Bottles, eggs greet Bilawal at London’s Kashmir rally

LONDON (TIP): Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was forced to leave a ‘Million March’ to protest “rights violations” in Kashmir here on Sunday after bottles, eggs and cans were thrown at him. Police had to whisk him away to safety telling him his life was in danger. “This march was to be about Kashmir and for the welfare of Kashmiris. Bilawal has no business being here,” said a protester, who had travelled from Derby for the rally.

Chaos followed as soon as Bilawal, the son of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, appeared on the makeshift stage at Trafalgar Square. Rival groups in the crowd came to blows. The organizers failed to quell a few hundred flag-waving protesters as they booed and abused Bilawal, who had provoked outrage in India by vowing to make Kashmir part of Pakistan at a rally in Multan recently. The rally was billed as a ‘Million March’ from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street, but it failed to live up to expectations in terms of numbers. Police allowed a small group to march to 10 Downing Street to submit a petition.

Ex-Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Prime Minister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry had organized the protest to push Britain to force India resolve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. “The purpose of the rally was to exert pressure on the Indian government to resolve Kashmir issue and stop human rights violations in the occupied Kashmir,” said Chaudhry. He asked British parliamentarians to raise the issue of independent Kashmir in the British parliament. “The people of Kashmir have been struggling for many years to have the right to their own destiny,” he said.

“Imagine Scotland being partitioned into two parts with one being given independence and the other half occupied by British troops at a ratio of one soldier for every two civilians, with restrictions on all their movements.” He said Kashmiris have always rejected the idea of having a border separating the two sides of the divided state. The rally went ahead even as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj asked British foreign secretary Philip Hammond to stem the “anti-India march” as the two met for their first meeting last week. Swaraj had taken up the issue with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as well. A British foreign office official assured his country would not mediate over Kashmir. But he added Britain cannot stop the rally provided the protesters do not break the law.

“People in the UK have the right of expression and right to protest.” Clegg maintained Kashmir can only be resolved by India and Pakistan through dialogue and clarified the UK does not intend to be a mediator. “This is a long-running conflict, and we stand by to help; but ultimately it can be resolved only by the two countries in question.”

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