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Pakistan move to integrate Gilgit Baltistan a U-turn, say British Kashmiris

A newly-formed organisation in Britain comprising individuals with origins in the Kashmir Valley on Sunday said Gilgit Baltistan is an integral part of the historical area of Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan’s recent move to integrate it as its fifth province amounted to a “U-turn”.

Kashmir Voice International (KVI), which was formed in January to highlight the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir to the West, expressed serious concern at Islamabad’s move and called it "derogatory to the spirit of freedom movement”.

M A Raina, KVI chairman, said after its meeting that the development signalled a U-turn in Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. Pakistan on the one hand talked about UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, and on the other had moved to integrate a part of the state with itself, he added.

Raina said the future political status of the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir was yet to be determined, and added that the state was not only the part held by India but it included Pakistan-held Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan.

According to KVI secretary Javid Kakroo, people of the state from both sides of the line of control would resist and fight against any move that separates Gilgit Baltistan from the rest of the state.

Formed in January, KVI seeks to mainly highlight human rights and political issues: “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. Kashmir is not a commodity to be played with by two countries, India and Pakistan. The Kashmiri diaspora is concerned that the real picture on the ground is not being projected,” Kakroo said.

Objectives of the forum, Raina said, included enlisting the support of minorities: “Jammu and Kashmir does not belong only to Muslims; there are minorities too. The forum will also project violations of human rights and push for resolution of the conflict by delinking the Kashmir issue from India-Pakistan relations”.

According to Kakroo, the Kashmiri diaspora in Britain with links to the Valley number nearly 10,000. Another section of the Kashmiri diaspora in the country hails from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

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