Joint Parliament session under way to discuss deteriorating Indian-occupied Kashmir situation

By Raja Pervaiz

ISLAMABAD: A joint session of Parliament got under way at Parliament House to discuss the deteriorating situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, after the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the constitution which granted special status to the disputed valley.

The joint parliamentary session, summoned by President Dr Arif Alvi, will review the tense situation in occupied Kashmir and along the Line of Control after the Modi government rushed through a presidential decree on Monday to abolish Article 370, which revoked the special status granted to occupied Kashmir and made the state a Union Territory with the legislature.

The session will also discuss the recent surge in unprovoked firing and shelling on civilian population and use of cluster ammunition by Indian troops in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider is among the leaders present in today’s session, which is being chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.  

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif are among the  MNAs as well as senators who were in attendance. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan will also attend today’s joint parliamentary session.

The session started with Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati moving a resolution condemning India’s decision to revoke the Article 370.

The session was adjourned for 20 minutes after the opposition insisted on including a clause pertaining to amendment in Article 370 in the session’s agenda.

The move to abolish Article 370 followed days of uncertainty in occupied Kashmir that began on Friday when New Delhi ordered tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave “immediately”. The authorities confirmed deploying at least 10,000 troops in the disputed region last week. A further 70,000 troops have been deployed since, according to unofficial reports, as panic continued to grip the residents.

All phones, internet services and cable networks in the disputed Himalayan region of more than seven million people were cut at Sunday midnight, and only residents issued with a curfew pass were allowed on the streets.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave special status to occupied Kashmir. It limited the power of the Indian parliament to impose laws in the state, apart from matters of defence, foreign affairs and communications.

Pakistan rejects scrapping of Article 370

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned and rejected the Indian government’s move to scrap Article 370. In a press release, the ministry stated that Indian-occupied Kashmir was an internationally recognised disputed territory.

“No unilateral step by the Government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan,” said the press release.

“As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps,” it added.

The Foreign Office stressed that Pakistan stood firm in its commitment to the Kashmir cause and its political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of occupied Kashmir for the realisation of their inalienable right to self-determination.  

‘Threat of genocide’

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said there was a threat of genocide and ethnic cleansing in occupied Kashmir after India revoked Article 370.

He said Pakistan would request and appeal to the United Nations, OIC, friendly countries and human rights organisations not to remain silent on this issue.