members went round the shabby camp and inspected its school where they also distributed sweets among students. Officials said the delegation was also scheduled to be flown to Chakothi sector near the Line of Control, but the programme was cancelled due to bad weather. Earlier, the AJK chief secretary Shahid Rafi hosted a reception in the honour of the delegation at his office in new civil secretariat.