Pakistan will not barter away Kashmiris’ rights: FM Qureshi

New York, May 22 (KMS): Pakistan will negotiate to find a solution of the decades-old Kashmir dispute, but will not barter away the inalienable rights of Kashmiri people, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a gathering of Pakistani-Americans.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was deeply committed to the just cause of the Kashmiris and that his stand on the issue was unequivocal.

“We will talk respectfully, but will not make a deal (on Kashmir),” the foreign minister told a cheering audience. He was answering a question about concerns being voiced over reported back-channel engagement with India on the decades-old dispute.

He also said that Pakistan was open to dialogue with India aimed at peacefully resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.

Past regimes in Pakistan, Qureshi said, had put the Kashmir dispute on back burner, but the present government had revived it, citing PM Imran Khan’s forceful address to the UN General Assembly in 2019.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Munir Akram and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Asad Majeed Khan were among those who also present.

Pakistani Consul General in New York, Ayesha Ali, welcomed the foreign minister, noting that he is the first dignitary from Pakistan to visit New York since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world early in 2020.

On their part, the community members praised Pakistan’s strong advocacy of the Palestinian cause, the way it stood by the beleaguered people and highlighted their plight as they suffered under massive, 11-day Israeli bombardment that left nearly 250 people dead, including women and children.

FM Qureshi, who led the Pakistan delegation to May 19’s session of UN General Assembly on Palestine, said his purpose and that of other foreign ministers from Islamic countries, who have come to New York, was mainly to raise voice in the 193-member body in an effort to seek an end to the atrocities being committed against the Palestinians.

“By the grace of God”, he said, “We succeeded in our first objective — a ceasefire.” Replying to another question, FM Qureshi said there were deep similarities in Palestine and Kashmir issues– the people in both the entities were struggling for their right to self-determination; both suffered atrocities from their occupiers and both were resisting demographic changes and ethnic cleansing in their respective territories.

Lauding the important role of diaspora, the foreign minister said that Prime Minister Khan considered overseas Pakistanis as great assets who continue to uphold Pakistan’s interests in the international arena, and boosting its economy with ever-increasing remittances.

He also praised overseas Pakistanis for helping to strengthen Pakistan-US ties, and said that efficient service delivery would be provided for them.

Qureshi said the government was actively working to legislate electoral reforms that would allow overseas Pakistanis to vote in national elections.

“We want to give Pakistanis abroad the right to participate in elections in Pakistan,” he added, as applause rang out.

The government, he said, was vigorously pursuing steps to ensure food and water security.

He said that priority attention was being given to the critical water issue, citing that work was proceeding on constructing new dams.

The foreign minister also lauded the efforts of the Consulate General of Pakistan, New York, for continuing to offer its services to the Pakistani community within its consular jurisdiction, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier, Consul General Ayesha Ali said that in line with prime minister’s vision and the foreign minister’s special instructions, the consulate had implemented all new consular initiatives in an efficient manner, including provision of online Visas, E-passports and efficient outreach to the Pakistani-American community through E-Kutcheries.

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