HOUSTON/NEW YORK    -   As Prime Minister Imran Khan embarked on his “Mission Kashmir” in New York ahead of his UNGA address, a “Howdy, Modi!” rally in Houston on Sunday was eclipsed by a huge protest against the Indian atrocities in the Occupied Kashmir, where the people have been under a lockdown for 49 days.

Just when the US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were sharing a stage and showering each other with praise at the NRG football stadium during the event organised by Indian diaspora, hundreds of protesters belonging to various ethnicities gathered outside to hold an anti-Modi demonstration.

The protesters, mostly Pakistanis, Sikhs and human rights activists who came from across the Texas state, chanted slogans like “Go back Modi” and “Modi is a terrorist”.

The massive anti-Modi protest came as a morale booster for Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has declared himself to be the Ambassador of Kashmir and is set to focus on the humanitarian crisis in the Indian-occupied valley in his address to the UN General Assembly.

According to ABC news, Justice for All, an interfaith human rights group, and its allies organised the massive protest demonstration. Muslims and Sikhs from different cities of Texas – including Houston, Dallas, Austin and Saint Antonio – had chalked out the plan to overshadow Modi’s rally at the NRG Stadium.

Saeed Sheikh, president of the Houston-Karachi Sister City Association, said the protest took place on the call of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said the International Humanitarian Foundation had also responded to PM Khan’s call to gather in the city.

Around 50 buses were reportedly used to transport up to 40,000 people to the protest site. Anti-Modi and anti-India banners were put up around the venue in Houston, which is home to over 50,000 Pakistani immigrants.

“People of every race, colour, gender, and age have taken to the streets to condemn the acts of Modi’s racist regime. The mass protest stands against the supremacist government’s brutal interference in Kashmir,” a post on Twitter by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said.

Speaking to the media Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday said thousands of Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Sikhs, Muslims from other countries and human rights activists had converged outside the Houston stadium to condemn the illegal and unilateral steps taken by India in the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Qureshi, who later also held a press conference along with Ghulam Nani Fai and other Kashmiri leaders in New York, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan in his UNGA speech would apprise the world body about the ongoing Indian atrocities in IoK.

The prime minister, he said, would also apprise United States president that the picture painted by Indian premier of the IoK was not correct because the situation had not been returning to normalcy there, rather, it had become very critical. With Modi’s further illegal steps, the situation could aggravate, he added.

Moreover, he said, the prime minister would also meet President International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), an organisation which was not being allowed to operate in the occupied Kashmir.

The foreign minister said that PM Khan will also raise Kashmir issue with the other world leaders he would meet on the sidelines of UNGA session and apprise them of the illegal steps of Modi government which violated the UN resolutions and the international laws.

He informed that Senator Lindsey Graham, one among the four senators who had written letters to President Trump over the worsening situation in the IoK met with the prime minister on Sunday.

Qureshi said the US senator was urged to keep raising the issue of innocent people of Kashmir. The US Congress had an effective role to play for the people of Kashmir, he added.

To a query, he said a huge number of people had also submitted applications for holding a peaceful demonstration outside the UN building during Modi’s address and according to reports, they were given the permission.

The Kashmiris were facing hardships in getting medical treatment, the hospitals were running out of drugs, moreover, issuance of death certificates were being declined, the minister said, adding that he had already raised this issue with the head of World Health Organization.

PM MEETING WITH AI SECY

Prime Minister Imran Khan Sunday also met with Secretary General of Amnesty International Komi Naidoo, who called on him in New York.

He appreciated the lead role of Amnesty International (AI) in presenting the real state of human rights in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and amplifying the voices of the Kashmiris in a state of seven-week long lockdown.

The Amnesty’s efforts had helped raise the international community’s awareness about the continuing sufferings of the Kashmiri people, Khan was quoted as saying in a press release issued by his office.

The prime minister discussed with Naidoo the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in the IoK. He also lauded the Amnesty’s report on the use of pellet guns by India and their devastating impact on the Kashmiri youth.

It was observed that the two UN reports on Kashmir served as a strong basis for continued civil society advocacy in support of the Kashmiri people.

Naidoo briefed the prime minister on the Amnesty’s advocacy work on Kashmir including #LetKashmirSpeak.

He also updated the prime minister on the Amnesty’s work relating to climate justice and suggested consideration of Global South advocacy by the latter on a range of climate change related issues.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Kashmir Study Group to highlight the present worst situation in Occupied Kashmir, which poses a grave threat to regional peace and security.

This he stated this in a meeting with the founder of Kashmir Study Group, Farooq Kathwari, who called on him and discussed the prevailing situation in the Occupied Kashmir.

Kathwari highlighted the Kashmir Study Group’s earlier engagement on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and efforts for conflict resolution. The prime minister asked him to expose the real face of fascist Modi’s regime before the world.

Meeting with Khalilzad

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday expressed the hope for an early resumption of the Afghan peace process and reiterated Pakistan’s continued support to all initiatives towards achieving sustainable peace in the neighbouring country.

He was talking to United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who called on him here and discussed Afghanistan situation and Pak-US joint efforts for peace in the war-torn country.

The prime minister condemned the recent surge of violence in Afghanistan, and recalled that Pakistan had always held that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

Peace in Afghanistan was vital to advancing his government’s vision for a peaceful neighbourhood and for economic development and regional stability, a press release issued by his office quoted the premier as saying.

Imran Khan appreciated Ambassador Khalilzad’s efforts for promoting a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan. “All parties must play their role in strengthening peace and promoting reconciliation as a shared responsibility,” he said.

Ambassador Khalilzad appreciated the prime minister’s support for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, and said he looked forward to continue working with Pakistan for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In his media talk, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan would urge all sides to resume the dialogue process soon as further delay could create difficulties in securing peace in the war weary country and increase prospects for violence. He said Pakistan had played its role which was acknowledged by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad during his meeting with the prime minister.

Ambassador Khalilzad shared with the prime minister the outcome of his negotiations with the Taliban, and he appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process as a very constructive one, the minister added.

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 their wish to work in improving quality of education through various projects in Pakistan.

They also informed the Prime Minister of their expertise in taxation reforms. Shah Mehmood Qureshi said an important point in Prime Minister’s agenda is to improve the tax reforms and bring transparency and improvement in tax collection efforts. He said the meeting agreed that the experts of the George Soros Foundation will visit Pakistan soon to assess the needs of reforms in taxation machinery.

Foreign Minister said Prime Minister also had a meeting with Secretary General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo. The Secretary General informed the Prime Minister of the difficulties being faced by his organization in carrying out work in Occupied Kashmir. He also informed the high handedness of the Indian authorities in the held valley. Kumi Naidoo said members of his organization have to visit courts every other day to seek permission for their work. The Prime Minister appreciated the work of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations who are working to highlight the human rights situation in difficult circumstances in Occupied Kashmir.

Foreign Minister said a meeting with Kashmiri delegation comprising eleven members is also scheduled to be held with the Prime Minister today. He said we will want to know their expectations from us and also their guidance on future course of action.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said thousands of Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Sikhs, and human rights activists have gathered in Houston today to protest against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address. This protest will raise the voice and plight of Kashmiris before the world community.

Responding to a question, he said if dialogue process between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban does not continue, it will lead to violence. He said Pakistan acted as a facilitator in the Afghan peace process and will continue to do so in order to bring peace in the war ravaged country.

MEETING WITH AI SECY

Prime Minister Imran Khan Sunday appreciated the lead role of Amnesty International in presenting the real state of human rights in the Indian Occupied Jammu nd Kashmir (IOJ&K) and amplifying the voices of the Kashmiri population in a state of seven-week long lockdown.

The Amnesty’s efforts had helped raise the international community’s awareness about the continuing sufferings of the Kashmiri people, he said while talking to Secretary General of Amnesty International Komi Naidoo, who called on him.

The prime minister discussed with Naidoo the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in the IOJ&K since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, PM Office Media Wing in a press release said. He also lauded the Amnesty’s report on the use of pellet guns by India and their devastating impact on the Kashmiri youth.

It was observed that the two UN reports on Kashmir served as a strong basis for continued civil society advocacy in support of the Kashmiri people.

Naidoo briefed the prime minister on the Amnesty’s advocacy work on Kashmir including #LetKashmirSpeak.

He also updated the prime minister on the Amnesty’s work relating to climate justice and suggested consideration of Global South advocacy by the latter on a range of climate change related issues. Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged Kashmir Study Group to highlight the present worst situation in Occupied Kashmir, which poses a grave threat to regional peace and security. This he stated while meeting with the founder of Kashmir Study Group Farooq Kathwari, who called on him in New York and discussed the prevailing situation in Occupied Kashmir.

Prime Minister highlighted India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August and the inhuman lockdown of over 8 million Kashmiris entering in its 49th consecutive day.

Kathwari on the occasion highlighted the Kashmir Study Group’s earlier engagement on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and efforts for conflict resolution. The prime minister directed him to expose the real face of fascist Modi’s regime before the world.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Naeemul Haq, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi, Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed and other senior officials were also present on the occasion.