Kashmir: Turmoil from within
11 February, 2013
By Khalid Iqbal
This year, Kashmir Solidarity Day was observed under peculiar circumstances. The recent violations of ceasefire have brought the Kashmir conflict under a renewed focus at the international level. Needless to say, it has been on the UN agenda for more than six decades and, indeed, is its unfulfilled obligation. The government and people of Pakistan continue to extend their unwavering political, moral and diplomatic support to the just cause of the Kashmiri people to safeguard their right of self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite in line with the UN Charter and UNSC resolutions, as well as for the protection of their fundamental rights.
The meeting of OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, on the sidelines of the 12th OIC Summit in Cairo on February 5, coincided with the Kashmir Solidarity Day. This was its third meeting in less than six months. It, indeed, is an expression of the importance that OIC attaches to this lingering dispute. The meeting was co-chaired by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Secretary General OIC Iyad Madan; its participants reiterated their continued support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
During the meeting, Ms Khar said: "I am honoured to address this meeting of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir on a day when Pakistanis all over the world observe solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.......(the) OIC message has been clear: implement the UN Security Council Resolutions that affirm Kashmiris' right to self-determination. The support of the OIC member states to the Kashmir cause is highly valued by the Kashmiris and the people of Pakistan.
"It is unfortunate that since 1948 Kashmiris' right to self-determination has been denied.......the President of Pakistan during his address at the 67th session of the UNGA reaffirmed that Pakistan will continue to support the right of people of Jammu and Kashmir to peacefully determine their destiny in accordance with the UN Security Council's resolutions."
Moreover, in her statement to the OIC summit, Pakistan's Foreign Minister underscored the need to address daunting challenges faced by the Muslim World through unity, solidarity, and a spirit of Islamic brotherhood. She maintained: "On this day, I wish to reassure my Kashmiri brethren that Pakistan remains firmly committed to finding a just and peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute.......I reaffirm Pakistan's firm commitment to a just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and protection of their fundamental rights."
The President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the representative of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Ghulam Mohammad Safi, also attended the meeting of the Contact Group. AJK President spoke in particular about the human rights violations that continue unabated by the Indian security forces. The representatives of the Kashmiris gave an update on the latest situation in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). They presented a memorandum on the Kashmir cause to the summit; this document contained proposals for both the OIC member states and its Secretary General to peacefully resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions.
Secretary General Madan reaffirmed OIC's commitment and support to the Kashmiri struggle for right to self-determination. He said that soon a team of OIC, led by Special Representative of OIC Secretary General on Kashmir, will visit AJK to assess their needs, and find more practical and effective measures to help the people of Kashmir. He also shared his intent to call a meeting of the Kashmiri representatives to making OIC's role more effective.
The Summit adopted Joint Communiqué, which besides addressing issues of interest and concern to the Muslim Ummah, reaffirmed its principle support to the people of IHK for the realisation of their legitimate right to self-determination. It called upon India to allow the OIC fact-finding mission, the international human rights groups and humanitarian organisations to visit the disputed valley and also to undertake an independent investigation into the discovery of mass graves and ensure free and fair trial of those responsible for perpetrating such heinous crimes.
Pakistan has entered into dialogue with India in good faith to amicably resolve the Kashmir dispute. It is earnestly implementing the cross-LoC Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to bring relief to the divided families and reduce the sufferings of the Kashmiris on both sides of border.
Nevertheless, the CBMs have contributed towards the creation of a congenial environment between the two countries to address the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
The struggle for self-determination has cost Kashmiris dearly in terms of human, economic and social losses. Unfortunately, human rights violations in IHK continue unabated with impunity. The people's fundamental rights have been trodden by invoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which has been termed as "draconian", "hated" and "a violation of international law" by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights.
Instruments of human rights violations, including rape, fake encounters, custodial killings and arrests, are being used by the security forces in IHK. Discovery of mass graves is a matter of concern not only for the Kashmiris, but also the international community.
The demand to conduct an impartial inquiry into the mass graves and forensic identification of dead bodies has received muted response from the Indian authorities. Also, despite the signals that occasionally emanate from India that the security forces' presence in IHK would be reduced, their number has not gone down.
During the recent violations of the LoC, there have been negative and hostile statements by the Indian leadership. Despite provocations, Pakistan has exercised restraint and proposed an independent inquiry into the ceasefire violations by UNMOGIP; it would also welcome an OIC fact-finding mission to investigate these incidents.
Enduring peace and security in South Asia lies in resolving the longstanding conflict of Kashmir. The turmoil from within has the potential of derailing any bilateral processes like the enhancement of trade and people-to-people contact. Pakistan is committed to finding a just and peaceful solution of the dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Getting over with it would usher in an era of peace in South Asia, which is home to nearly 22 percent of the world population.
The writer is a retired air commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force. At present, he is a member of the visiting faculty at the PAF Air War College, Naval War College and Quaid-i-Azam University.