WASHINGTON - A Kashmiri leader who is serving a prison term here has welcomed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statement in which the UN chief underscored the need to respect the "will" of Kashmiri people while working towards a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
"We deeply appreciate the statement of the Secretary General that the 'will' of the people there must be respected while finding any solution," said Ghulam Nabi Fai, who headed the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council until his arrest in July last year,
“The people of Kashmir are, therefore profoundly grateful to the Secretary General for upholding the position of principle which the United Nations has sustained throughout the existence of the contentious issue relating to the status of Kashmir,” said Fai, who received a two-year sentence for allegedly conducting a “decades-long” lobbying effort with funds from the Pakistani intelligence agency to influence U.S. policy on the Kashmir dispute.
During his recent trip to India, the UN chief, responding to a specific question on the Indo-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, said "I hope all these issues will be addressed peacefully, without violence, to reflect the will of the people there, without resorting to any violence and also fully respecting human rights and dignity."
In a statement released by Kashmiri-American Council on Sunday, Fai said, "(The) Secretary General was also right by saying that he was pleased with the continued efforts to improve the relations between India and Pakistan. This has a broader significance for the region and for global peace. He also said that there are many outstanding issues but he encourages leaders of both the countries to persist with these efforts."
While supporting the Indo-Pakistan dialogue process, Fai said the urgent goal of resolving the Kashmir dispute couldn’t be left to the two governments. "It requires the engagement of a multilateral effort on the initiative of the United Nations," he said.
To avert drift and deterioration in the present situation, Fai said it was necessary to induct a suitable presence of P-5 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) in the area of conflict. A person of high international standing, like Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, needs to be appointed as the representative of either the P-5 or the Security Council or the Secretary General of the UN.
"For associating the people of Kashmir in a credible peace process, it will be imperative to secure their representation on a principled basis by election in Kashmir under the control and supervision of the United Nations. This would enable all the different ethnic communities and zones in Kashmir to elect representatives who in turn would appoint a team or teams with the mandate to negotiate a settlement with both India and Pakistan," the statement added.