Kashmir Cultural Centre, Vienna along with SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) of Austria organised a seminar on “Socio-Economic development in Kashmir- A people’s perspective” inside Rathaus Hall, the seat of the Vienna state government. Mr. Peter Florianschutz, member of Vienna State parliament and Chairman of State Committee for European and International Affairs, Ms. Safak Akcay, member of Vienna State parliament and member of Committee on Education, Youth, Integration and Transparency, Mr. Sennol Akilic, ex-member of Vienna State parliament and SPO party members participated in this seminar. Speakers in this session include Mr. Naeem Khan, head of Kashmir Cultural Centre, Vienna, Mr. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, Chairman, UKPNP, Mr. Nasir Aziz Khan and Mr. Sajid Hussain spoke during this seminar and discussed on the socio-economic development of Kashmir on both Indian and Pakistani sides.
Mr. Naeem Khan started the session by making a detailed presentation comparing the socio-economic development of people on Indian and Pakistan side of Kashmir. He discussed on the amount of budget allocation and actual spending on various spheres of society and economy on both sides. He highlighted that India spends at least 16 times more their administered side as compared to the amount spent by Pakistan on Pakistan administered Kashmir. He elaborated further that on education, India spends 9 times more than that of Pakistan. He stressed that during the last 2 years, the focus of the Indian government has been fully on socio-economic development of Jammu & Kashmir. Large number of infrastructure projects have been fast tracked to give a strong infrastructural boost to the economy. He also noted that tourism is booming in Jammu & Kashmir and last year J&K has hosted the largest number of tourists in the last two decades. After presenting the detailed comparative analysis, he stressed that Pakistan has to learn from India and work on development aspects of Kashmir. They have to shift their focus from separatism and terror to creating developmental opportunities for the people. Two videos focusing on the infrastructural development and on women & youth empowerment in India administered Kashmir since last 3 years was shown to the delegates.
Mr. Nasir Aziz Khan, Spokesperson of UKPNP, stated that Kashmiris living in Pakistan doesn’t support terrorism and want peace and development in the region. But Pakistan is only focusing on how terror can be flourished in the Indian side. For this they are using Pakistan administered Kashmir as a launching pad to push terror elements into Indian side. Though Pakistan claims that Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK – Pakistan administered Kashmir) is a self-governing state and constitutionally not part of Pakistan, it is an irony that all natural resources of Pakistan administered Kashmir are enjoyed by people of Pakistan and not Kashmiris. The state of Kashmiris in Pakistan administered Kashmir in more like a second-class citizens who neither have rights nor access to resources.
Mr. Sajid Hussain, Member of UKPNP highlighted that in the upcoming local government elections which is going to happen in 22/11/2022, nationalist leaders such as Zulfikar Hyder Raja have not been allowed to contest as they refused to sign the affidavit of accession to Pakistan. When Pakistan claims that AJK is a self-governing state and not part of province of Pakistan and that they respect the rights and jurisdiction of Kashmiris, then why are they insisting on signing of affidavit of accession to Pakistan for each and everything which is happening in Pakistan administer Kashmir. This clearly brings out the double standards and false narrative pushed by Pakistan on Kashmir. The leaders in AJK doesn’t have any real powers and are fully dependent on Politicians. AJK is administered as per the whims and fancies of the Punjabi leaders of Pakistan. With Kashmir having rich natural resources, ideally AJK should have been a developed state but that is not the case. This is solely due to one-sided approach of Pakistan wherein the revenue generated from these natural resources have been used mainly in other provinces of Pakistan.
Mr. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, Chairman, UKPNP, mentioned that on the Indian side, Government is making all possible efforts to ensure that economic and social development of Kashmiris are the top priority. He mentioned even when there is any issue with the projects of Indian Government on Kashmir side, then the civil society organisations and people protest and get the Government to understand the issues and bring out the required change. He stated that this was not the case in Pakistan administered Kashmir where Army controls everything. Areas rich in natural resources have been brought directly under Pakistan Army control and nobody can raise any voice against this injustice. He reiterated that Pakistan should learn from India and focus on the development of Kashmir under their control. They should strive to improve the lifestyle of Kashmiris by providing them with economic and employment opportunities. He mentioned that on the development scale, Pakistan administered Kashmir is still more than 20 years behind the Indian administered one. Hence, Pakistan has to act fast without any delay otherwise India administered Kashmir would become a model state soon.
The members of the Vienna State Parliament mentioned that this session has provided them a detailed insight into the latest developments on both sides of Kashmir and mentioned that it is important the many European leaders understand this reality. They also stated that they would also be taking this up at the EU level to keep the leaders well informed.