EU urged to open contact office in Azad Kashmir
3 January 2007
Muzzafarabad: Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan on Wednesday suggested that the European Union should set up its contact office in Azad Kashmir in order to gather firsthand information on the feelings of Kashmiris. “The region of Kashmir will witness a lot of developments in the coming days and a contact office in Azad Jammu and Kashmir will help curb any misunderstandings like the European Parliament's report on Kashmir Baroness Emma Nicholson had developed,” he said. The AJK premier was talking to two key members of the European Parliament at his official residence here who also attended a briefing on the ongoing reconstruction phase in quake-hit areas of AJK. The members included European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Mr Elmar Brok and Mr James Elles, co-founder and chairman of the All Party Group on Kashmir.Sardar Attique expressed his gratitude to the European Union for extending generous aid to the AJK's quake- affected areas and said survivors would long remember these acts of kindness and empathy on the part of the international community. He, however, called for 'institutionalised arrangement' for long-term project sponsorship by the EU in different sectors in AJK. Referring to Emma Nicholson's report, Sardar Attique said ground realities could not change or could not be changed through any report. 'The area which you are visiting today is open to the entire world. We don't exaggerate things and we have nothing to hide (from the international community),' he said. He also pointed out that there was not a single political prisoner in AJK and foreigners had access to its remotest areas which was in sharp contrast to the situation on the other side of the Line of Control. Similarly, he said the standard of education and the literacy rate in AJK was much better than that in its surrounding areas but unfortunately Emma Nicholson's report had not properly mentioned these facts. Sardar Attique said he would lead a delegation to Brussels when the report would be debated in the European Parliament. In this regard, he also extended an invitation through the visiting MEPs to the President of the European Parliament, Mr Josep Borrell Fontelles, to visit AJK before the initiation of the discussion on the report. Responding to a question by the visiting European Parliament members, Sardar Attique welcomed the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's response to President Gen Pervez Musharraf's 4-point proposal on Kashmir, but stressed that India should take 'bold steps' to match its words. 'We don't doubt their (India's) intentions although they don't carry a good track record. But it's a fact that sustenance of peace process largely depends on New Delhi's role and it must take bold actions,' he said. 'There should be a token withdrawal of Indian troops from civilian populations in the first stage, followed by gradual and complete pullout,' he said, adding, India should improve human rights situation and release political prisoners from the held territory, facilitate intra-Kashmir dialogue, open more routes along the dividing line, and simplify the procedure for trans- LoC travelling besides increasing the frequency of crossings. He expressed the hope that MEPs would also travel to Indian-held Kashmir to see for themselves the difference of situations between the two parts of the divided Himalayan region. Earlier, the MEPs also visited a Kashmiri refugees' camp on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad where they briefly spoke to them and called for advancement of the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan for the betterment of the people of the whole region. An official handout quoted Mr Brok as saying that the European Parliament wanted to see a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue as it would pave the way for economic stability and prosperity and an end of tension in India and Pakistan.Mr Elles also expressed similar views, according to the handout, saying that the European Parliament would play its role in the resolution to the Kashmir issue. Click to learn more...