US senator barred from entering IOK, visits Azad Kashmir

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By Muhammad Luqman

Days after New Delhi barred a US senator from visiting Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Pakistan on Sunday organised a fact-finding visit of a high-level US congressional delegation to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

The US delegation comprising Senator Chris Van Hollen, who was barred by India from visiting Srinagar, and Senator Maggie Hassan, along with their staffers and US Charge d’Affaires Ambassador Paul Jones, visited Muzaffarabad, according Pakistan Foreign Office’s statement.

“The purpose of the visit was to see the ground situation and gauge public sentiment following the August 5 illegal Indian actions in occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement reads.

But the larger objective of the visit was to expose India’s crackdown in occupied Kashmir, which has been under total lockdown since August 5, following New Delhi’s move to strip the occupied territory off its special status.

A Foreign Office official said that Pakistan remains ready to facilitate any foreign visitor intending to travel to AJK. “Unlike, India, Pakistan has nothing to hide,” the official asserted.

Pakistan’s move would certainly increase pressure on India which has barred foreign journalists and other visitors to travel to IOK.

A briefing on the current situation at the Line of Control (LoC) was given by Major General Amer, while the delegation also called on AJK President Sardar Masood Khan and AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider.

As per the FO statement, the American senators said they shared Pakistan’s concerns over New Delhi’s human rights abuses in IOK and would continue to urge India to lift the curfew and release all prisoners as a first step.

The AJK leaders thanked the senators for the visit and appreciated their support for the just cause of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Along with a firsthand view of the vibrant and thriving Kashmiri community in Azad Kashmir, the US delegation was also apprised of the historical background of the Kashmir dispute.

They were also briefed on the deteriorating situation in IOK in the wake of the prolonged curfew and suppression of other fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly since August 5.

The AJK leadership expressed the hope that the US delegation’s visit to AJK would help them gain vital firsthand information and a better understanding of the prevailing humanitarian crisis in IOK.

 

This, they said, would help the American senators better explain the ground situation to their colleagues at Capitol Hill and in the US government.

It was noted that India’s policy to not allow neutral observers to visit occupied Kashmir had exposed New Delhi’s “all is well” propaganda.

The AJK president and prime minister urged the US senators to play their part in helping free the people of IOK from India’s repressive brutal measures.

They also called on the Americans to continue pressing India to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Last month, US senators wrote to President Donald Trump asking him facilitate and urge Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end the current humanitarian crisis in occupied Kashmir. They urged Trump to immediately intervene to help end the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the region. The senators also urged the US president to put pressure on Modi to lift curfews and restore telecommunications services in the territory.

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