ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Vice-President Senator Sherry Rehman on Thursday expressed concerns over the exclusion of Kashmir in the just concluded Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit held in Islamabad.

In a statement issued here, she said: “The ECO summit is being billed as a big success by the government. However, it appears Pakistan did not try hard enough or it did not have enough leverage over the other members.  All 10 ECO member states were represented in the summit. The joint communique mentioned other regional conflicts such as Nagorno and yet, it did not mention Kashmir, a core regional dispute. It is worth noting that the government missed Kashmir in Ufa too.”

She said the low Afghan representation was concerning too. “Even if President Ashraf Ghani could not attend, it was believed that Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani will. Afghanistan did not send anyone. Instead, it allowed Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal to attend in order to keep the country’s slot filled.”

Criticising how the government had handled Pakistan’s already volatile relationship with Afghanistan, she said: “The PPP had much better relations with Afghanistan than this government. With all their strategic advantages, they could have managed the border and refugee issue better.”

The PPP senator also questioned the government’s decision to close the Torkham border. Approximately 15,000 people cross the border every day. It is also a key entry for trade coming in from Afghanistan, she said.

“By closing the Torkham border, the government is not keeping out terrorists. They don’t need to use the Friendship Gate. They are instead creating unprecedented hatred with a neighbour whose long joint border we can’t afford to ignore,” she said.

SUPPORT FOR KASHMIR, PALESTINE TO CONTINUE: MAMNOON

President Mamnoon Hussain has that Pakistan will continue to extend support to the people of Kashmir and Palestine in their just struggle for freedom.

He also expressed the hope that the Kashmir issue and many problems of the Arab world would be resolved in view of the great transformations likely to occur in the world in the next decade.

Talking to Jordanian historian and author Umar Mohammad Nazal Armouthi on Thursday, the president said that the issues of Kashmir and Palestine will remain unresolved unless they were settled in accordance with aspirations of the respective people.

Armouthi is a well-known writer and has authored thirty books.

The president underlined that Kashmir dispute is not a complex issue but instead a clear one and emphasised that Kashmir belongs to the Kashmiris only.

He said that it was India that has always created problems in resolving the issue and has occupied the region against the wishes of the people.

The president noted that the brave people of Kashmir and Palestine were continuing their struggle for freedom despite the continued oppression and brutalities being perpetrated by the occupation forces.

He stressed the need to highlight the issues on humanitarian grounds that merit the attention of the international community.

The president said that Pakistan and Jordon were brotherly Muslim countries and enjoyed excellent bilateral relations which were embedded in strong bonds of faith, culture and shared history.

The president noted that the two countries have supported each other in times of need and have a commonality of views on important regional and international issues.

Armouthi also presented a memento to the president.