Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has linked the progress of India and Pakistan with the resolution of the lingering Kashmir dispute, terming it a “test for the current leadership” of both countries.
“Resolution of all issues lies in mutual dialogue. India and Pakistan will have to think about the well-being and progress of their peoples,” he said while expressing optimism on the resumption of the nascent bilateral dialogue process between the two hyphenated neighbours.
The premier was addressing the joint session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly and Kashmir Council in connection with the Kashmir Solidarity Day on Friday. Every year February 5 is celebrated as ‘Kashmir Day’ across the country.
“During the meetings with the Indian leadership, we stressed upon them the need to settle the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through meaningful dialogues to give peace to the next generations of the region,” PM Nawaz said.
Pakistan, he said, has assured cooperation to India on all issues, including eliminating terrorism. “No one can understand peace better than Pakistan, which has been badly affected by terrorism,” he said.
“We want peace, not only for Pakistan, but for the entire region and Kashmir is also part of the region”, he said. “Peace is the right of Kashmiris and no one can deny the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Kashmir, he said, is a permanent part of Pakistan’s national policy and no Pakistani could ignore Kashmiris as this relationship was based on history, geography, region and culture. “Kashmir has always been in our minds,” he added, terming the issue a “test of vision” for the regional leadership.
PM Nawaz also questioned why had the United Nations failed to implement its own resolutions on Kashmir. “I am still in search of peace in the region. We are trying to give a new vision to South Asia and hope the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would bring peace, stability and prosperity to the region,” he added.
He said the AJK would also benefit from the CPEC projects and announced Rs250 million for the development of the Pakistani side of Kashmir.
The PM said the government planned to lay a railway line from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad and an expressway from Muzaffarabad to Mirpur. The Murree Expressway would also be extended to Muzaffarabad. “I love the AJK, and I will complete these projects since it is your right,” he vowed.
He said it was the collective responsibility of the treasury and the opposition as well to work for the uplift of the region.
About the ongoing standoff with the PIA employees, the premier said some people did not want to see the national carrier flourish. “They are not serving the country and government will not bow before them,” he said. “If we do not settle the issue today it will become a big problem tomorrow.”
AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed thanked the prime minister for addressing the session to reiterate Pakistan’s moral and political support to the people of Indian Kashmir.
Speaker Sardar Ghulam Sadiq said Pakistan was the centre of Kashmir’s global efforts for its right to self-determination.
Earlier in Murree, PM Nawaz chaired a meeting at the Government House to review progress of various developmental projects mostly aimed at providing facilities to tourists coming from all over the country.
The projects relate to restoration of the Government House and Mall Road, creating adequate parking facilities, improvement of hospitals and restoration of cinema houses.
The PM directed the officials to ensure all essential facilities at the earliest for facilitating and attracting tourists to Murree. Health facilities to cater for the needs of locals and visitors as well must be ensured as early as possible, he emphasised.
The premier also called for preparing a comprehensive national policy on art, literature and artists. “Revival of the film industry is a must and the government is willing to support films,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2016.