UK MPs to support Pakistans stance
14 December 2006
The News International
London: Pakistan on Thursday achieved a major and much needed diplomatic breakthrough here after some MPs of the House of Commons vowed to support Islamabad's stance on the Kashmir issue in the crucial session of the European Union parliament, which will discuss a motion against the holding of a plebiscite in the disputed Kashmir region. Copies of the motion, which denies the right of self-determination to Kashmiris if passed by the EU parliament in its session in March 2007, will be sent to the UN, China, two dozen countries of the EU, in addition to Pakistan and India, to work on the new proposal accordingly and put an end to this big controversy over which Pakistan and India have fought three wars since 1948. The MPs have not only termed a recent report of its foreign committee, which makes the basis of this motion against Kashmiris' right to self- determination, 'fundamentally flawed' but also demanded required changes to make it a balanced one before the EU parliament takes it up for discussion and approval. Pakistan is now depending on the crucial support of members of the House of Commons who formed the Parliamentary Group on Kashmir and were activated by Pakistan High Commissioner to UK Dr Maleeha Lodhi. Dr Lodhi is personally monitoring the process to activate British MPs to play a major role at the time of debate on the motion and seek amendments to the motion before its submission to the EU parliament in January next year. Pakistan was outraged and perturbed over the shocking contents of the EU Foreign Committee's report that strongly opposed the holding of any plebiscite on the Kashmir issue. Dr Lodhi is regularly meeting influential British Mps to gain their vital support in the European Union parliament to seek significant amendments to the motion, which otherwise might harm Pakistan's long-term strategic and diplomatic interests. As a first major diplomatic achievement, Pakistan succeeded in getting support of the Kashmir Group, which condemned Baroness Nicholsons report on Kashmir to the European parliament after terming it fundamentally 'flawed'. Earlier, members of the All- Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir met the Pakistani high commissioner on Wednesday in the House of Commons and unanimously agreed to support a series of amendments to the draft report on Kashmir. A specially convened emergency meeting of the group issued a strong worded statement on November 28 describing the report as fundamentally flawed and not a true reflection of the current situation of Kashmir. The group has now enlisted the support of MEP Richard Howitt, Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the European parliament, who has agreed to press for significant amendments to the report along the lines of the criticisms raised by his colleagues in Westminster. On this occasion, Dr Lodhi appreciated efforts of those MPs who attended the meeting of the APPG on Kashmir and others who called for substantial amendments to the report. 'I hope the European parliament will now take notice of the strong message that is coming out of Westminster, she said. A press release issued here said British MPs have also tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) 348, which describes Baroness Nicholson's report as one-sided and calls upon the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee to produce a more balanced report. Richard Howitt, member of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, said the peace process in Kashmir is at a crucial stage and they must make sure that the European parliament does everything possible to support positive moves. Martin Salter has agreed to forward amendments proposed in the draft report to the European parliament before the January 10 deadline. APP adds: A British member of parliament has described Baroness Emma Nicholsons draft report on Kashmir prepared for the European Union Foreign Affairs Committee as 'neither balanced nor accurate'. In his letter to Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, which was released to media on Thursday, MP for Reading East Robert Wilson has urged her to reconsider the report in the light of genuine concerns it is causing among the Pakistani and Kashmiri communities in the UK. The letter, Wilson wrote, said: 'I have been contacted by the Pakistan High Commission and by representatives of the Pakistan community in my constituency who are most concerned at the tenor of the draft report on Kashmir that you propose to present to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament. 'I have read your draft report carefully together with the submission from the Pakistani community and am concerned that the draft report, as presently constituted, is neither balanced nor accurate. 'In a region, where two nuclear powers are uneasy neighbours, anything that is a misrepresentation of the facts could be counter-productive or even inflammatory. It is wise to tread carefully in these circumstances.'