ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday called off the 61st Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC), scheduled to be held here from Sept 30 to Oct 8 following pressure from other members to invite the speaker of the legislature of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
Earlier, retired General Pervez Musharraf, as president of Pakistan, had invited an IOK delegation to the country in 2007. “That was the decision of a dictator. As far as the commitment of the democratically-elected government with the Kashmir cause is concerned, we are resolved not to compromise,” National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said after announcing the cancellation of the conference.
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Mr Sadiq was unanimously elected president of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in October 2014 at the 60th CPC, held in Cameroon which decided that the next conference of the 53-member body would be held in Islamabad.
Addressing a press conference at the Parliament House, Mr Sadiq said that the CPA secretariat in London had called him and asked him to formally invite the speaker of the IOK assembly. “In response, I forwarded him the United Nations’ resolutions on Kashmir, along with my written reply that due to these resolutions, it is not possible for me to extend such an invitation.”
He said that the speaker of the Bangladesh assembly, who is also the CPA chairperson, had also requested him to review the decision. “However, I categorically told her that it was next to impossible for Pakistan to change its principled stand on Kashmir,” he said.
In addition to the chairperson, Pakistan’s stance was also conveyed to the CPA’s 35 members of the executive during a video-conference, Mr Sadiq said.
He said it was not appropriate to host the CPC while compromising on the Kashmir cause, adding that the CPA had insisted that Pakistan invite the IOK assembly speaker. “I tried my best to convince them otherwise, but finally decided to cancel the upcoming conference instead of changing our earlier stance,” he explained.
He said that the CPC would have been a magnificent opportunity to project Pakistan’s soft image as some 550 delegates from member countries were due in the federal capital to attend the conference.
Pakistan had vehemently made the case for holding the 61st CPC in Islamabad and lobbied furiously with members, many of whom had serious apprehensions regarding security and were reluctant to come, he claimed.
To a question, the National Assembly speaker said that the Indian government did not want Pakistan to hold the CPC and had therefore linked their participation in the event to an invitation for the IOK speaker.
Despite the cancellation of the conference, he said, Pakistan used this opportunity to once again highlight the Kashmir dispute as the unfinished agenda of partition and remind the global community, especially CPA members, about the plight of the Kashmiri people with the dire need for an amicable solution as per their aspirations. “Pakistan will raise this issue at the upcoming Speakers’ Conference in New York and the meeting of the International Parliamentary Union in Geneva,” Mr Sadiq asserted.
Though the speaker’s focus was the cancelled Commonwealth summit, he also answered a few questions regarding MQM legislators’ resignations. “This matter would be proceeded [with] in accordance with the guidelines given by the superior courts,” he said.
The high court, he said, had also issued a judgment in an identical matter and paragraphs 16-20 of the judgment – issued in January 2015 by a two-member division bench – was relevant in this case. As the speaker of the National Assembly, he said, he would act upon the judgment.
The paragraphs in question observe that the speaker is under a constitutional duty to undertake an inquiry to determine that the resignations are genuine and the member actually intends to relinquish, relieve or quit the seat. It further says, “It is also not enough that the member in question makes public announcements in this regard or presents him or herself en masse before the speaker.” According to the judgment, if the speaker is not satisfied that the resignation was tendered after meeting these requirements, it would “become ineffective as it is no more valid”.
Mr Sadiq also said, tongue-in-cheek, that he could write a book on the subject of resignations by now, but that this was not the appropriate time for such a write-up.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2015