MIRPUR (AJK)- AJK Minister for Finance, Planning and Development Chaudhry Latif Akbar welcomed the efforts of Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo to bring the Kashmiri leadership together through an all parties  conference, scheduled to be held in Islamabad on August 30.

Chaudhry Latif Akbar, who is also the chairman of the AJK parliamentary committee formed to propound reforms in AJK’s Interim Constitution Act, 1974, was notified by the Legislative Assembly secretariat as head of the parliamentary committee, comprising eight MLAs and 1 AJK Council member from different parties, on March 29 this year.  However, in the last week of April, he became seriously ill and had to be flown to UK for specialised treatment. Currently, he is in the United States for further check up. In a telephonic chat from New York Wednesday night, Mr Akbar recalled that he had held some informal consultative with leader of the opposition Raja Farooq Haider but could not organise a formal meeting of committee before his departure, mainly due to unavailability of one or the other committee member. “Due to the sudden deterioration of my health, the committee could not hold a formal meeting. However, I appreciate Mr Wattoo’s initiative and wish and pray that its participants arrive at consensus for the benefit of the people of state,” he said. Mr Akbar said amendments in the AJK’s constitution were a long pending requirement and it was also a fact that this could not be done without taking the government of Pakistan on board. He said it was the Pakistan People’s Party-led government in Pakistan which had presented parliamentary democracy to AJK through the Interim Constitution Act, 1974.

“I am convinced that reforms in AJK’s constitution are sine qua non of a strong democratic and representative government in Muzaffarabad, particularly when we see empowerment of the Parliament and provincial governments in Pakistan through 18th, 19th and 20th amendments to the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Akbar emphatically stated that the PPP believed in decentralisation of power and its proof was ceding of most of the presidential powers to the Parliament by President Asif Ali Zardari of his own free accord.

“As our leadership is out to extend similar gestures to AJK the credit of improvement in AJK’s constitution will also go to the PPP, just like the introduction of parliamentary democracy in AJK,” he said.

Mr Akbar expressed the hope that the participants of the moot would not make anything a point of prestige or ego and would come up with acceptable to all proposals for amendments, in keeping with the expectations of the people on the one hand and sensitivity of the region on the other.

It may be recalled that Mr Wattoo has invited heads of Kashmiri political parties at his residence in Islamabad on Thursday to solicit their recommendations for amendments to AJK’s constitution.