MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presides over a meeting with Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir at the AJK President House on Friday.—PPI
MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presides over a meeting with Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir at the AJK President House on Friday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD/MUZAFFARABAD: With Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assuring leaders of Azad Kashmir on Friday that he would raise the Kashmir dispute at the UN in a forceful manner, Pakistan and India are set to clash over the situation in India-held region at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Prime Minister Sharif will leave for New York on Saturday to participate in the UNGA meeting. He will address the General Assembly on Sept 21 (Wednesday).

“The prime minister will specifically focus on the current situation, particularly the continuing grave violations of human rights by the Indian occupation forces, in the Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

“He will call upon the international community and the United Nations to live up to their promise [about] the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the statement added.

The Kashmir issue has almost always been a part of the statements by the Pakistani side at the UNGA meetings, but officials privy to the preparations being made for this year’s session said the dispute would find special mention in Mr Sharif’s speech next week.

India-held Kashmir is witnessing a new phase of uprising in which at least 80 people have been killed and some 10,000 have been injured, including 700 who have been rendered completely or partially blind due to use of pellet guns by Indian forces.

After meeting Kashmiri leaders in Muzaffarabad on Friday, Mr Sharif said: “I would once again highlight the Kashmir issue in my address at the United Nations General Assembly session and also in the bilateral meetings with world leaders during the upcoming visit to the UN.”

During his hour-long meeting with Kashmiri leaders, including AJK President Sardar Mohammad Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, Mr Sharif deplored the Indian forces’ excesses against innocent people who were struggling for their right to self-determination.

“This right to self-determination was given to the Kashmiri people by the United Nations itself, which has unfortunately failed so far to implement its own resolutions,” he said.

He said Pakistan was rightly supporting the just and indigenous struggle of the Kashmiris for freedom from Indian occupation.

Indian strategy

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the UN meeting. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will address the meeting in his place on Sept 26. Anticipating a strong statement from Pakistan on Kashmir, Indian media said “a befitting reply” was being prepared by the Indian government for the session.

Whenever Pakistan has raised the Kashmir issue, India has responded by accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in India and the neighbourhood and by raising the Balochistan issue.

India took up the Balochistan issue on Wednesday at the UN Human Rights Council for the first time.

There will also be a meeting of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting.

“On the sidelines of the UNGA, the prime minister will hold bilateral meetings with a number of world leaders, including the UN secretary-general,” the FO statement said.

The other main issue that Mr Sharif will be taking up will be Pakistan’s candidature for the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Published in Dawn September 17th, 2016

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