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Dialogue is the Only Way Forward: Kashmir Seminar at House of Commons

Dialogue is the Only Way Forward: Kashmir Seminar at House of Commons
The international community has no stomach for tackling the Kashmir issue but dialogue is the only way forward for to resolve the problems, just as it has been done for other countries, was the conclusion at a thought provoking seminar hosted at the House of Commons yesterday by Dave Anderson MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on TWS. The chief guest of the evening was military historian and renowned author Victoria Schofield with speakers including Khalid Mahmood MP, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Toaha Qureshi MBE, PHC HE Syed Ibne Abbas, Naz Shah MP, Lord Qurban Hussain amongst others. Mushtaq Lasharie welcomed the guests and oversaw the proceedings.

Victoria Schofield, the keynote address, said that it was about time that this issue was resolved. She gave a historical background into how the Kashmir issue had started, putting particular focus to the rise of freedom fighters after the political process resulted in rigged elections. At the time, the West was supporting jihad in Afghanistan which was an inspiration and influence to the people of Kashmir to take up arms, she elaborated. It was 2001 that was a pivotal year, in her opinion, when all movements of Kashmir were branded as terrorists and no more support was given to freedom fighters, who had now become the infamous jihadis, also known as terrorists. Ms Schofield argued dialogue is the only way forward to resolve the the problems; the days of the freedom fighting had made their point, but was no longer viable in this day and age. The history of Kashmir has been long and tortuous, but Kashmir cannot be neglected – it affects everybody.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, Father of the House of Commons, said it was inexcusable for the Indian government to spend billions on arms whilst not supporting refugees in India. He condemned the British prime minister for disregarding Kashmir during the Indian prime minister’s visit to the UK, saying that David Cameron chased money by trailing behind Narendra Modi like a pet. Calling international leaders heartless, he said they would be labelled culpable and stupid for not being pro active in resolving these issues. Kashmir has seen more people die than in the Syrian crisis and must be brought to the table. He also condemned the US for violating the sovereignty of countries, including Pakistan, with the use of drone strikes.

Naz Shah MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Chancellor, was resolute in her stance, urging the British government to do more labelling Kashmir a humanitarian/human rights crisis and insisting campaigners to move away from labelling Kashmir solely a self determination issue. However, she also said that we should focus our attention on other human rights abuses, where Pakistan is seeing persecution against minorities.

Toaha Qureshi MBE, Chairman Forum for International Relations Development (FIRD), likened the resolution of Kashmir to that of Sudan and East Timor, Scotland, Ireland and others. He stated that the conflict resolution was a must and in this era there is no excuse for there not to be an outcome. He took Naz Shah MP to task, rebutting the assertion that only minorities were being persecuted in Pakistan; instead he impressed upon the audience that Pakistan as a whole has been a victim of persecution by terrorists since its society has been attacked indiscriminately, whether Muslim or non Muslim, from mosques/shrines and churches/temples to markets and schools to military outposts. Therefore, Pakistan as a nation is as much a casualty and sufferer as anyone else. Mr Qureshi then invited the Pakistan High Commissioner to bring members of parliament and others to the High Commission to raise awareness on this issue.

HE Syed Ibne Abbas, High Commissioner for Pakistan to the UK, said that he was representing the government of Pakistan when expressing his unwavering solidarity with the people of Kashmir. He dismissed claims that Kashmir was a territorial dispute, saying that it was an issue of human rights violations. Agreeing with Mr Qureshi, he made clear that there is a difference between perception and reality when it comes to Pakistan – but unfortunately, some people are peddling agendas.

Khalid Mahmood MP, Chair of the APPG on Foreign Affairs, began by highlighting the frustration felt by many over the lack of progress on Kashmir. Despite Indian NGO’s as well as Amnesty International evidencing violations by troops of the Indian army, they are still being exempt from questioning and accountability by the government of India. He said that cross party support was needed to deal with countries in a fair and balanced manner; the agenda when dealing with the government should be drilled down and focused on human rights violations. Mr Mahmood said India wants to join the UN security council but cannot claim to be the largest democracy without behaving like one.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, President of APPG on Kashmir, said that support was needed internationally, starting at a grassroots level and making its way to strategic platforms. Promoting social media as a power platform in spreading information, Lord Ahmed urged the audience to use the like of Facebook and Twitter to share articles and links to raise awareness amongst people. What was made clear at this seminar was that support from strategic bodies, such as the Arab League, was lacking and needed to be developed.

Lord Qurban Hussain made note that it was India who lobbied the UN in 1948 for a cease fire over Kashmir and promised the world they would follow the resolutions made by the UN. However, India has always shied away from its responsibility and has not been held accountable. He went on to say that the UK should not support India as it vies to be a member of the security council until the Kashmir issue is resolved. Lord Hussain warned that any country who wanted to try to resolve the issue should make the foundation of its agreement on the UN resolutions and moving away from them would be a monumental mistake.

Dave Anderson MP, chair of the APPG on TWS, gave his concluding remarks to the audience by saying that standing up for Kashmir was the right thing to do and people could not be deterred by slow movements otherwise those who would like to see Kashmir remain a static issue would be pleased.

The seminar was attended by councillors, community leaders, students, volunteers, media and others.

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