The government of Pakistan splashed out Rs 30 lakh on a trip to Pakistan and PoK for members of a British parliamentary group whose aim is to highlight alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir and seek justice for Kashmiris, it has been revealed.
The register of all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) shows that the APPG on Kashmir (APPGK), chaired by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, who was barred entry to India in February 2020 owing to an invalid visa, received a "benefit in kind" of between £31,501 (Rs 29.7 lakh) and £33,000 (Rs 31.2 lakh) on February 18, 2020 from the Pakistan government for a "visit to Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir" between February 18 and 22.
APPGs have to declare benefits in kind and money received worth more than £1,500 on the APPG register.
The stated aim of the APPGK, which is made up of cross-party MPs and peers, including some of Pakistani heritage, is to "support the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people through dialogue; to seek support from British parliamentarians; to highlight the abuses of human rights in Kashmir; and to seek justice for the people there".
Abrahams, the chair, was deported from India to Dubai on February 17 this year after reaching Delhi with her PIO parliamentary aide Harpreet Uppal and being informed at the airport that her e-visa was not valid. The following day she flew to Pakistan and met Pakistan PM Imran Khan, all funded by the Pakistan government.
This is not the group’s first such "benefit" from Paksitan. On September 17, 2018 it was the the Pakistan high commission in London which gave a benefit in kind worth between £10,501 (Rs 9.9 lakh) and £12,000 (Rs 11.3 lakh) to the group to fund a "visit to Pakistan and Kashmir" between September 17 and 20, 2018.
On Wednesday the group held a video meeting with Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, minister for South Asia, to discuss Kashmir further.
Ahmad tweeted afterwards: "Good discussion with Debbie Abrahams and colleagues in the APPGK. I reinforced the need for all actors to protect and uphold human rights. UK continues to encourage efforts to bring economic development to the region."
Abrahams replied: "The APPGK looks forward to working with you to uphold human rights across Kashmir."
MP Tan Dhesi, who took part in the meeting, told TOI it was productive and "an array of issues were raised". "I raised concerns about the rising tensions in the Kashmir region between China, India and Pakistan while asking the minister to press his counterparts to ease the clampdown, free democratically elected leaders and ensure that human rights of all are protected. I also requested him to recommend that the Kartapur Sahib corridor is opened as soon as possible," he said.
Abrahams has been highly critical of the Indian government’s decision to nullify Article 370.
On August 5, 2019, she wrote to India’s then high commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam, expressing "grave concern" from MPs and peers about the removal of Kashmir’s special status. The same day she wrote to UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab saying the action "contravenes international law" and requested the UK to call for a moratorium on India’s actions.