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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday ruled out the possibility of resuming trade activities with India under the current circumstance and emphasised that the country’s political leadership needs to be singing from the same hymn book on the issue.

The foreign minister was speaking at the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs while responding to the queries by its members in its meeting chaired by Chairman Farooq H Naek.

He assured the committee that Pakistan will not unilaterally resume trade with India under the current circumstances in the wake of Modi government’s August 2, 2019 illegal and unilateral actions. However, he was of the view that had trade activities not been curbed prior to the abrogation of Article 370 on 5th August 2019; curtailing trade activities as protest would deal a severe blow to the Indian economy. He stressed that all the political leadership in the country needs to be singing from the same hymn book on this issue.

On the grave human rights violations in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he emphasised the need for efforts to improve the country’s human rights record with a view to avoid getting blowback while raising the grave human rights violations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir internationally.

He said that whenever Pakistan presents the case of India’s grave human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir internationally, the Indian government pointed out the issues of missing persons and the human rights issues within the country.

He added that although it is inappropriate to link the grave human rights violations in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir with such issues within the country, there is a need for undertaking measures to address the human rights issues internally.

He emphasized the need for taking measures to address these issues in all the provinces whether it is in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan.

However, he added that Pakistan continues and it will continue to raise the issue of Jammu and Kashmir globally and it will continue to extend moral, political, and diplomatic support to the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to the BJP-RSS-led Hindutva ideology, he regretted that Pakistan had in the past missed the opportunity to build a narrative globally about Modi’s extremist designs.

“We should have built a narrative the day, the ‘Butcher of Gujrat’ was elected, as we knew that no county was ready to issue visa to Modi prior to his election as the prime minister. But we missed that opportunity,” he further regretted.

The foreign minister further stated that irrespective of Pakistan’s measures, Modi himself was exposing his own designs through his actions.

Through a resolution, passed unanimously, the committee paid tribute to the monumental struggle of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik for the Kashmiri right of self-determination guaranteed by several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

It also condemned the Indian courts for slapping fabricated charges and denying fair trial and inhuman incarceration and treatment despite his deteriorating health. It was asserted that this was a mockery of justice and in complete defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

While supporting their Kashmiri brethren, the panel urged the world powers and the UN bodies to adopt a clear and unanimous stance to press the Indian regime to ensure the release of Yasin Malik and give the Kashmiri people their denied birthright. The committee strongly condemned the revocation of the special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The committee lauded the efforts of Mushaal Mullick, wife of Yasin Malik, who was also among the attendees. The committee noted that Mullick is under severe threat by the Indian RAW and recommended to the government to ensure her safety and that of her daughter by providing her security at home and while travelling.

In addition, the committee asserted that she must be granted a diplomatic passport so that she is able to advocate the Kashmir cause globally. On this, the foreign minister said that the Foreign Office would write to Interior and also urged the committee to forward its recommendation for issuing a diplomatic passport to Mullick.

Mullick, thanking the committee for its stance on the Kashmir issue, stressed the need for the government to amplify efforts to resolve this issue or else the Kashmiris would cease to be a majority in the occupied Valley. She emphasized the need for rigorously strengthening “Lawfare” to counter Indian measures.

The committee while discussing whether or not trade is an option with India, the committee stressed that trade must not be resumed. Doing so would send a wrong message and would be tantamount to appeasement and selling out Kashmiri brethren.

Expressing grave concern regarding the worsening treatment of Muslims in India, the committee severely condemned statements given by the BJP leaders against the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). It emphasized that the UN must designate India “a country of particular concern” for three consecutive years, under the International Religious Freedom Act.

The committee unanimously passed the Diplomatic Consular Officers (Oath and Fees) (Amendment) Bill, 2022 with directions to formulate rules immediately.

The meeting was attended by Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Palwasha Khan, Tahir Bizenjo, Walid Iqbal, Anwarul Haq Kakar, and senior officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice along with all concerned.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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