Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday took exception to Prime Minister Imran Khan's statement assuring Kashmiris a right to opt for independence, terming it a "deviation" from Pakistan's historical stance on the issue.
“Imran Niazi is deviating from the historical and constitutional position of Pakistan by talking about referendum in Azad Kashmir,” Shehbaz wrote on Twitter.
The objection from the PML-N president comes a day after PM Imran Khan, during public gatherings in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), assured Kashmiris that Islamabad would grant them the right to opt for an independent nation if they decided to do so even after acceding to Pakistan through a United Nations-sponsored plebiscite.
Paying tribute to the Kashmiris for their more than a century-old struggle for emancipation, the premier said the unprecedented sacrifices rendered by them would not go in vain and they would exercise their right to self-determination and decide to accede to Pakistan and not India through a UN-sponsored referendum.
“Afterwards, we will hold another referendum whereby Kashmiri people will be asked to decide whether they want to live with Pakistan or as an independent nation,” the PM said at two separate rallies in AJK, in almost identical words, amid rounds of applause from the charged gatherings.
In a series of tweets, expressing discontent with the premier's remarks, Shehbaz wrote:
“The Jammu and Kashmir dispute will be decided by the irrevocable right of transparent and independent referendum under the auspices of the United Nations. Imposing a solution on Kashmiris without their consent is tantamount to helping India and betraying the Kashmir cause.”
He said the entire nation rejected any position other than Pakistan's historical one on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute which was based on UN Security Council resolutions.
Shehbaz said Imran’s statement was proving fears that had arisen after India's measures of August 5, 2019, in occupied Kashmir.
India had stripped occupied Kashmir of the special autonomy it had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order on Aug 5, 2019. The order granted a right to people from the rest of India to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently.
Pakistan said India's move was a violation of several UNSC resolutions on the issue, terming it against international law and bilateral treaties between the two countries. Since then, Pakistan has raised India's unilateral move to change the status of the disputed territory on multiple international forums, calling for a reversal of the Aug 5, 2019, measures.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif had on July 18 claimed that Imran Khan planned on making AJK a new province of Pakistan, insisting that “a decision has already been taken in this regard.”
Responding to Maryam's claim in a rally yesterday, the premier brushed aside the allegations, saying he did not know where this idea had stemmed from.