'Extensive development in J-K in comparison to POK'

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Brussels, Apr 9 : Member of European Parliament (MEP) Geoffrey van Orden said there had been extensive political and economic development in Jammu and Kashmir, which was 'totally lacking' in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).

The MEPs heavily criticised Pakistan for 'lack of democracy and development' in Gilgit and Baltistan areas of POK.

While Pakistan was seeking self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir, "it was not even prepared to allow democracy on its side of the border," Baronness Emma Nicholson MEP said at a two-day international conference on 'Constitutional, Political and Socio-economic conditions of Gilgit Baltistan' at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.

Nicholson, who represents the Liberal Democratic Party, had authored a report on the "suppression of human rights" in the Northern Areas of POK, which was adopted by the European Parliament in 2007.

Charles Tannock, MEP from the UK, drew a sharp contrast between India and Pakistan in terms of economic development and democracy, while UNPO chief Marino Musdaschin said there could be no progress on Kashmir "till the initiation of full political process in PoK".

The conference was also attended by several other MEPs, NGO representatives and leaders of the International Kashmir Alliance (IKA).

IKA General Secretary Shaukat Ali Kashmiri wanted the European Parliament to set up a fact-finding mission on the ground realities in the Gilgit and Baltistan region and other parts of the PoK.

He also sought starting of a bus service between Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK and Ladakh as part of Indo-Pak confidence-building measures.

Kashmiri told ANI that the focus of the deliberations would be on trying to determine the Constitutional status of Gilgit and Baltistan, as well as discussions on the measures required to improve socio-economic conditions of the people of these underdeveloped and remote areas.

All five regions -- the Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are perceived to be disputed and part of the Jammu and Kashmir state, as they were at the time of partition.

The IKA has been at the forefront of promoting intra-Kashmir dialogue.

Kashmiri commentators and political activists see the IKA as a symbol of resistance, as it opposed politics of violence and intimidation.

It has challenged the division of the state, and reinforced state boundaries at a time when so-called nationalists and other Kashmiri leaders are considering different options that could lead to a permanent division of Kashmir.

The IKA has always been of the view that the Government of Pakistan is not in the least bit interested in providing the right of self-determination to Kashmiris and to secure the unity of the state.

ANI

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