By Dr. Mazhar Javed)
Yet again, Jammu Kashmir dispute is making headlines; and like in past, for reasons that at best, can be described as very painful and regrettable.
A few hours ago, the Indian Government announced the scrapping of Article 370 of its Constitution that allowed Jammu and Kashmir a special status. The development is of a serious nature with strong international law dimension and with implications for the regional peace and stability. That needs elaboration.
Indian Occupied Kashmir, to which today’s Indian move relates, is an internationally recognized disputed territory. As such no unilateral step by the government of India can change this disputed status, as is enshrined in the United Council Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions. The inadmissibility of any ‘unilateral step’ in an ‘internationally recognized disputed territory’ is pivotal to the understanding of the issue. As the party to this international dispute, the government of Pakistan has said that it will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.
Besides, Indian move would be strongly opposed by the Jammu and Kashmir people, as it would run contrary to the spirit of the right of self determination promised to them through a ‘free and fair plebiscite’. Such illegal moves would never be acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan.
A day earlier, Pakistan had highlighted the importance of demographic structure of the disputed territory. This demography is important in the context of the plebiscite to decide the future of this disputed territory, as per the UNSC Resolutions. Any move to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory will be a violation of the these Resolutions which require the future dispensation of Jammu and Kashmir to be decided through a free and fair plebiscite.
Today’s development came after days and weeks of a systematic squeeze applied on the people of IOK by New Delhi. Deployment of dozens of thousands of additional paramilitary forces; disconnection of internet services, suspension of Amarnath yatra and advice issued to Indian yatris, students and tourists to leave the occupied territory as soon as possible; people were being asked to stock food items and other necessary supplies; and petrol pumps were telling their desperate customers that they have no fuel to fill their tanks.
To the people of IOK, this was a reminder of the weeks long blockade they had suffered around a decade ago. Measures taken by the Occupation forces were diverse and stringent. In most unambiguous terms, these measures reflected the certainty and large scale of public backlash that Indian move was sure to elicit.
These developments are taking place against a backdrop of decades of brutalities against innocent civilians at the hands of occupation forces ;over 100,000 killings and blinding of hundreds and hundreds of youth by firing pellet guns straight in their faces. Many call it the first mass blinding campaign in the history.
Decades long story of blood, bullet and brutalities have left the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) with no hope of restraint by the occupation forces while using brut force against unarmed civilians. History tells us that such expectations are futile when it comes to IOK.
It is these developments and this background in which the tweet of All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) leader Syed Ali Geelani needs to be seen. In his tweet, which, he called an SOS call, the APHC chief said that “Indians are about to launch the biggest genocide in the history of Mankind”. His words are too alarming and too important to be ignored – by anyone in the world. These must be taken seriously and with a sense of utmost urgency. Luxury of inaction is simply not there.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in its report released last month has documented these atrocities and reiterated its earlier recommendations viz ; immediately repealing the draconian laws that allow impunity to the Indian security forces ; and to set up a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to look into the atrocities [already] committed by the security forces and to hold those responsible for these inhuman acts. The Office of the High Commissioner also reiterated its earlier demand of access for the UN mechanism into the Occupied territory.
Another report “Tyranny of ‘A Lawless Law’: Detention without Charge or Trial under the J&K Pubic Safety Act” was issued by the Amnesty International in June this year. This report analyses in detail and exposes the Indian Public Safety Act (PSA) which provides impunity to the Occupation forces to commit human rights violations of massive scales.
As I write this article just a few hours after the announcement in New Delhi, I feel an indescribable pain inside me when I think of my brothers and sisters in IOK. The whole world knows the ordeal that they have been facing now for decades; every day being worse than the previous one. No one knows what lies ahead for them; innocent men, women and children. What prevails in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) today can at best be described as spiraling fears of atrocities and uncertainties about future and their future generations.
While uncertainty prevails in the air all over IOK, history reveals one thing that is most certain. Any coercive measures including the worst use of brut force has not been able to suppress the indigenous freedom struggle. Any attempt to silence this struggle by raising the level of high handedness will be repeating a tried, tested and failed approach. Coercion has only strengthened the Kashmiris resolve to shed away the yoke of occupation.
These developments are certainly a source of concern for all the peace and freedom loving people of the world. While rest of the world longs to climb up the ladder of stability and prosperity, regrettably this region seems to be rolling back.
We need to move towards the resolution of this long outstanding dispute: for the sake of honoring our international commitments and promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir; for the sake of upholding international law and principles; for having full respect for human rights and for durable peace, stability and prosperity of the region and world at large. Illegal unilateral steps in an internationally recognized disputed territory are obviously and most certainly not going to help.
(The writer is the ambassador of Pakistan to Nepal)