London Kashmir Conference In Jeopardy
23 November 2007
Srinagar: The proposed 'International Kashmir Conference' on November 28 to 29 in London may be called off due to severe condemnation of the organisers - Kashmir Centre headed by Nazir Ahmad Shawl. The conference has been widely condemned by UK-based Kashmiri groups for inviting President National Conference, Omar Abdullah. All Parties Kashmir Coordination Committee (APKCC) an alliance of the British Kashmiris and Pakistani political parties while opposing the participation of pro-Indian Kashmiri leaders has asked Shawl to withdraw the invitation to National Conference president. A conglomerate of 12 political parties and activist groups, APKCC has threatened boycott and a massive protest against Kashmir Centre if the invitation to Abdullah was not revoked. Accusing Nazir Shawl of sprinkling salt on the wounds of Kashmiris by inviting National Conference President to the Conference, prominent British Kashmiri leader and president of People's Muslim Conference, Chaudhary Shaban questioned if the conference was really being held for the benefit of Kashmiri people. Another Kashmiri activist and JKLF leader Raja Abdul Rauf Khan condemned the decision of Kashmir Centre to invite Abdullah in the conference. Maulana Bostan Qadri, one of the senior and very well known Kashmiri activists and Chairman of Tehreek-e-Ulema, Jammu Kashmir UK said London Conference would be boycotted if invitation to leaders like Abdullah was not withdrawn. Inferring that Kashmir Centre was involved in conspiracies against Kashmiris, he said that Kashmiri community was fully alive to 'conspiracies against the freedom movement and it will not allow anyone to play with the sentiments of Kashmiri community'. One of the Kashmiris, on the condition of anonymity, accused Shawl of making money out of Kashmiri cause and now trying to reach out to India in order to get a safe passage back to Srinagar. Earlier this year, a newspaper report claimed that his wife Shameema Shawl met with a pro-India Kashmiri politician and tourism minister in London. Nazir Ahmad Shawl would be hardest hit by the statement of Tehreek-e-Kashmir, a pro-Jamaat-e- Islami group who used to support Shawl because of his Jamat background. In his remarks, President Teheek-e-Kashmir UK Mohammad Ghalib said that inviting the National Conference President was tantamount to making a joke with the blood of 'martyrs' and their sacred sacrifices. Meanwhile, people too are not happy with the decision of organizers to invite Abdullah for the conference saying that the exercise is just a step of minting money in the name of holding such conferences. 'My personal opinion is that every one should be invited, but we have to see the spirit of conference. It is all crap and it does not help. It is a Kashmiri conference meant for Kashmiri consumption and it does not do anything in moulding public opinion here. The same does not even get a line in the British Press,' said a person from London. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Advisory Council of Justice Foundation Kashmir Centre (JFKC) London has expressed deep sadness and disappointment on the way the spirit of the 3rd International Peace Conference on Kashmir, being held in London on 28th and 29th November 2007, has been interpreted. 'As has always been the demand of Western politicians, the JFKC, on this occasion took a very bold and courageous step to attempt to bring all stakeholders from both sides of Kashmir together with heavy international presence. All political voices of Kashmir were invited. This conference is to provide an opportunity for opposing political opinions to interact through a constructive and meaningful way,' said the spokesperson. The spokesperson said that as many international figures are attending the conference, it is hoped that a new approach adopted by JFKC will be welcomed by those who strive and help in the establishment of world peace. The status of the London Conference was already a suspect given the fact that there is severe resentment among the Western politicians with regards to the emergency in Pakistan. The British politicians have out rightly condemned Pakistani emergency and demanded the restoration of democratic institutions. Though Shawl has managed to sign a couple of British MPs to attend the conference, he has failed to solicit support of ethnic Pakistani MPs.