Rich tributes paid to Kashmiri martyrs at Toronto Conference

Toronto, July 16 (KMS): Hundreds of Canadians from all walks of life paid rich tributes to the struggle of the long-oppressed Kashmiri people at a conference in Toronto on July 15.

Organized by the Friends of Kashmir Committee Canada, the conference paid tribute to Burhan Wani on the first anniversary of his martyrdom. The conference also recalled the first uprising of the Kashmiri people on July 13, 1931 against Dogra raj.

The wide array of speakers from different walks of Canadian life included Sid LaCombe of the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), Canadian broadcaster Phil Taylor of the Taylor Report, Dr Ali Mallah, former vice president of the Canadian Arab Federation, Ken Stone, a former academic and member of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, and Lord Nazir Ahmed from England.

Mr. LaCombe pledged to put the Kashmir issue at the centre of Canadian politics.

At its annual convention three years ago, the CPA had passed a unanimous resolution in support of the people of Kashmir. The CPA is an umbrella organization of more than 600 organizations across Canada.

In welcoming the guests, ICIT Director Zafar Bangash and founding member of the Friends of Kashmir Committee highlighted the legal, political and moral right of the Kashmiris to self-determination. He also announced that two scholarships had been established for students to do research in Kashmir studies towards their PhD program at any reputable university in Pakistan.

In paying tribute to Burhan Wani, the young Kashmiri freedom fighter who achieved martyrdom exactly a year ago on July 8, one of the scholarships will be named in his honour.

Ken Stone narrated his experiences of a visit to Muzaffarabad last January after attending the Young Parliamentarians conference on Kashmir in Islamabad. He warned of a potential nuclear war between India and Pakistan and the catastrophic consequences of such an exchange for the whole world.

Both Dr Ali Mallah and Journalist Phil Taylor touched on the legal and moral aspects of the Kashmiris’ struggle. While Dr. Mallah criticized Western governments for their double standards over the issue of Kashmir, selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to India, Mr. Taylor spoke about the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination enshrined in the International Convention on Social and Human Rights as well as dozens of UN Security Council resolutions.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, an eloquent speaker and passionate advocate of the Kashmiri cause touched on the growing threat of fascism in India with the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister.

He condemned the ongoing Indian military violence against defenceless Kashmiri civilians of whom almost 100,000 have been killed since 1989. The occupation forces have also raped more than 11,000 women.

Since the intensification of the Kashmiris’ struggle following last year’s martyrdom of young Burhan Wani at least 154 more Kashmiris, mostly youth have been killed and at least 10,000 injured, many of them sustaining pellet wounds blinding them.

Lord Ahmed also called upon both the governments of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan to be much more pro-active in their support of the Kashmiris’ struggle for the right to self-determination.

Mr Tariq Azim Khan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada, also spoke at the conference highlighting the suffering of the Kashmiri people.

Before the conference ended, Zafar Bangash presented a resolution on Kashmir that won unanimous approval.

The Conference also pledged to remain ceased of the issue and to continue to highlight the plight of the Kashmiri people at all forums until they achieve their right of self-determination.

Following the conference in Toronto, Lord Ahmed is scheduled to speak at another program organized by the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War and the Hamilton Labour and Human Rights Council. The July 16 program will be held in Hamilton, an industrial city 70 km west of Toronto.

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