Khan and Madam Farzana Yaqoob, minister for social welfare and women development in the government of AJ&K agreed that beyond appeals for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, what Kashmir really needs is concentrated action to move forward. They have jointly decided to create “International Friends of Kashmir”.
The announcement comes after the official launch of an independent report on human rights violations during the Kashmir-EU week at the European Parliament.
The report documents an alarmingly high number of abuses committed in the Indian held Kashmir, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, numerous acts of torture and sexual violence against Kashmiri,s amid increased Indian military presence.
Speaking after the report launch, Afzal Khan MEP said: “Kashmir has suffered decades of violence and political instability. The world watches on as the rivalry between Pakistan and India engulfed this land in turmoil. This is no longer tolerable. Kashmiris must have the right to decide their own fate. This is why we are creating ‘International Friends of Kashmir.”
Khan and Minister Yaqoob pledge to organize an international conference in Brussels next year that will bring together international stakeholders, organs of the European Union, the United Nations, relevant non-governmental organizations and the Kashmiri diaspora.
The goal of the conference is to re-engage the international community in finding feasible avenues for the resolution to the Kashmir issue.
The founders are also committed to continue supporting human rights groups in conducting complex fact finding missions.
“Democracy is the only solution for Kashmir,” both Khan and Minister Yaqoob emphasized.
Afzal Khan MEP: “‘International Friends of Kashmir’ will also launch an awareness raising campaign about the need to push for a plebiscite that will pave the way for self-determination and ultimately reconciliation, building on the work of the United Nations on Kashmir’s status.
“Pakistan and India enjoy democracy. Why should Kashmir be deprived? Democracy is an expression of equality, and as such recognized as a basic human right.
“Europe has the responsibility to act. The EU has previously supported referendums in East Timor and South Sudan. It provided generous election and capacity building support to these new counties. They should do the same in Kashmir.”
Minister Yaqoob: “I am so pleased that in Europe we are being heard. Kashmir has been neglected since 1947. My generation could be the one to see an end to our struggles.
“I believe that with the help of Mr Khan and his colleagues in the European Parliament we can finally move from expressions of sympathy for our struggling into meaningful international action.”