US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tours Pakistan, meets families at LoC

Outspoken lawmaker meets with top Pakistani and Kashmiri leadership during her trip
Riyaz ul Khaliq – April 22, 2022

ISTANBUL (Anadolu) – US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has met with Pakistan’s top leadership and paid a visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir as part of a four-day visit to the country that began on April 20.

Omar, a vocal lawmaker who has raised the issues of Islamophobia, Palestine and Kashmir in and outside of the US Congress, met with President Arif Alvi, newly sworn-in Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his predecessor Imran Khan in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Omar is the first US lawmaker to visit Pakistan after the recent change in government in which former Prime Minister Khan accused Washington of effecting a regime change in Islamabad.

President Alvi appreciated the “outstanding role” of the US Congresswoman “in upholding Muslim values, fighting against Islamophobia and in the cause of Palestinians and Kashmiris.”

“The world must be made aware of the suppression and possible Muslim genocide in India,” Alvi told Omar, saying Washington and Islamabad “need to come closer.”

“Ms. Omar also appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Islamophobia resolution of the UN,” said a statement by the Pakistani presidency.

Pakistan along with Turkiye played a leading role in moving a resolution at the UN to declare March 15 a day to combat Islamophobia.

Sharif hoped that Omar’s visit “would lead to a deepening of people-to-people ties and strengthen exchanges between the Parliament of Pakistan and the US Congress.”

“Pakistan values its longstanding relationship with the US and wants to further deepen bilateral cooperation based on mutual respect, trust, and equality,” Sharif told the Congresswoman.

Emphasizing constructive engagement between the two countries, Sharif said it could “help promote peace, security and development in the region.”

A statement by the prime ministry said Sharif also highlighted the “serious human rights situation in IIOJK (Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir) and stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, enabling the region to realize its economic potential and promote social progress.”

“A peaceful and stable South Asian region can focus on its growth and development,” he said, adding concerted efforts at the global level “were needed to deal with the scourge of Islamophobia.”

The US lawmaker also met with Pakistan National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf and Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Omar also called on former Prime Minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party Chairman Khan at his Bani Gala residence on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad.

“They discussed Islamophobia and related issues. Ilhan Omar expressed her admiration for Imran Khan and his position on and work against Islamophobia globally,” said Khan’s party colleague and former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari after the meeting.

“Imran Khan appreciated her courageous and principled position on issues,” she added.

Tour of Azad Kashmir

During her maiden trip to Pakistan, Omar on Thursday reached Azad Jammu and Kashmir, where her delegation met with President Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary of the Pakistan-controlled part of the UN-designated disputed region.

Omar assured Chaudhry that “she would join hands with other members of the US Congress to show solidarity with Kashmiris and will raise the plight of Kashmiris in the (Joe) Biden Administration,” said a statement by the Azad Kashmir government.

She also visited the Line of Control (LoC) – the dividing line between the Pakistani and Indian controlled parts of Kashmir. The two countries claim the region in full. However, the UN resolutions passed on the disputed region call for a plebiscite to decide the future of the divided state.

The US congresswoman also visited the Chakothi bridge that connects the two sides of Kashmir and was seen peering into Indian-administered Kashmir through the iron gate mounted by the Pakistani side.

At the LoC, she met residents living on the Pakistani side of the dividing line who have been victims of cross-border shelling that has stopped ever since Pakistan and India revived a 2003 cease-fire in February last year.

Omar’s trip to Azad Kashmir drew a sharp reaction from India, which said the US lawmaker “visited a part of Jammu and Kashmir currently illegally occupied by Pakistan.”

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