Caretaker PM pledges to continue raising Kashmir issue at global fora

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Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Saturday reaffirmed that Pakistan would continue raising the Indian Illegally Occupied and Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) issue at all the global and regional fora because it had been the oldest and unresolved agenda item of the United Nations Security Council. During an interview with the Voice of America (Urdu) ahead of his departure for the United Nations meeting in New York, the caretaker prime minister said that Pakistan had been consistently and regularly defending and advocating the Kashmir issue at all the available multilateral and regional fora and would continue to do till its resolution. There were gross human rights violations in IIOJK, the entire area had been turned into the largest prison in the world, while Kashmiris’ voices were stifled, he maintained. Dispelling certain rumours, the prime minister said that it was the mandate of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce a date for holding of general elections in the country and expressed the hope that the ECP would complete the process honestly as it had already initiated certain steps. He reiterated that the interim set up was ready to assist the ECP regarding provision of financial resources and security for the polls. About delay in holding of elections in two provinces in the past, the prime minister observed that there might have been certain issues at that period which were accepted by different forums. The prime minister also expressed the confidence to overcome security threats at the country’s borders and complete the electoral process. He affirmed that measures would be taken to ensure that the election process proceed smoothly without disruptions and emphasized upon the commitment to upholding the democratic process in Pakistan. To a query, PM Kakar replied that there was freedom of expression in the country and their indicators in the region were much better in this regard. “Media has the freedom and can raise voice or air any issue regarding the government, its institutions or the economic issues,” he asserted. About Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s legal cases, he strongly rebutted the impression that efforts were being made to keep him (IK) out of the politics. He said it was a sub-judice matter as there were allegations against him, adding the impression over his arrest was not correct and hoped that the judicial process would be transparent. Replying to another question, he said that the caretaker government was functioning due to a continuing constitutional process and he was nominated by the former leader of house and the opposition in the National Assembly. He also rejected the impression as entirely incorrect that the interim government was a continuation of previous PDM government. The caretaker prime minister maintained that Pakistan was playing its part for a durable peace in Afghanistan and the region and was engaged with the Taliban and the international community at all the relevant forums. He said that Taliban had made a commitment under Doha agreement that Afghan soil would not be used against any country for terrorism. He said that they were addressing Afghan transit issues including the illegal trade, adding that trade ties were not only improving with Afghanistan but also with all the Central Asian Republics as they all realized the significance of regional trade connectivity. To a query regarding terrorist attacks from Afghan soil, he said Pakistan reserved the right to defend against any terrorist activity and would take necessary steps to defend its people and land whenever needed. However, when the time arose, they would take appropriate decisions in this regard, he said without divulging further details. Responding to a question, PM Kakar said that his statement regarding falling of weapons, left behind by the US and NATO in Afghanistan, in the hands of terrorists outfits was not meant to level any allegations against the US or any other country, and the impression in this regard was incorrect. The prime minister downplayed isolation of Islamabad and said that Pakistan enjoyed strong relations with the Arab, Gulf and other regional countries. While the decades of relationship with the West would grow further stronger in the coming years, he expressed his optimism.