APP82-10 ISLAMABAD: January 10 - Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Ch. Muhammad Barjees Tahir addressing a press conference. APP

ISLAMABAD, Jan 10 (APP): Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Chaudhry Barjees Tahir Tuesday said Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had approved increase in development funds of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) from Rs 11 billion to Rs 21 billion.
Addressing a press conference here, he said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N) government would fulfill its promises made with the people of Kashmir during the election campaign.
The PML-N won the Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly elections with a heavy majority, he noted.
Barjees said the prime minister held four meetings with the AJK Prime Minister and his cabinet members and discussed the projects for Azad Kashmir in detail.
The recent budget session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Muzaffarabad, continued for four hours and all development projects came under discussion, he added.
The Prime Minister, he said, wanted Kashmir to be a prosperous region and was keenly interested in its development projects.
He said the Prime Minister approved development projects, including Mangla-Mirpur-Muzaffarabad road and Shounter Valley project.
The Prime Minister also expressed his intention to make AJK projects, including Lepa tunnel part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he added.
One of the election promises, he said, was to launch an air ambulance service in AJK, but the Prime Minister approved two air ambulances for AJK, two for Gilgit Baltistan and one for Federally Administered Tribal
Areas (FATA).
He said the Prime Minister instructed that a procedure should be decided to operate the ambulance service.
On the Prime Minister’s directions, Barjees Tahir said, he himself would contact Edhi Foundation to seek help for operating the ambulances.
The minister said facilities in AJK hospitals would also be upgraded and airports would be expanded.
He said Kashmiris highlighted the Kashmir freedom movement with their blood.
The martyrdom of Burhan Wani infused a new spirit in the Kashmir movement, he added.
The minister said Kashmiris were struggling for their freedom while India was trying to change demographics in the region which had 78 per cent Muslims in 1947.
He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to continue diplomatic, political and moral support to Kashmiris.
Kashmiris should be granted their right to self-determination according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions, he stressed.
The minister said not much was done on the Kashmir issue by previous governments, while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took up the case of Kashmir four times at the United Nations General Assembly.
He said due to the efforts of Prime Minister, Foreign Office and special envoys sent abroad by the federal government, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) backed the right of self-determination of Kashmiris.
China, Russia and Turkey also openly expressed their viewpoint on the issue of Kashmir because of the sustained foreign policy of Pakistan, he added.
To a question, Barjees assured that headway would be made on the issues of water user charges and the National Finance Commission award for Kashmiris.
He said the government in Kashmir was run under a 1974 act and Kashmir Legislative Assembly could make further amendments in it to resolve their issues.
It was prerogative of the Kashmir Legislative Assembly and the AJK government to decide about projects approved under the Rs 21 billion development package, he added.

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