Some members of the European Parliament are visiting J&K to have a fresh look at situation in the State ahead of the debate on the EU Parliament’s draft report on Kashmir that has indicted Pakistan of curbing liberties and exporting terrorism to the Indian part of the State.
Richard Howitt, MEP from UK is visiting the State with a clear mission to 'rewrite the Parliament’s draft report which has caused such a controversy and Britain and in the region," according to his office. He is also Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the European Parliament.
The draft report on Kashmir, titled 'Kashmir: present situation and future' prospects by MEP and rapporteur Baroness Emma Nicholson for the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament triggered strong reactions by Pakistan. It sponsored a global campaign, especially throughout the European continent to get the report invalidated.
There are now as many as 465 amendments. The debate will begin on February 26 and vote will take place on March 21 at the EU headquarters, Brussels.
Richard Howitt, MEP from UK is travelling to the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir divided by Line of Control in his capacity as Labour’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in the European Parliament, and also Vice President of the Parliament’s Human Rights subcommittee.
"Richard is currently leading attempts in the EP to re-write the Parliament's draft report on the Kashmir dispute, which has caused such controversy in Britain and in the region," according to Brian Dawson, Press and Constituency Officer to the MEP.
In an e-mail message circulated to the people whom he would meet during the trip, Richard would be seeking to know the situation and impact of the report could have on 'EU relations with the region'.
The draft report has shown how the people were suffering in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. Emma Nicholson compiled the report after meeting various sections of people on both sides of the political divide in J&K.
The report has made certain critical observations about 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' or AJK) as Pakistan fondly calls its part of Kashmir, especially in the aftermath of the October 8, 2005 earthquake that killed nearly 90,000 people and rendered three million others homeless.
It has raised questions about the democratic credentials of Pakistani government, and its commitment to the people and institutions in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. There is a clear statement that the idea of plebiscite was outdated and that Pakistan.
It has regretted that the quake has made 'everyday life virtually impossible for millions of people who were already among some of the most disadvantaged in the region.'
The draft report has noticed the difference in response of Pakistani and Indian governments to the quake. It credited India for its prompt response to the natural disaster and applauded its 'competence with which the emergency was addressed by the government, the local population and the army' and noted that, "as a result, of the 30,000 who lost their homes, all now have housing due in large measure to an intelligent self-help policy instituted by the government."
But it was appalled "the already minimal basic rights enjoyed by Pakistani Kashmiris before the earthquake (ie food, water, shelter, sanitation, schools, and barely adequate health-centres) have been decimated, compounding a situation notable for a lack of democracy and the existence of oppressive and unjust laws, especially those applicable to women."
Noting in the context of massive destruction and enormous seriousness of the humanitarian situation, continuing calls for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir are wholly out of step with the needs of the local people and thus damaging to their interests; urges those playing 'big power' politics when millions are in basic need to redirect their energies to fighting the corruption that has wrongly diverted the flow of international funding away from the intended recipients."
Ever since the report was released in November-end last year, Pakistan has been at a vocal unease. It has activated its entire network across the globe, particularly in the European countries to ensure that the report is discarded.
Pakistan had even sponsored a delegation headed by PoK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Khan to Europe to get the report withdrawn or redrafted.
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