Srinagar, May 3 : Junaid Qureshi, a Kashmiri writer, international human rights activist and a senior leader of the Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party (JKDLP), who is based in Srinagar, has initiated a Europe-wide signature campaign in various European cities to create awareness regarding the Kashmir issue in general and in particular vis-a-vis the proposed annexation of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan and the “illegal construction” of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In a statement issued here, JKDLP leader, Junaid Qureshi said that “Pakistan’s move to illegally annex Gilgit Baltistan, change the demographics of the actual Kashmir-issue and cement China’s stake in this dispute are in response to concerns raised by Beijing. China cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan.
The actions of Pakistan totally negate the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and their future while jeopardizing any kind of solution to this long standing conflict. If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over Gilgit-Baltistan, India will then have a political and moral right to fully integrate Jammu & Kashmir into India, and scrap Article 370 of its constitution giving Jammu & Kashmir a special status. This would pave way for further division of already divided Jammu & Kashmir”, he said.
He explained the aims and objectives of the Europe-wide Signature Campaign, “We hope to get enough signatures in order to get this issue debated on International platforms like the UN, EU Parliament and National European Parliaments. All the signatures collected ( physical and online – http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-to-cpec ) will be presented to Members of the European Parliament, National Members of Parliaments of European countries and the United Nations during the UNHRC in September 2016”.
The writer and political activist explained further, “The proposed annexation of Gilgit-Baltistan and the construction of this illegal corridor, complimented by the military benefits for both China and Pakistan and an investment of 46 billion dollars, has all the ingredients to exacerbate the complexities of the Kashmir issue, threaten peace, cement China’s stake in Jammu & Kashmir and thereby jeopardize any solution to this long-standing conflict. Part of this corridor will pass through Gilgit Baltistan, which does not fall within the ambit of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Since 1947, the region has been treated as a disputed territory. It is part and parcel of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In this backdrop, a high level committee was formed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, which is contemplating to elevate the constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan in a bid to provide legal cover to the multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan”.
The JKDLP leader while strongly opposing Pakistani and Chinese actions elaborated, “The economic potential of Gilgit Baltistan is such, that had the people been masters of their own destiny and not treated as a colony by Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan could finance the complete construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor itself. There is an abundance of water resources, minerals worth billions of dollars and an ocean of undiscovered tourism potential in this part of Jammu & Kashmir.
There are at least 5000 glaciers, including three of the largest in the world outside of the Polar Regions, in Gilgit Baltistan. It has almost 2500 glacial lakes. The potential of Power is 52.000 MW, while the requirement of the indigenous population is just 150 MW.
Gilgit Baltistan and its ecological habitat will also be effected negatively by the construction of this corridor. Researchers have concluded that the current rise of temperature will dry up the glaciers in the Karakorum and Himalayan region within a century. The toxic gasses and heavy traffic flow related to the construction of this corridor will only enhance the melting of the world’s largest reservoir of fresh water glaciers.
The factories which will emerge during the construction of this corridor will use all the minerals of Gilgit Baltistan as raw material for which the population will not be paid any royalty”.
Junaid Qureshi said it is imperative “to create awareness and gather international support against Chinese and Pakistani designs to exploit Gilgit Baltistan and divide the state of Jammu & Kashmir even further.
Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Jammu & Kashmir State, the future status of which still needs to be decided according to the wishes of all the state subjects of Jammu, Ladakh, the Kashmir Valley, Pakistan-administered Kashmir and indeed, Gilgit-Baltistan.
“We hope that every Kashmiri and all other people, irrespective of political ideology, caste, creed and religion will support our efforts against the further division of our motherland,” the statement said.
The five month signature campaign in Europe started off in Amsterdam on April 23.
In May 2016, it will be held in Paris and Brussels. Later on, it will move on to the UN office in Geneva and Vienna in June. In July, the campaign will start in cities like Birmingham, Bradford and London. In August it will end in front of the building of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Hundreds of signatures have already been collected in the first leg of the signature campaign in The Netherlands. Thousands of booklets and flyers were distributed to the European public in order to create awareness regarding the issue.
“The public was informed regarding the proposed construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the illegal annexation attempts by Pakistan of annexing Gilgit and Baltistan”, said Qureshi.
Qureshi added, “I believe that any kind of solution to the long standing Kashmir-Issue will only be jeopardized by these kind of intrusions. China is not investing billions of dollars to simply withdraw if any solution is found to the Kashmir Issue. Its investment guarantees its strategic interests in the region”.
Qureshi appealed everyone, believing in safeguarding Human Rights , to sign against the exploitation of Gilgit Baltistan and against the human rights violations in Gilgit Baltistan. “I appeal all of you to sign against the proposed annexation of Gilgit Baltistan by Pakistan and the construction of this Corridor of Exploitation”.