By Air Commodore® Khalid Iqbal
As a matter of routine, thousands of people defy round the clock curfews in the Indian held Kashmir (IHK) urban areas, burning police vehicles in the streets, shouting ‘Azadi,’ or freedom, and chanting anti-India slogans. Scores of innocent Kashmiris are killed from past several months in IHK, which continues to be illegally occupied by India since 1947.
In this context, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s recent statement on Kashmir was refreshing. His spokesperson said, “In relation to recent developments in Indian-administered Kashmir, the secretary-general is concerned over the prevailing security situation there. The secretary-general welcomes the recent resumption of foreign minister-level talks between India and Pakistan. He encourages both sides to rekindle the spirit of the composite dialogue and to make renewed efforts to address outstanding issues, including on Jammu and Kashmir…”
This comment is perfectly in order. UNSG is expected to monitor and react to situations developing in the disputed areas, especially those on UN agenda like Kashmir and Palestine. Pakistan had welcomed the UNSG calling on India for “restraint” in the occupied part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir as well as voicing concern over the whole situation and asking for revival of the composite dialogue between Pakistan and India.
The statement was issued by the UN chief’s spokesperson Farhan Haq, who the Indian media wasted no time in pointing out as being of Pakistani origin. An annoyed Indian foreign ministry sought a clarification from Mr Ban’s office.
Surprisingly, UNSG disowned these remarks under Indian pressure. These comments had been officially issued by his spokesman, not just casually or informally uttered. Now the UNSG’s spokesman has declared that the remarks were not those of the UNSG but a “guidance” prepared by the UN Secretariat. Even if the UN Secretariat was issuing “guidance”, it could not be done without the approval of the UNSG.
The remarks were just to express concern over violence and killing of innocent civilians in an occupied territory and to reemphasise the resumption of a dialogue between the two member states of the UN. Hence, there was no need to disown these remarks.
This retraction came as a disappointment not only for the Kashmiris but also for all proponents of Human Rights. It is distressing that the UN and the office of the Secretary General is increasingly becoming an ineffective tool in the context of peace keeping.
Pakistan had not anticipated the extent to which the UN would emerge as a weakling of a new class, given that the Kashmir issue is part of the UNSC agenda and there are unambiguous resolutions of the Security Council calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir.
Kashmir is back under focus as a home grown uprising in IHK is fast getting out of India’s control, and as a corollary, there is a phenomenal rise in the killings of innocent teenagers at the hands of the Indian military apparatus of state terrorism. Bulk of the martyrs is the youth.
Kashmiris have shown to the world that generation after generation they continue to resist Indian occupation. It is time for the international community to implement its commitment for a plebiscite as reflected in the UNSC resolutions.
Rising to the occasion, an increasing number of US Congressmen are now becoming convinced about the gravity of Kashmir issue. They are routinely raising the issue of Kashmir and the need for its settlement. ‘The Kashmiri-American Council and Association of Humanitarian Lawyers’ recently held its ‘11th Annual International Kashmir Peace Conference’ in Washington. Theme of the conference was “India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock over Kashmir”.
Over 300 participants from diverse backgrounds from India, Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir, England, Europe and the
United States, with different viewpoints, participated in the deliberations. These delegates unanimously adopted the Washington Declaration, its main points are: ‘there must be an early, just and durable resolution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute taking into account the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir; the said resolution must be with the participation of all the three parties to the dispute i.e. India, Pakistan and people of Jammu & Kashmir ; the participants acknowledged the right of Kashmiri Pandits and all other migrants and displaced persons who left the State since 1947 to return to Kashmir with dignity and honour; that the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan will go a long way in finding such an amicable solution to Kashmir; the participants expressed grave concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir and urged the Indian government to withdraw its armed forces from civilian populated areas and establish an impartial commission with immediate effect to investigate the recent killings in a transparent manner; the participants condemned the efforts to muzzle the press and further expressed need to restore the right to assemble and freedom of expression; the participants also condemned the draconian laws like the Indian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Disturbed Areas Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, and demanded withdrawal of these laws’.
The political situation in Jammu and Kashmir has worsened over the last few months, which has in turn strengthened the existing culture of impunity in the region. There is an evolution of an ‘Intifada’ of the Palestinian model in IHK for the first time. It is a manifestation of spontaneous outburst of anger by the youth; women participation in this stone pelting activity is snowballing pretty fast. The unprompted anger is transforming into an organised political movement.
Over the past few weeks, the response by the security forces has been such that even ambulances have not been spared. Media reports indicate that at least at three places, the CRPF fired on ambulances. Moreover, journalists with valid curfew passes have also been attacked.
Many local and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights have documented the systematic violations of human rights by Indian security forces.
The ongoing situation is in contravention of International law, humanitarian law as well as fundamental guarantees provided by the Indian Constitution, including the right to life.
Hopefully, UNSG would soon convene the meeting of UNSC to review the situation in Kashmir before the situation in IHK escalates into a full blown genocide.
Air Cdre Khalid is Masters in Political Science along with War and Strategic Studies. He has also done Air War Course,Fellow of Air War College. Instructor’s Course. Senior Command & Staff course. Combat Commander’s Course. He has been a Directing Staff at various institutions of Pakistan Air Force. Presently he is a visitng faculty at:
- PAF air War College (Staff Wing &War Wing).
- School of Army Air Defence.
- Naval War College, Lahore.
- Quaid-i- Azam University (DSS Department).