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New Delhi,

Jan 31: The Pakistan Foreign Office on Thursday rejected claims that the Imran Khan government was intending to merge Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with Pakistan. Pakistan refers to PoK as ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui told a weekly media briefing “there was no such proposal under consideration” and termed the merger rumours as “media speculation”.

On December 11, the government of PoK ordered the renaming of its administrative service, then known as ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir Management Group’, to the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Services (JKAS)’. The move had triggered speculation that the Imran Khan government was looking to integrate PoK into Pakistan and make it Islamabad’s fifth province. Unlike other Pakistani provinces, PoK has had a separate president and prime minister, albeit with little real powers.

Farooq Haider Khan, the prime minister of PoK, had said in December he could be the last person to hold the post.

Nasir Aziz Khan, the spokesperson of the United Kashmir People’s National Party, had termed the renaming of the administrative service as an attempt to “illegally” merge parts of PoK with Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Narendra Modi government in August 2019, “there have been assumptions that Pakistan too may change the status of the region in view of repeated threats from India”.

The Imran Khan government is continuing its campaign on the Kashmir issue. Farooqui told mediapersons that Pakistan would observe Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5 to highlight what she called “Indian government’s atrocities and human rights violations in India-held Jammu and Kashmir”.

Farooqui was quoted by Dawn as saying, “The plan includes activities inside Pakistan as well as abroad. This is an ongoing process and national effort. Our missions in more than a hundred countries are planning a comprehensive strategy regarding the upcoming Kashmir Solidarity Day and the awareness campaign is not only restricted to Pakistan.”