By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal

This year, ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ was observed under peculiar circumstances. Recent violations of ceasefire have brought the Kashmir conflict under renewed focus at the international level. This dispute has been on the agenda of the UN for more than six decades, it is indeed an unfulfilled obligation of the UN. 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.

Meeting of the “OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir” on the sidelines of 12 th OIC Summit in Cairo on 5 February coincided with the ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day.’ This was the third meeting of the Contact Group in less than six months. This indeed is an expression of importance that the OIC attaches to this lingering dispute. The meeting was co-chaired by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister and Secretary General OIC; participants of the meeting reiterated their continued support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

During the meeting, Foreign Minister of Pakistan 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… OIC message has been clear: Implement the UN Security Council Resolutions which 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… 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.”

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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: “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 & Kashmir and protection of their fundamental rights”.

President of AJK and the representative of the APHC, Ghulam Mohammad Safi, also attended the meeting of the Contact Group. President of AJK spoke in particular about the Human Rights violations that continue unabated by the Indian security forces. The representatives of the Kashmiri People gave an update on the latest situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir. They presented to the Summit a memorandum on the Kashmir cause, this document contained proposals for both the OIC member states as well as the OIC Secretary General to peacefully resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

The OIC Secretary General reaffirmed OIC’s commitment and support to the Kashmiri struggle for their right to self determination, as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions.  He said that soon a team of OIC, led by Special Representative of OIC Secretary General on Kashmir, will visit Azad Jammu and Kashmir 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 Kashmiri representatives to look at making OIC’s role more effective.

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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 Jammu and Kashmir for realization of their legitimate right to self determination. It also called upon India to allow the OIC fact-finding mission, the international human rights groups and humanitarian organizations to visit Jammu and Kashmir. The Communiqué urged India to undertake independent investigation into the discovery of mass graves and ensure free and fair trial of those responsible of perpetrating heinous crimes. In addition, the Communiqué expressed deep concern on the recent ceasefire violations along the LoC, and welcomed Pakistan’s proposal to hold investigation through United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UMMOGIP).

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 the LoC.  Pakistan is pursuing the CBMs in good faith and hopes that the process would continue to mitigate the suffering of the Kashmiri people and lead to resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. These CBMs have contributed towards 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 of the people of Kashmir continue unabated with impunity.  The fundamental rights of the people of Kashmir 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 HR. Instruments of human rights violations, including rape, fake encounters, custodial killings and arrests are being used by the security forces in IHJ&K. Discovery of mass graves is a matter of concern not only to Kashmiri people but also to the entire 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. Despite the signals that occasionally emanate from India that the security forces’ presence in Kashmir would be reduced, the number of the occupation forces has not gone down.

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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; Pakistan would also welcome an OIC fact finding mission to investigate these incidents.

Afzal Guru’s execution on the charge of being the mastermind of an attack on Indian parliament in 2001, which is widely perceived as a false flag operation conducted by the Indian intelligence agencies to pressurise Pakistan, has resulted in wide spread reaction in Jammu and Kashmir. Guru’s hanging is controversial because he fiercely contested the case and had claimed that he was framed.  Protests by the Kashmiri people indicate the precariousness of the Kashmir dispute, and hence the urgency to resolve it.

Enduring peace and security in South Asia lies in resolving the longstanding conflict of Kashmir. This turmoil from within has the potential of derailing any bilateral processes like enhancement of trade, people to people contact etc. Pakistan is committed to finding a just and peaceful solution of the dispute in accordance the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Getting over with this conflict would usher in an era of peace in South Asia, home to nearly 22% of the world population.

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