Member of British Parliament Debbie Abrahams – who heads All Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group (APPKG) in the House of Commons – has said Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue reflected the country’s openness and progressive approach to the dispute, expressing hope that India would “reciprocate”.
A delegation of the APPKG, which is an independent group of parliamentarians from the United Kingdom, was scheduled to visit both sides of the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir to evaluate the human rights situation in the region.
However, the British MP along with her delegation was denied entry into India two days ago despite having a valid visa.
Speaking in Islamabad alongside Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and British MP Imran Hussain, Abrahams welcomed the foreign minister’s stance on having a third UN report issued on human rights violations along both sides of the LoC, adding that it showed the openness and progressive approach taken by Pakistan on this issue. “I hope India will reciprocate as well.”
“We [the group] had a very full and frank discussion with the foreign minister. I am very grateful to him and to the Pakistani government for facilitating this independent trip of the group from the UK parliament.
“We sought to visit Pakistan and Azad Kashmir so that we could understand in more detail about what was happening and to speak with people there.
“We also sought to visit India and Jammu and Kashmir, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened. Hopefully it will happen in the future,” she said.
Abrahams said that Qureshi was very forthcoming about what was happening [in the region] even when “pressed for answers to specific questions that were raised in the last UN human rights report”.
“When we were planning this trip, we wanted to make sure that the delegation visited both India and Jammu & Kashmir and had access in the same way we have been facilitated by the Pakistani government.
“But I have had no responses to my requests for a delegation to go to Jammu & Kashmir [on India’s side]. I hope India will take the opportunity to reflect on Pakistan’s approach to addressing the issues that it has faced in different parts of the country and how they are responding to the report from the UN […] and take the opportunity to become more open […] We are an independent group, we are not anti-India or pro-Pakistan, we are pro-human rights.”
When asked what practical measures the group will undertake to end repression in the valley, she replied:
“Please don’t be under any illusion we are not doing that. Last week, I met with the British foreign minister […] and I know my Conservative colleagues who are part of this delegation will also be reporting back to their parties.
“What is going on in Jammu & Kashmir has not gone unnoticed. We are not here for a sightseeing trip, to look at what is happening and to do nothing. We are constantly raising this […] we hope in addition to what we are doing through our government, the international community as a whole will realise that human rights is a priority and that priorities are not just about trade.”