European Parliament to vote on Kashmir report


Brussels: The full session of the European Parliament (EP) is to debate and vote on its Kashmir report on Thursday, 24 May in Strasbourg.

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The report titled “Kashmir: present situation and future prospects� authored by British MEP Baroness Emma Nicholson was adopted by the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee on 21 March with 60 votes in favour, one against and 11 abstentions.

Once voted by the EP’s plenary session, it will be adopted as a European Union report on Kashmir. Usually reports passed by such a large majority in an EP committee easily pass through the EP’ session.

However, pro-Pakistani Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the Pakistani-backed Kashmir Centre in Brussels are lobbying intensely to introduce new amendments to the report.

“Further amendments will be moved from a variety of MEPs. I certainly will be moving amendments also,’’ Sajjad Karim, Chairman of the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan Group, told INEPNEXT news agency in Brussels.

The amendments, he said, will be much less than those tabled at the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Originally 450 amendments were tabled to the Kashmir draft report. 28 compromise amendments were agreed by the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs from across the political groups in the Parliament.

“The report as a whole is much better than the first report, but there are still issues of imbalance which need to be addressed and in particular there is the issue of self-determination which has been dealt with in the amendments but there is the issue of the plebiscite which remains to be dealt with ,’’ said Karim who is an MEP from North West of England and belongs to the Liberal Group.

The Kashmir report criticizes the democracy-deficit in Pakistan and brushes aside Pakistan’s persistent demand for plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.

“ India is the world’s largest secular democracy and has devolved democratic structures at all levels, whereas Pakistan still lacks full implementation of democracy in AJK and has yet to take steps towards democracy in Gilgit and Baltistan,’’ says the report.

It underlines “that the preconditions for using the plebiscite have not been met at present,� a reference which has especially angered Islamabad.

MEP Liz Lynne, President of the Liberal Democrats Friends of Kashmir said, “as Liberals and Democrats, we must support the oppressed people of Kashmir’s right to self determination.”

“Plebiscites are tried and tested tools for peoples to exercise their established right to self determination. I would like to see a plebiscite with the three options available for the Kashmiri people: being part of Pakistan, India or independence,’’ she said.

On her part, Neena Gill, chair of the EP’s Delegation for Relations with India, said she hoped the report will be voted without major changes.

“I do not expect major changes to substance. I think it will be voted in the un-amended form,’’ she told INEPNEXT.

Last week, a delegation from Pakistan visited Brussels to lobby with MEP’s against Emma Nicholson’s report.

The delegation included Mushahid Hussain, Chairman Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Raja Nadir Pervez, Member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Raja Pervez Ashraf MNA and General Secretary Pakistan’s People’s Party and ShahGhulam Qadir speaker, “Azad Kashmirâ€? Assembly.

Meanwhile, a “Kashmir-EU� week will be held in the EP in Brussels 4-8 June. It is organsied by the All party Group for Kashmir in the EP and the Kashmir Centre.