India slams Pak on PoK poll issue


Times of India, June 14, 2006

NEW DELHI: India has severely criticised the Musharraf government for barring political parties in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who have refused to swear allegiance to the accession of PoK to Pakistan. Elections scheduled there on July 11 will, therefore, be devoid of many political parties.

Questioned on the issue, the MEA spokesperson on Monday said the electoral exercise was a mockery of Musharraf's own exhortations to India that J&K should be run by its own people.

"The elections in the so-called 'Azad J&K' will be a replay of the earlier exercises, in which the people did not have the freedom to vote for political parties and candidates of their choice. It also exposes the insincerity of Pakistan's proclaimed policy that the future of J&K should be decided by its people.

This disqualification is particularly glaring in the light of the proposal made by president Musharraf of introducing self-governance in J&K," the MEA spokesperson said.

The foreign office also laid into the Pakistan government's refusal to grant basic voting rights to the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, which it calls the "Northern Areas".

In almost 60 years since independence, Pakistan has not held elections in these areas, and in the past few years parts of Northern Areas have been used as safe havens for terrorists.

Last week, Kashmiri leaders from Gilgit and Baltistan, in Delhi for a seminar, alleged they were being harassed by Pakistani intelligence officials.

Responding to these allegations, the MEA spokesperson had said: "This is surprising because while Pakistan wants the free movement of people across the Line of Control, apparently it only wants it selectively."

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Pakistan foreign office returned to its position that J&K was the core issue between India and Pakistan and needed to be resolved forthwith.

"We consider Kashmir the core dispute between Pakistan and India because of its gravity, because of its implications for the political environment and for Pakistan-India relations and more importantly the J&K dispute relates to the fundamental rights of the Kashmiris and their sufferings," Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.

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