Pakistani opposition urges government to send Kashmir envoys to lobby in key capitals

Kashmiri refugees in Azad Jammu and Kashmir take part in an anti-Indian protest rally in Muzaffarabad on Aug. 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Pakistani opposition urges government to send Kashmir envoys to lobby in key capitals

  • Last government of Nawaz Sharif appointed 22 parliamentarians as special envoys on Kashmir in August 2016
  • Pakistan is already lobbying the US, European countries and multilateral bodies since India revoked Kashmir's special status on Aug 5

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s major opposition parties on Tuesday urged the government to dispatch “multiparty delegations of parliamentarians” to key world capitals as special envoys to highlight human rights abuses in the disputed Kashmir region where a security clampdown and communications blackout was imposed almost two weeks ago.
On August 5, India removed the decades-old autonomy the Muslim-majority territory of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed under the Indian constitution. The move blocks the territory’s right to frame its own laws, opens the door for residents of all parts to buy property and compete for government jobs and college spots, and has raised fears that the region will be flooded with outsiders.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise move has also increased tensions with arch rival Pakistan which lays claim to Kashmir and has accused India of human rights violations in the territory at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility between the two countries, both of whom have nuclear weapons.
Islamabad has recently been lobbying the United States, European countries and international bodies like the United Nations against India’s unilateral decision to strip Kashmir of its special status. In the past, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the two countries to refrain from any steps that could affect Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
In Aug 2016, the last government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had appointed 22 special envoys who traveled to key capitals to lobby for Indian-held Kashmir after deadly protests broke out over the killing of a popular freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in a gunfight with Indian security forces. 
“The government needs to dispatch special multiparty delegations to world capitals to tell the world about Indian human rights violations in Kashmir,” Taj Haider, senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, told Arab News.
Referring to a United Nations report this July that accused India of human rights violations in Kashmir and called for the formation of a commission of inquiry into the allegations, Haider too urged the government to push the UN on the inquiry body. 
“The US and European countries are very sensitive to human rights abuses, and we need to put the case of Kashmiris effectively at the UN and other international forums,” Haider said.
Last week, the 15-member United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors at the request of China and Pakistan to discuss the Kashmir situation, but did not issue a statement after the United States, France and Germany objected. Such statements are agreed by consensus.
Senator Raja Zafarul Haq of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party said the government should not have celebrated the UNSC’s session on Kashmir as “this was convened on the request of China and prorogued without giving any direction to resolve the decades-old dispute.”
“We cannot plead the case of our Kashmiri brothers effectively on international forums until we forge domestic political unity,” he told Arab News, urging the government to utilize all resources to internationalize the Kashmir dispute with the support of opposition parties.
Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi has described her country’s push for last Friday’s Security Council meeting as “the first and not the last step.” She said it was the first time in more than 50 years that the council had taken up the issue.
“The fact that this meeting took place is testimony to the fact that this is an internationally recognized dispute,” Lodhi had told reporters. “The people of Jammu and Kashmir may be locked up ... but their voices were heard today at the United Nations.”
The Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of mostly Muslim Kashmir. Another resolution also calls upon both sides to “refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.”
UN peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a cease-fire between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
US President Donald Trump spoke to Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urging them to reduce tensions over Kashmir. “A tough situation, but good conversations!” Trump said in a Twitter post after the calls.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”