ISLAMABAD: Pakistan urged India on Wednesday to immediately release prominent Kashmiri leaders, who were put under house arrest, in order to prevent them from attending the reception being held at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi to celebrate Pakistan Day on March 23.
Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, Asiya Andrabi and others were detained by authorities in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Expressing serious concern over the detentions, foreign office in a statement said the move was aimed at preventing them from attending Pakistan National Day reception at Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi on 23rd March.
“These arbitrary restrictions are against the principles of democracy and freedom of movement,” the foreign office said.
“We impress upon India to release the Kashmiri leaders and representatives from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir so that they are able to attend Pakistan National Day reception,” it demanded.
Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, New Delhi has hardened its position on allowing interaction between Hurriyat leaders with Pakistani mission in India.
India also called talks between Prime Minister’s Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Minister Sushma Sawraj in 2015 after Pakistani High Commission arranged a meeting between the adviser and Kashmiri leaders.
Tensions between Pakistan and India have been simmering for months particularly after the attack on the Indian military base in Uri in which at least 19 Indian soldiers were killed.
India blamed Pakistan based militant groups for being behind the attack and claimed to have carried out surgical strikes inside Azad Kashmir to destroy ‘terror launch pads.’
Islamabad strongly rebutted the Indian claims and said the surgical strikes were a routine exchange of fire between the two armies.
It said India characterized the normal exchange fire as surgical strikes in order to divert the global attention from the current unrest in Kashmir.
The scenic Himalayan region has been in the grip of violence since the killing of prominent Kashmiri leader Bhurhan Wani in police encounter in July last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2017.