Fringe event at the annual conference of liberal democrats in Birmingham Voices support for Pakistan and Kashmir

Islamabad: The Liberal Democrats Friends of Pakistan and Friends of Kashmir organized a fringe event in collaboration with Pakistan High Commission on 18 September, 2011 in Birmingham. The event reflects upon the past tradition of maintaining Pakistan’s close relations with the British Parliamentarians.

The fringe event was widely attended by parliamentarians, members of the Liberal Democrats party and people belonging to all walks of life, says a press release received from London here today.

In his welcome address, Pakistan High Commissioner Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hasan thanked the Liberal Democrats Friends of Pakistan for their continuous support.

He said that he was happy to see that a large number of British citizens of Pakistan origin were active members of the Liberal Democrats because of its inclusive policies promoting interfaith and ethnic harmony. He further said that he was profoundly satisfied that over a million Pakistani Diaspora was substantively contributing to the British society, politics and economy.

“Presence of MPs and Lords of Pakistan origin and professionals, entrepreneurs and others in various walks of life was an acknowledgement of their services and contributions in their respective fields”, he added.

The High Commissioner expressed his complete satisfaction over the present level of relations between Pakistan and the UK as both the countries had entered into an Enhanced Strategic Dialogue which would supervise bilateral relations in diverse areas at the highest political level. Mr. Wajid commended that the UK had been very supportive of Pakistan’s cause in the EU for grant of market access to Pakistani products.

The High Commissioner presented his renewed condolences to the families of the three slain Pakistani youngsters in Birmingham. He appreciated the role played by the parents of the slain young men whose tolerance helped create peace in the UK.

The High Commissioner reiterated the appeal for assistance for the flood affectees of Pakistan in which more than 5 million people have been dislocated so far. He appreciated the timely assistance provided by the UK govt, its people and the Pakistani Diaspora living in the UK in last year’s floods. The High Commissioner particularly mentioned the role of the Deputy Prime Minister of UK, Mr. Nick Clegg for mobilizing relief efforts during last year floods in Pakistan.

Mr. Nafees Zakaria, Minister (Political), Pakistan High Commission who was among the Speakers, underscored that Kashmir was the longest standing dispute. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, who were the main stakeholders in the issue.

“Pakistan supports settlement of the dispute in accordance with the UN Resolutions of 1948, which envisaged ‘Right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people”, he said. He dispelled the impression that Simla Agreement was a hurdle in the international community’s intervention. He regretted that delay in the resolution of the dispute had complicated the issue and transformed it into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Mr. Zakaria appreciated Steve Baker, a Tory MP’s motion to discuss Kashmir dispute on the House of Commons’ floor on 15 September 2011 and called it a step in the right direction. He recalled last year’s statement of Mr. Simon Hughes, Deputy Chairman Lib Dem that Kashmir being a legacy of British rule warranted the British Government’s effective role to help resolve it.

Mr. Zakaria said that issue of mass graves had rightly drawn House of Commons’ concerns and that Mr. Steve Baker’s drive to give voice to Kashmiris should be strongly supported.

Malcolm Bruce, MP of Liberal Democrats party underlined the nature of critical relations between the two countries and their interdependence in various fields. He said that Pakistan was facing enormous floods on the one hand and the menace of terrorism on the other; thus it needs all inclusive assistance from the international community.

Mr. Jeremy Browne, MP, while addressing at the reception emphasized the need of a quick response to the floods in Pakistan. He said that as an enthusiastic partner with Pakistan, UK would continue its support for Pakistan to help it achieve its objectives of strong democracy and peace.

John Hemming, another MP, expressed his concern over human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir and laid emphasis on peaceful resolution of the issue at the earliest.

Lord Qurban sought UK’s assistance in harnessing the water resources of Pakistan and meeting its energy needs. He also urged Britainto use its good contacts in South Asia to resolve the Kashmir issue according to the wishes of the Kashmiris.

Baroness Sarah Ludford, Member of European Parliament for London urged UK to become a bridge for all other European countries to establish strong linkages with Pakistan. She was of the opinion that Kashmir issue could not be allowed to linger on under the garb being an internal or bilateral issue. “It must be resolved”, she emphasized. Mr. Paul Rowan ex-MP also mentioned the atrocities committed in Kashmir and demanded thorough investigation into it.

Mr. Qasim Afzal, a very active Liberal Democrat politician of Pakistan origin and Chairman, Liberal Democrats Friends of Pakistan and Kashmir was the stage secretary for this fringe event.

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