The state of Jammu and Kashmir (in common parlance referred to only as Kashmir) is essential for Pakistan’s very survival. Without Kashmir, Pakistan can be quickly turned into desert since all its rivers originate from there. Further, the two (Pakistan and Kashmir) are intrinsically linked socially and culturally.
That the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is not part of Pakistan is a sordid tale of treachery perpetrated by the Hindu rulers of India in connivance with the ever-intriguing British. More on that later but first let us consider a more recent observance of a day that highlights the close links between Pakistan and Kashmir.
On February 5, the people and government of Pakistan observe Kashmir Solidarity Day. It is also observed worldwide in countries where the Kashmiri diaspora or friends of Kashmir reside.
This year, the myriad political parties observed Kashmir Solidarity Day with much greater fervor than in the past. The reason for this sudden enthusiasm has more to do with parties trying to garner support for their campaigns for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in the country than any genuine concern for the plight of the Kashmiri people that have suffered decades of Indian state oppression and terrorism. If they were genuine in their commitment, why have these parties not expressed such sentiment in the past, or with much enthusiasm?
Such hypocrisy was even alluded to by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his address to the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly on Kashmir Day (February 5). He urged politicians to continue supporting the struggle of the Kashmiri people under the yoke of Indian occupation. “The people of Kashmir will continue to fight for freedom even if we [politicians] do not stand united [behind them],” he said. “But our unity will give them strength,” he asserted.
Setting aside the attitude of political parties, the issue of Kashmir goes to the heart of Pakistan’s very existence. It is referred to as the unfinished business of partition. Two-thirds of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was illegally occupied in October 1947 by India in connivance with the British and the state’s future has remained in limbo ever since (the other one-third is with Pakistan and has remained completely peaceful and tranquil).
The people of Kashmir under Indian occupation have struggled for their right of self-determination for more than 70 years. They have made enormous sacrifices for this fundamental right that is enshrined in at least 18 UN Security Council resolutions. Initially, India promised to hold a plebiscite (referendum) to allow the people to determine their own future, but India’s duplicity soon became apparent when it started to backtrack on its pledge.
There have been several uprisings against India’s military and political occupation. Since 1989, India has maintained 700,000 colonial troops in Kashmir. These occupiers have killed more than 94,000 civilians. To their lasting shame, the Indians have also raped at least 11,000 Kashmiri women to break the spirit of resistance and thousands of youth have simply disappeared. In recent months, India has launched another campaign, code-named “Operation All Out.” Under this policy, Indian troops have been given carte blanche to kill any person suspected of being a militant. Similarly, they are allowed to kill any person suspected of being a sympathizer with the Muslim resistance forces. No proof is necessary; killing Kashmiri youth is the order of the day.
Indian and Pakistani forces face each other on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. In recent years, India has intensified its shelling of civilian towns and villages on the Pakistani side of Kashmir. Although a ceasefire agreement between the two countries exists, India has repeatedly violated this agreement. For instance, in 2017, India violated the ceasefire agreement at least 1970 times, according to figures provided by the Pakistan Foreign Office. And on February 5, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said in the first month of 2018, India was guilty of 190 ceasefire violations, killing 13 civilians and injuring 65 others.
A day before Pakistanis observed Kashmir Solidarity Day, Indian forces resorted to unprovoked shelling in two districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on February 4. Using heavy mortars and automatic weapons, Indian colonial troops killed a woman and a teenage boy and injured seven other people in Nezapir, Nikial, and Karela Sectors of Azad Kashmir.
The following day, the Pakistan Foreign Office summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad, J.P. Singh to protest the latest “unprovoked” ceasefire violation by India across the Line of Control. In his demarche to the Indian diplomat, Pakistani Foreign Office Director General for South Asia and Saarc, Dr. Muhammad Faisal “condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control on February 4, 2018.” He said the deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is “deplorable and contrary to human dignity.”
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed states. “The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation,” Dr. Faisal reminded the Indian diplomat. Such warnings have assumed added significance in view of the irresponsible statements by Indian army chief General Pipin Rawat in which he threatened to call Pakistan’s bluff by carrying out strikes inside Pakistan. The reference was to Pakistan’s threat to use tactical nuclear weapons in case India was to commit such folly.
Dr. Faisal once again urged India to respect the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, investigate incidents of ceasefire violations and allow the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) “to play its mandated role as per the UN Security Council resolutions.”
The UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan was established in 1949 to monitor ceasefire violations. Its establishment was agreed to by both India and Pakistan. While Pakistan has provided unfettered access to UNMOGIP observers to visit the Line of Control, India has adamantly refused to let them even close to the border region. Instead, UNMOGIP observers are bottled up in Srinagar, capital of Indian-colonized Kashmir.
Similarly, India refuses to allow representatives of the UN Human Rights Commission to visit the embattled state. International media outlets as well as human rights organizations are also barred from entry into Indian-colonized Kashmir. India claims to be the “largest democracy” in the world yet it is scared of international investigation of its crimes against innocent Kashmiris.
That Kashmiris do not wish to be part of India is evident from their decades-long struggle for freedom. Further, that they wish to be with Pakistan is also evident from the fact that in Azad (Free) Kashmir, there have never been any protests or demands seeking separation from Pakistan.
The Kashmiris’ demand is genuine; like all people under foreign occupation they have an inherent right to freedom. That this choice has been denied them for more than 70 years does not negate the validity of their demand. The Kashmiris had started their struggle for freedom in July 1931 — indeed long before India and Pakistan came into existence.
Despite the genuineness of their cause, the plight of the Kashmiris has been largely ignored at the international level. This has to do with the geopolitical and strategic interests of Western powers. Human rights take a back seat in such cynical calculations.
Neither the people of Kashmir nor Pakistan should allow this to get in the way of the genuine struggle underway. If Western regimes would not support the struggle of the Kashmiris, there are many well-meaning people in Europe and North America who support such struggles. Such organizations that support human rights and peace through justice can be mobilized in support of the Kashmiris’ struggle. This aspect needs to be given due consideration in order to build a groundswell of support for the Kashmiris legitimate struggle.