Islamabad: A high-level US Congressional delegation on Sunday visited Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to assess the situation on the ground and gauge the public sentiment after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The delegation comprising senators Chris Van Hollen and Maggie Hassan and US charge d’affaires ambassador Paul Jones visited Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK.
Pakistan foreign office (FO) said the purpose of the visit was to see the ground situation and gauge the public sentiment following India’s August 5 decision.
Normal life in Kashmir remains paralysed following the government’s August 5 move to scrap Article 370, that provided a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcate the state into two union territories.
Ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after New Delhi’s decision. Pakistan reacted angrily to the move and expelled the Indian envoy. Since then, Pakistan has been trying to rally international support against India on the issue.
“The US Senators said that they shared the human rights concerns and would continue to urge India to lift the curfew and release all prisoners as a first step. They also expressed their resolve to remain engaged for the resolution of the dispute,” according to the FO.
The delegation also met PoK’s leaders Sardar Masood Khan and Raja Farooq Haider.
Khan and Haider said that visit would help the delegation to have first-hand information, understanding of the prevailing “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir.
They asked US senators to press India to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir issue in accordance with UNSC resolutions.
India has been maintaining that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan and there is no scope for third-party mediation.
The US delegation was apprised of the historical background of the Jammu and Kashmir issue and the situation in Kashmir in the wake of prolonged curfew.
The visit came after foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday urged Hollen to visit both sides of Kashmir and see the situation on the ground.