– ‘Ready to hold referendum in PoK, let people of Kashmir decide what they want,’ says Pakistan PM

Imran Khan invited people from all parts of the country to visit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and assess the human rights situation there.

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 17 January 2019. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said Islamabad is willing to hold a referendum in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to give people the right to decide whether they want to remain in the country or be independent.

“Let the people of Kashmir decide what they want,” he said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. “Pakistan is ready for a referendum or a plebiscite. Let them decide whether they want to remain with Pakistan or to be independent. We are all for it.”

He said people from all parts of the country are invited to visit PoK to assess the human rights situation in the region. “Azad Kashmir holds free and fair elections and it elects its own government,” Khan said. “Like any other administration, they have their problems.

But as I said, let us invite observers from all over the world. I assure you that they can go to the Pakistan side of Kashmir but won’t be allowed on the Indian side.”

Khan lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led government and compared the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to that of the Nazis. “Just as the Nazi ideology was built on hatred for minorities, the RSS ideology is also based on hatred for Muslims and other minorities, including Christians,” he said.

The prime minister said India has been taken over by an extremist ideology known as “Hindutva” and alleged that the country is also run by extremists. “It is a tragedy for India – and for its neighbours – that the country has been taken over by the RSS, an organisation which also assassinated the great Mahatma Gandhi,” Khan claimed.

“A nuclear-armed country is being run by extremists, and Kashmir has been under siege for over five months.”

He said the situation in Kashmir received little international attention, claiming that commercial interests are more important for Western countries.

“India is a big market and that is the reason behind the lukewarm response to what is happening to some 8 million people in Kashmir, as well as to minorities in India,” he said.

Khan also spoke about the Citizenship Amendment Act and said it was “blatantly against minorities”. He pointed that these matters were raised when he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and later she issued a statement in November that the situation in Kashmir is “not sustainable”.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have ratcheted up since New Delhi abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 and divided it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India for Kashmir since Independence, did not take the decision well. Pakistan responded by suspending trade with India, downgrading bilateral ties and sending back its envoy. It also approached several international bodies, including the United Nations.

NDTV – Dalai Lama to be invited for Guru Nanak’s Birth anniversary: Minister

Sukhjinder Randhawa also said a Panjab government’s delegation is awaiting the Centre’s nod to visit Pakistan later this month to assess the progress of the Kartarpur Corridor project.

Chandighar – Panjab – India, 23 August 2019. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will be among a host of dignitaries who will be invited to join the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, Panjab Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said on Friday.

Mr Randhawa also said a Panjab government’s delegation is awaiting the Centre’s nod to visit Pakistan later this month to assess the progress of the Kartarpur Corridor project.

He said the Panjab delegation of state ministers and MLAs are also supposed to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and the chief minister of the Punjab province of the neighbouring country.

In an informal interaction with reporters, Mr Randhawa said the Dalai Lama, 83, a globally revered figure and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, will be among a host of religious and spiritual leaders who will be invited to join the celebrations in November.

“The Dalai Lama has been requested to join the celebrations. Besides, other top religious leaders from various faiths will also be invited,” he said.

Asked how soon will the Punjab government delegation visit Pakistan, Mr Randhawa replied, “As soon as our government gives us the permission. The day we get permission from the Centre we will go.”

Commenting on the ongoing work on the Kartapur Corridor, Mr Randhawa said, “The work is still slow on our side. I had met secretary, Border Management in the Ministry of Home Affairs, and told him that we need to speed up work on our side. He assured that manpower will be doubled and work will be expedited.”

In a major initiative last November, both India and Pakistan agreed to set up the Kartarpur Corridor to link the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi river, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.

Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur up to the border is being constructed by India.

The corridor will be opened in November on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The Hindu – Kashmir issue: Pakistan expels Indian envoy, suspends bilateral trade

Islamabad has also decided to review bilateral arrangements with New Delhi and to take the Kashmir issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Mehmal Sarfraz

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 07 August 2019. Pakistan announced August 7 that it is expelling the Indian High Commissioner and suspending bilateral trade with New Delhi, days after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, AFP has reported.

“We will call back our ambassador from Delhi and send back their envoy”, AFP reported Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as announcing in televised comments.

Meanwhile, a government statement declared that Pakistan will suspend trade in a downgrading of diplomatic ties. The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office in Islamabad.

According to the official Twitter account of the Government of Pakistan (@pid_gov), the NSC has decided to downgrade diplomatic relations with India, suspend bilateral trade, review bilateral arrangements and take the Kashmir issue to the UN, including the Security Council.

The Committee has also decided to observe August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day, “in solidarity with brave Kashmiris”. The ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) wrote on Twitter that August 15 will be observed as “Black Day”.

“PM has also directed all diplomatic channels to be activated in order to expose brutal Indian racist regime, design and human rights violations. PM directed Pakistani Armed Forces to continue vigilance,” tweeted the party.

The meeting was attended by the Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, Minister for Human Rights, Army chief, DG ISI, DG ISPR and several other senior officials of the military and the government.

The Hindu – Pakistan PM, FM send congratulatory letters to Narendra Modi and Jaishankar

Letters follow a phone call from Imran Khan to Mr. Modi, as well as an exchange of tweets between the two leaders after the election results.

Suhasini Haidar

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 07 June 2019. Days after the formation of the National Democratic Alliance government, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his victory, while Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has written a letter to his Indian counterpart Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar, congratulating him on his appointment as well, sources in Delhi and Islamabad confirmed.

The letters follow a phone call from Mr Khan to Mr Modi, as well as an exchange of tweets between the two leaders after the election results.

The letters, which New Delhi hasn’t yet responded to, conveyed official greetings as well as a hope that India-Pakistan bilateral ties will improve in the future. They were both handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad earlier this week.

According to Pakistani diplomatic sources, the letters sought “peace and stability in South Asia with the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” as well as “collective endeavours” for regional peace and prosperity, a possible reference to a SAARC summit, which Pakistan is keen to organise, but India has refused to attend.

The past few weeks have seen tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad rise over the tit for tat surveillance and harassment of their guests at ‘Iftar’ functions in each other’s capital.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a public protest against Pakistani police officials who intimidated guests at the Indian High Commission’s Iftar event at a hotel in Islamabad on June 1, and the Pakistan Foreign Ministry wrote two letters protesting similar actions by Indian security agencies against guests to the Pakistan National Day function on March 23 as well as the Iftar event at the Pakistan High Commission on May 28.

Despite the bitterness on the ground, however, the leaders of both the countries have kept up a steady set of exchanges over the period. Mr Modi wrote a letter to Mr Khan ahead of the Pakistan National Day, saying it was “time for the people of the sub-continent to work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.”

Mr Khan welcomed the letter, calling for dialogue between the two countries. After the BJP’s win, Mr Khan telephoned Mr Modi to congratulate him.

The conversation, which reportedly lasted about 15 minutes according to one source, included the need to improve bilateral ties, India’s “neighbourhood first policy” and a desire to “fight poverty jointly.” Both leaders have also exchanged public messages over twitter.

In addition, former Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister met for a short “exchange of pleasantries” at the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Foreign Ministers’ meet in Bishkek in May, when Pakistan made an exception to the ban on flights to and from India to allow Ms Swaraj’s flight to travel through Pakistani airspace.

This week, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Sohail Mohammad, who was High Commissioner to India until last month, was accorded full security and all diplomatic courtesies when he travelled to Delhi on a “personal” visit to celebrate Eid with his family, and accompanied them back to Pakistan.

When asked if all the exchanges were building up to a possible bilateral meeting at the SCO summit in Bishkek on June 13-14 that Mr Khan and Mr Modi will attend, diplomatic officials in both capitals have declined to confirm the possibility of a one-on-one between the two leaders. On Thursday, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said there were no requests or plans for the leaders to meet to the best of his “knowledge”.