ISLAMABAD: (Parliament Times) Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, while speaking at an event here said that India’s revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A will not be accepted by Pakistanis and Kashmiris as a fait accompli. With global powers tightlipped over the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir, India faces no pushback over this crafty yet non-judicious and illegal step, he said. He said that Pakistan and Kashmiris alike have to accept breaking this eerie silence as a challenge so as to help realize the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people and bring an end to the grave human rights taking place in IOK.
The AJK President made these comments while addressing a bi-monthly seminar on “Kashmir Crisis: Politico-Strategic Dimensions and Way-Forward”, organized by the Strategic Vision Institute. The well-attended event was also addressed by Lt. General (retd.) Asad Durrani, Brigadier (retd.) Samson Simon Sharaf and legal expert Mr. Ahmer Bilal Soofi.
The President highlighted that the illegal and unilateral steps taken by the BJP led extremist Indian government has upped the rivalry between the two nuclear neighbours. Kashmiris, he said, have expressed massive reaction over these actions and civil disobedience has taken hold in IOK. He added that since the beginning of this siege there has been over 1000 rallies and demonstrations in IOK and now even the pro-India loyalist parties have openly expressed that they have been backstabbed. Strong sentiments play out in the streets of Jammu and Kashmir each day and all these actions will lead to even greater volatility and dissent in the occupied territory. There is a fear of further backlash, radicalization and exclusion of Kashmiris.
He informed that even though there is jubilation seen in the Buddhist dominated Ladakh region, the people still regret that this illegal bifurcation has led to financial losses due to the inaccessibility to markets in Jammu and Kashmir and also the prevailing apprehension of land-grabs by non-state citizens.
The AJK President said that genocide is taking place in IOK since 1947. India, he said, would not ease this clampdown and will continue to torture the Kashmiris with the hope that the dissent would cool down. Under the communication blockade, India is carrying out a pogrom and genocide on the lines of the 1947 massacre – in which 237,000 Kashmiris were killed – and in its attempts to ‘Unionize ‘ the territory there would be a firestorm. India even attempted to create a new political class but that failed, as evident from the failure of the last Panchayat elections, he said.
President Masood Khan said that India under a pre-planned policy is changing the demography of the occupied territory and trying to bring in settlers from all over India including businessmen and political activist sympathetic to the Hindutva ideology. The Indian government, he said, is advertising these steps as means to economically develop the territory but the reality is that there can be no development in an atmosphere of insecurity and repression. The Indian government has tried to divert international attention from these actions and its attempts to permanently annex the territory by rebranding it as attempts towards ‘gender empowerment’ and ‘minority rights’.
Sardar Masood acknowledged that the Kashmir issue has been provided with a communication bonanza as the mainstream international media has spearheaded a factual campaign on the situation in IOK. This opportunity, he said, will vaporize if we don’t exploit this window provided to us. We must fiercely advocate the rights of the Kashmiris and help garner further support in raising the voices of the Kashmiris, he said, while urging that we must not lose this precious communication window provided.
While praising the role of world parliamentary bodies on raising the profile of the Kashmir dispute, the President said that influential parliaments like the European Parliament, British Parliament and French Parliament have debated on Kashmir. “The UK Labour Party has even made Kashmir a part of their manifesto”, he said. He informed that over 50 congressional leaders have written to the US President for bringing an end to human rights violations and communication blockade enforced in IOK. Recently, he added, two leading US Senators – Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Maggie Hassan – led a Congressional delegation to AJK to help get a better understanding of the on-ground situation.
“Unfortunately, powerful capitals of the world choose not to see the plight of the Kashmiris and instead, tend to look at the dispute through the prism of India. They have to stop maintaining artificial neutrality between Pakistan and India and take affirmative actions to help bring an end to the human rights violations taking place in IOK”, he asserted.
The President said that the BJP led Indian government is being steered by the extremist Hindutva ideology and the world looks the other way as this fanaticism takes hold of South Asia. Similar appeasement of ultra-nationalistic and supremacist Nazi and Fascist ideologues, in the interwar period of the previous century, led to human catastrophes never seen in the history of mankind. World powers, he said, should despise this new tide of ultra-nationalism and religious supremacy before it is too late.
A war between Pakistan and India, in any manifestation, is not an option as any military exchange can lead to the use of nuclear weapons and that would be no less than a suicidal war, he told his audience. He said that the UN Security Council should come out of its slumber and take cognizance of India’s actions and the imposed siege that is now entering into its 71st day.
In response to a question posed by an audience member, the President said that the idea of a government in exile does not hold ground, as already there exists a setup in the shape of the AJK Government. The AJK Government has its own two-tier higher judiciary, bicameral legislature and a President and Prime Minister, he elaborated.
He said that we as a nation have to develop our economic muscle to help make an impact in the international realm and influence opinion makers to take concrete steps for the just cause of the Kashmiris.
Summing up his remarks, the President said that we have to banish our unmerited apprehensions and we must reach out to multilateral forums and human rights organizations, adopt law-fare strategies and lobby with international financial institutions to help impose trade and financial sanctions on India.
“During the years after Pakistan’s independence, we liberated this territory known as AJK and in 1948 we repulsed an attack from India. In the years to come, we passed 12 resolutions on Kashmir at the UN. We successfully achieved these triumphs at a time when even our existence was questioned. We as a nation are stronger now”, he argued.
The event was attended by academics of leading national universities, lawyers, analysts and researchers.