Pakistani PM calls for trade between divided parts of Kashmir

30 April 2008
The Dawn
Tariq Naqash

Muzaffarabad: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday called for starting trade and tourism activities between the divided parts of Kashmir and suggested greater opportunities for the Kashmiris on the two sides to sit and interact with each other. “We are happy that the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service has been launched and some points have been opened along the Line of Control for divided families. While these steps should be appreciated, we would also like that trade and tourism between the two parts is also initiated,” he said. Mr Gilani was addressing a special joint sitting of the AJK assembly and the AJK council during his first visit to Muzaffarabad after assuming the office of prime minister. He said that in all spheres of life, the people of Kashmir should be given maximum opportunities to interact with each other. Underlining the importance of talks for conflict resolution, he said Pakistan would continue to advance the peace process with India and use the process of dialogue to resolve the core issue of Kashmir. “Pakistan wants to hold purposeful and result-oriented talks with India and we are hopeful that the (ongoing) composite dialogue between the two sides will arrive at a better outcome,” he said. Mr Gilani called for an end to the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir to create a more favourable atmosphere. Paying tribute to the sacrifices rendered by the people of Kashmir for their right to self determination, he said these would not go in vain. “History itself is advocating their cause because the justness of their struggle is self evident. Their movement is not against anyone but for the fulfilment of a pledge made by the United Nations,” he said. He also made it clear that Pakistan would fully respect the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiris about their future status. The prime minister said he had full realisation of the losses and wanted that reconstruction work to be completed as early as possible. He announced that a review meeting of Erra would be held every month to speed up the rehabilitation and reconstruction process. ”This process would not be hindered on account of resource crunch.” Mr Gilani acknowledged that rehabilitation of the people affected by the Mangla dam extension project was an important issue and it would be settled soon. He directed the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs to resolve all issues relevant to the project. The prime minister announced that the federal government would establish a medical college in Muzaffarabad in collaboration with the AJK Council, the AJK government and the private sector. “We would also conduct a feasibility study for a women’s university in AJK,” he said. The prime minister said that the government wanted to revive normal activities in areas along the Line of Control which had been badly affected by cross-border shelling from 1989 to 2003. The federal government would also to tap the rich water resources in Azad Kashmir, he said, adding that the government was considering allowing construction of a 100 megawatt hydropower projects in public sector. About the increase of Rs500 in the monthly subsistence allowance for Kashmiri refugees, he said the government would try to include that raise in the next budget. Earlier, AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, Leader of Opposition Sardar Qamaruz Zaman and Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir welcomed the prime minister. When the floor was given to the leader of the house, lawmakers from People’s Muslim League, JK People’s Party and MQM demanded that the head of each parliamentary party should be given time to speak. However, when the chair did not accept the demand, they walked out of the house, but returned when the prime minister stared his speech. Earlier, the house unanimously paid tribute to slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto through a resolution tabled by PPAJK secretary general Chaudhry Latif Akbar.