Nawaz to open SAARC interior ministers meeting

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will be inaugurating the Saarc Interior Ministers meeting on August 4 at a local five star hotel where all interior/home ministers except from Bangladesh are expected to attend. However, Dhaka will be represented by senior diplomats and officials.

Sharif’s inaugural address on Thursday will take into consideration recommendations of the three-day envoys’ conference which commenced on Monday in which according to the FO spokesman, “the envoys (will) also present their recommendations about the existing foreign policy with a view to reviewing, adapting and recalibrating policy in accordance with the prevalent strategic, political and economic trends.”

Sharif will also be addressing the concluding session of the envoys conference. All eyes will be on Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on August 4, who so far will be calling on Nawaz Sharif after the inaugural in a group with other Saarc interior ministers as has been the protocol. But no one is ruling out Singh calling on Sharif individually with the Indian media speculating that he will be carrying a message from Sharif’s counterpart Narendra Modi.

New Delhi has ruled out a bilateral meeting between Singh and his counterpart Chaudhry Nisar, and Islamabad does not appear to be desperate to seek such a meeting. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has demanded: “But it is important that if there are bilateral meetings, the government does what it has failed to do in the past and that is to take the nation into confidence as to what its vision is.”

Indian media reports point out that Singh is expected to raise the issue of cross-border terrorism at the meeting. It was at the 13th Saarc Summit held in Dhaka in November 2005 that the heads of state decided that the Saarc interior/home ministers would meet annually preceded by a meeting of the interior/home secretaries to strengthen cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism, which they agreed was a challenge to all states and a threat to humanity, and could not be justified on any grounds.

The first meeting of Saarc interior/home ministers was held in Dhaka on May 11, 2006, followed by a meeting in New Delhi in 2007. Though Nawaz Sharif has raised the issue of the latest situation in Indian Held Kashmir on several occasions, his Thursday’s address is also expected to focus on the issue which Greater Kashmir described on Sunday as one where there was “complete shutdown and undeclared curfew-like restrictions in many Kashmir areas, clashes were witnessed in Srinagar and various places in North and South of Valley in which at least 20 people including a girl sustained pellet, bullet and teargas shell injuries.”

Sharif should send out a strong appeal and there should be one from the Saarc interior ministers to New Delhi too about banning the pellet shooting guns and saving Kashmiris from losing their eyesight.

Greater Kashmir further reported today, “With the number of eye injury cases rising during the past three days, the surgeons at the SMHS hospital here were forced to postpone the scheduled retina surgeries to attend to the fresh pellet victims.

Sources said during the past two days the hospital could conduct only 10 to 12 vitrectomies as the surgeons at the Ophthalmology Department remain busy “repairing” the wounds of the fresh victims which were rushed from across Kashmir.

“Even the eye-specialists from outside, who were scheduled to conduct vitrectomies, had to attending to fresh pellet victims, the sources said.  On Thursday while the hospital admitted 15 fresh pellet victims, the number of the injured persons received on Friday was 29, the day when more than 120 persons had got injured across Kashmir.

Today, the hospital again admitted five more persons with pellet injuries to eyes, taking the total number of eye victims including bilateral cases to 49 for the three days.” Saarc, especially at the interior minister level, should raise the issue of pellet guns and continuing blinding of unarmed Kashmiris. The situation is changing and Saarc’s charter is out of date while discouraging bilateral issues.

– Originally published in The News

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