MUZAFFARABAD: As a dozen Britons of Pakistani origin were elected to the House of Commons during the recently held elections in the UK. Thousands of kilometres away, the elections have raised hopes among people living on both sides of the Line of Control that these new members of British Parliament would raise their cause.
Intriguingly, of the 12 Pakistanis elected, five members of parliament (MPs) including Raja Yasin, Barrister Imran, Khalid Mehmood, Rahman Chishti and Naz Shah hail from different parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), one half of the disputed Himalayan territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is great to see our brothers and sister Shah back on the benches in UK’s House of Commons,” beamed Chaudhry Muhammad Yaseen, the Leader of the Opposition in the AJK Legislative Assembly.
“I hope that the newly elected MPs will raise the Kashmir dispute and human rights violations committed by the Indian armed forces in Occupied Kashmir,” he added.
The opposition leader disclosed plans of launching a charm offensive for these MPs, stating that his party hopes to hold a briefing for these 12 new MPs about the critical situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), the violence perpetrated by the state, the use of Kashmiris as human shields and blinding the youth with lethal pellet guns.
“I know all these 12 MPs who are the staunch supporters of Kashmiris’ right of self-determination,” Yaseen added.
Apart from the five, others of Pakistani-origin who were elected on June 8 included Shabana Mahmood, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Yasmin Qureshi. Afzal Khan from Gorton area of Manchester and Muhammad Yaseen from Bendford were elected on Labour Party’s tickets for the first time.
Meanwhile, AJK Legislative Assembly Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir congratulated the new MPs on their election, urging them to raise the Kashmir issue in the UK parliament and hold debates on the current situation of IOK, violation of human rights and the murder of innocent Kashmiri youth in custody.
Qadir said that it was a blessing for the people of Kashmir that they had 12 voices in shape of MPs in UK who would obviously support the rights of the people of IOK.
“The government of AJK will meet with all these MPs to brief them about the latest situation in IOK and the ceasefire violations along the LoC where Indian occupational troops target the civilian population,” Speaker Qadir said, adding that they would also raise the issue of unmarked graves, enforced disappearances and political prisoners in IOK.
Across the LoC
Over in IOK, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq congratulated the newly elected MPs who hail from Pakistan, noting that their presence in the UK parliament would help raise the Kashmir dispute while calling for a permanent settlement to bring peace and security in South Asia.
“It really is good news for the oppressed people of IOK that five MPs are from AJK who obviously would feel our pain and will try their best to highlight the Kashmir dispute for a final settlement as per the wishes of Kashmiri people,” Farooq said.
Prominent Kashmiri leader Mishal Malik termed the elections as a big achievement.
“It is a good day for Pakistan and Kashmiris that our sons and daughters are in UK parliament. It is time to engage them to highlight the Kashmir dispute. We should remain in contact with these new MPs to approach UK think tanks, NGOs and other global organisations based in London to expose Indian state terrorism in IOK,” Malik added.
She said Pakistan and Kashmiris can reach out to other elected representatives and lobbyists in the UK through these MPs to remind the world community and United Nations of their role in settling the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2017.