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President Asif Ali Zardari addressing the joint session of AJK Assembly and AJK Council at AJK Legislative Assembly . — Photo by INP

MUZAFFARABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday paid tribute to Mohammed Afzal Guru executed in Delhi for allegedly plotting to attack the Indian parliament in 2001 and called his hanging “abuse of judicial process”.

Guru, a Kashmiri vendor, was hanged on Feb 9, sparking more than a week of protests in India-held Kashmir.

Mr Zardari said “force and oppression” would not silence calls for self-determination in Kashmir.

“The hanging of Afzal Guru through abuse of judicial process has further angered the Kashmiris,” he said.

In his address to a joint session of the AJK Legislative Assembly and AJK Council, President Zardari said Kashmir was an important segment of the composite dialogue with India and that any resolution of the Kashmir issue must be centred on the Kashmiris themselves.

He said for a durable resolution of the dispute Kashmiris must be associated with the process of composite dialogue.

Pakistan, he said, remained committed to finding a just and peaceful settlement of the dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “Kashmiris alone must be principal beneficiaries”.

According to his spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar, the president reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong support to the cause of Kashmir. “We will continue to extend to our Kashmiri brethren all political, moral and diplomatic support. My coming here and addressing this august gathering is a manifestation of this commitment.”

Kashmir held the key to peace and progress in South Asia, he said. Pakistan wanted and needed peace with its neighbours, he said and added that the resolution of Kashmir issue would pave the way to normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India.

He said for over six decades, the Kashmiris had struggled to achieve their right to self-determination. “The force and oppression has been used against them but their voice could not be silenced. It will never be.”

Mr Zardari said the ongoing protest movement was a new chapter in the struggle of Kashmiri people.

The president paid tribute to Afzal Guru by reciting a couplet of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: “Jis dhaj say koi maqtal may gaya, wo shan salamat rehti hay / Ye jan to aani jani hay, is jan ki koi bat nahin” (The dignity with which a person heads towards the place of execution is immortal. On the contrary, life is but a transitory phase.)

He said international human rights organisations and even saner voices in India had been urging New Delhi to give up the path of violence.

He said Kashmir was one of the longest running issues on the UN agenda and that the UN Security Council had recognised the rights of the Kashmiris. However, the international community has yet to restore the rights of Kashmiris.

He said a number of Kashmir-related confidence building measures (CBMs), including border crossings, bus service and start of trade across the Line of Control, had been implemented.

“Pakistan and India should not allow terrorists and militants to dictate the agenda.”

The president proposed that the interim constitution of AJK should be suitably amended to meet the requirements of time. He congratulated the AJK Assembly for setting up a bipartisan committee to propose amendments.—Agencies

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