Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari declared on Sunday that the G20 meeting of tourism officials in Srinagar, the capital of India-administered Kashmir, will not succeed in stifling the voices of the Kashmiri people.
Addressing reporters upon his arrival in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) for a three-day visit, the Minister asserted that India cannot emerge as a key global player while disregarding UN resolutions. Bhutto-Zardari is in AJK to stand with the Kashmiris protesting the G20 gathering, which they perceive as an affront to international laws.
The Foreign Minister, also the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, was welcomed by the party’s regional president, Chaudhry Muhammad Yasin, along with several other PPP lawmakers. During a media interaction at the helipad, Bhutto-Zardari spoke against India’s hosting of the G20 event in the disputed territory, asserting that such efforts cannot suppress the Kashmiri people’s voices.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further confirmed his attendance at a protest rally in Bagh on Tuesday to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. This visit comes before a by-election in Bagh scheduled for June 8, following the disqualification of former AJK premier Sardar Tanveer Ilyas. Observers speculate that Bhutto-Zardari’s public address in Bagh, ostensibly related to the Kashmir issue, could influence the election’s outcome.
In addition to the PPP, PML-N and the opposition PTI are the primary contenders in the forthcoming by-election.
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Bilawal Bhutto Zardari later convened a meeting with a delegation of migrants from the India-held Kashmir. The delegation briefed him on the prevailing conditions in the disputed region based on their personal observations and information.
On Monday, the Foreign Minister is set to address a special session of the AJK Assembly, marking a historic event as Bhutto-Zardari is the first federal minister to be granted such an honour. Following this, he will address the media at the Planning and Development Department’s adjacent building before heading to Bagh for a public meeting on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, protests are planned across AJK, including a major rally in Muzaffarabad’s Burhan Wani Chowk on Monday, to voice their opposition to the G20 event. The main organizer is Pasban-i-Hurriyat Jammu Kashmir, an organization of post-1989 migrants from the disputed region. The AJK premier and Qamar Zaman Kaira, advisor to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, are expected to address the rally.
Moreover, as a sign of protest against India’s actions in the disputed region, including the G20 events, traders in Muzaffarabad will be shutting their businesses. Similar demonstrations are also planned in other cities across AJK.