After Kashmir row, Pakistan axes Commonwealth meet

Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday refused to host the 61st Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference after declining to change its stance on not inviting the speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.

The announcement was made by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, who said Pakistan would not compromise on its stand on Jammu and Kashmir which it considers a disputed territory.

India had threatened to boycott the meet, scheduled here from September 30 to October 8, if an invite was not extended to the Jammu and Kashmir assembly Speaker, Kavinder Gupta.

Pakistan, which supports a dragging separatist campaign in Jammu and Kashmir, had argued that it cannot invite Gupta as that would amount to legitimizing the state legislature. India refused to accept this.

Radio Pakistan reported that the National Assembly decided not to host the Commonwealth meet after a tele-conference with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on Wednesday.

The National Assembly Secretariat said Pakistan had agreed to host the conference "with a view to strengthening democracy, dialogue and cooperation" among the developing countries in the grouping.

"At no point had the Pakistan parliament shown even a distant sign of flexibility on its principled and historic stand on Jammu and Kashmir," it said.

"The unsettled dispute remains (a) flashpoint ... and is very much alive on the United Nations agenda."

India, the world's largest democracy, had urged the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to shift the conference venue to another country if Pakistan remained inflexible.

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