ISLAMABAD: An ‘All Parties Conference’ with the sole agenda of discussing India’s Line of Control (LoC) violations and the unrest in Kashmir on Monday united the country’s otherwise wrangling political leaders as the government and opposition said they stood united against "Indian aggression".
“We don’t want our disagreements to damage the Kashmir cause,” said Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as the conference concluded and the heads of political parties spoke to journalists about their hours long deliberation.
Salient points of joint resolution issued by political parties
- To urge international community to take concrete steps for implementation of UNSC resolutions in Kashmir
- Condemn killing of Kashmiris and provide political, moral and diplomatic support to people of IHK
- Resolve current national issues
- Recognise recent unprovoked Indian aggression, ceasefire violations as a threat to regional peace and security
- Reject Indian efforts to shift focus from Kashmir atrocities through false claims of cross-border terrorism
- Condemn Indian intent to use water as a weapon
- Regret Indian designs to scuttle diplomatic efforts, including refusal to engage constructively at Saarc
- Condemn Indian interference in Balochistan
- Condemn Indian attempts to destabilise Pakistan
“I told the prime minister that this is a unique moment for Pakistan… Unity at home can win Kashmiris their freedom. We have all agreed on this.”
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Farooq Sattar, too, echoed his sentiments. “We want to send a message to the outside world that our unity is undeterred,” said Sattar, adding that all political leaders were given a “warm welcome” by the PM at the conference.
“India should know that it will get a befitting response for its terrorism over water in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding that Pakistan needs to “fine tune” its diplomatic efforts on Kashmir.
Despite their major reservations with the government and prime minister on individual issues, the usually disgruntled political leaders spoke with one voice at the conference today, setting aside all differences to project a united front on the India issue.
Just days earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan held a massive rally in the prime minister’s homeground of Raiwind, demanding that he be held accountable for his family’s links to offshore accounts.
But today, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi talked about a need for all parties to "put up a united front before the world."
The PTI leader, before the meeting, appreciated PM Nawaz's speech at the United Nations General Assembly and noted that the "present government has taken positive steps regarding improvement in relations with India but regrettably, the other side has not reciprocated."
The meeting was convened with the one-point agenda to send a "clear message to the outside world" regarding what the government feels is continued Indian aggression along the LoC as well as Indian atrocities in held Kashmir.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing the meeting vowed to relentlessly highlight the plight of Kashmiri people in international fora with the support of all political parties, Radio Pakistan reported.
The PM said Pakistan's political leadership stands united on matters of national importance, particularly the Kashmir cause, a statement that was echoed by parliamentary leaders after the meeting.
The Kashmir movement cannot be suppressed by Indian brutalities, the PM said, adding that the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination is legitimate and mandated by the United Nations Security Council. Kashmiris and Pakistanis are inseparable, he said.
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry during the meeting briefed participants about the latest situation in occupied Kashmir and the LoC, and about human rights violations in IHK, especially those against women and children.
PPP puts differences aside
Leading his party at the meeting, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had said, "Despite our differences with the government on multiple issues, we are with you, prime minister, on the Kashmir issue and Indian aggression along LoC."
"We will support you. The PPP has taken a clear stance on these issues. This is a turning point in Pak-India relations," he added.
He also said, "A united Pakistan can counter Indian aggression and by working together we can achieve our national security goals. There is no military solution to Kashmir."
"It is a proud moment for Pakistan that all parties are together on Kashmir issue," he told reporters after the meeting.
"We all agreed to work together for national unity of Kashmir issue. If we don’t answer India collectively, our diplomatic stance gets week internationally.
"This resolution is on the issue Kashmir, we don’t want our disagreements to damage Kashmir cause."
PTI lauds PM’s efforts
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, "India's behaviour, the way they have tried to breach the Indus Waters Treaty, should be considered an act of aggression, a hostile act."
The PTI leader was referring to Indian Prime Minister Modi's move to suspend Indus Waters Commission talks and reports that India plans to accelerate building of new hydro-power plants along three rivers that flow into Pakistan.
Qureshi added that the situation in Balochistan should be kept separate from the ongoing situation in held Kashmir. "Kashmir is an internationally-recognised dispute whereas Balochistan is a part of our sovereign nation," he said.
'No compromise on Pakistan’s defence'
As reported by Radio Pakistan, PML (Q) leader Kamil Ali Agha said no compromise can be made on Pakistan defence. “We are one nation and one voice on this issue.”
He said Indian “state sponsored terrorism” is condemnable and Pakistan should expose Indian propaganda on Balochistan and Gilgit. He said Pakistan should work hard to forge new alliances at international forums.
Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of Awami National Party said the prime minister's speech at the UNGA has given a new life to Kashmir dispute on diplomatic front.
He congratulated the Prime Minister for holding the meeting of parliamentary leaders at this critical juncture.
Addressing the conference, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, "We need to form national unity at this critical moment and we need the collective voice and resolve of the entire nation at the political and diplomatic level."
He added, "We need to denounce and highlight the brutal atrocities in IHK. Today's meeting has sent a positive message to the world over."
Vow to highlight Indian atrocities
During the meeting, political leaders decided to send delegations to countries in order to highlight Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Political parties have also demanded that a security committee should be formed.
It was also said that the United Nations Commission of Human Rights should be made aware of Indian atrocities in the valley and that a delegation from the international body should be sent there to investigate the ground reality.
An invitation to attend the meeting was extended to heads of all parties across the two houses of parliament without discrimination.
The only exception was Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the sole member of his Awami Muslim League in the National Assembly. According to a senior PM official the exception has been made at all such gatherings during the term of the current government.
Members of government present included PM Nawaz Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Khan.
The PPP delegation at the meeting today, headed by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, included Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah, Sherry Rehman and former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
PTI's Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shireen Mazari represented their party at the conference, whereas Dr Farooq Sattar represented the MQM. JI leader Sirajul Haq also attended the meeting.
Earlier in September, tensions between India and Pakistan soared as at least two Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in an incident of open firing by Indian troops on the first line of defence. While India claimed to have performed a "surgical strike" by crossing the disputed boundary, Pakistani Army rubbished those claims as "baseless".
After blaming Pakistan for the Sept 18 attack on the Uri army camp, India this month initiated a diplomatic drive to isolate Pakistan by opting out of attending the Saarc summit.
Temperature between the South Asian rivals has been high since an Indian crackdown on dissent in India-held Kashmir following the killing by Indian forces of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July.