Scouts' visit to held Kashmir criticized
5 July 2004
Our Staff Reporter
Islamabad: The government was put on the backfoot as it came under strong criticism from the religious right in the Senate on Monday over the visit of Pakistani scouts to a camp in held Kashmir. Deputy chairman senate, Khalil-ur-Rehman, bailed out Education Minister Zobaida Jalal as Senator Professor Ghafoor Ahmed of the Muttahida Majlis-i- Amal questioned the presentation of a bouquet to the Indians by the Pakistani scouts in held Kashmir. After Prof Ghafoor raised the issue on a point of order, the deputy chairman senate addressed the education minister and said 'You do not want to respond to it, do you?' Earlier, while trying to bring order to the proceedings of the house, the deputy chairman had observed that it was the privilege of a minister to choose to respond or not to respond on a point of order. The education minister, who is also the chief scout, was about to rise to speak, but then took a cue from chair and preferred not to respond to the point raised by the MMA senator. Pakistan has for the first time sent its scouts delegation to participate in a five-day camp of scouts belonging to Saarc countries at Gulmerg, about 52 kilometres from Srinagar. The decision to send the delegation is reported to have been criticized also by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Syed Ali Shah Gilani who regretted Pakistani scouts' presence as guests of Indians in held Kashmir. When his comments were sought on the issue, Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said the visit was taking place under the auspices of Saarc and it had a regional context. It had no bilateral context, he added. The spokesman categorically ruled out that Pakistani scouts helped the Indians in erecting the fence.