Published On: Fri, Sep 9th, 2016

Kashmir and UN General Assembly Debate

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Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani


The 71st session of UN General Assembly starts on 13 September 2016. Annual General Debate will start from Tuesday 20 September 2016 on”The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world”.
Political leadership in Pakistan made a significant shift at the 69th and 70th sessions of the UN General Assembly from earlier unimpressive and routine reference to Kashmir. Prime Minister of Pakistan made a strong case in favour of Human Rights and the UN Resolutions to determine the question of self-determination. General Debate at the 71st session this time is expected to be more direct and in the best interests of the People of Kashmir.
Civil and military leadership in Pakistan is on the same page in their expression on the atrocities being committed by the Indian security forces. The statements of the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Army Chief on 6 September on the people and habitat of Kashmir are a refreshing reiteration of a resolve to support the Kashmir cause. It has raised genuine hopes of an overwhelming input at the UN General Assembly and at other fora. It has to be something out of the ordinary, rather very extra-ordinary because the people of Kashmir are locked under an over two months Curfew and are faced with the lethal use of pellet guns. The gun disables, blinds and kills.
More important than an updated and engaging input by the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the UN General Assembly General Debate which begins on Tuesday 20 September 2016 is how to set the house in order in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad.
Islamabad-Kashmir Committee
Muslim interest in the cause of the people of Jammu and Kashmir started in 1908 whenAll India Muslim Kashmiri Conference was established in Lahore and by the formation of the All India Kashmir Committee in Shimla in 1931. These Committees highlighted the atrocities inflicted on the Kashmiris at national and international level. “Kashmir Day” was observed on 14th August, 1931 in India and Burma.
At the same time in 1931, RSS volunteers from Punjab (Lahore) also organised a support in favour of the Maharaja of Kashmir and against the Muslims of Kashmir. RSS volunteers sneaked into the State to support Hindu Ruler. We are faced with an identical and a more severe challenge today. In Pakistan we have a 35 member Kashmir Committee to highlight the case of Kashmir and on the other side of the cease fire line RSS in a period of 85 years has succeeded to sneak into Kashmir. It is part of the Kashmir Government and has opened the doors of hell on the Muslims.
It is important that we turn serious and genuine on Kashmir and do not use it as a chip in a political bargain in softening the opposition or appeasing rivals by engaging them in luxurious indulgences at the cost of state exchequer and the sufferings of a people.
We did not see the Kashmir Committee during the last 61 days of continued curfew in Kashmir. There are sack loads full of grievances but being absent from the scene has discredited the present Kashmir Committee. It has a poor balance sheet and the membership lacks in merit.There is an urgent need to revisit the composition of this committee. It should be effective and should have a backup of experts, to enliven and perfect its narrative.
Prime Minister of Pakistan – Chairman AJ & K Council
As Chairman of AJ & K Council Prime Minister of Pakistan has retained for himself (also Government of Pakistan) powers under The Azad Jammu &Kashmir Interim Constitution Act 1974. This shared responsibility of the Government of Pakistan with the Government of Azad Kashmir in the affairs of Azad Kashmir is said to be in accordance with Government of Pakistan’s responsibilities under UNCIP Resolutions. Prime Minister of Pakistan retains almost a near majority vote in the AJ & K Council.
The system is so anaesthetised and lacks in merit that Prime Minister of Pakistan as Chairman AJ & K Council has never considered to seek to use his position sensitising all manner of benefit available to the people of Kashmir under UNCIP Resolutions. Indians on the other hand do not have this constitutional facility and their presence in Kashmir is almost a forced military occupation.
It would be unfair and less than an honest analysis if we arraign the Chairman of Kashmir Committee and let go the failure of the Prime Minister of Pakistan in his capacity as Chairman of AJ & K Council for the last 42 years. If we had continued with our duties detailed in the Constitution, we would have been on the radar of UN in particular and visible in all capitals of the world in general.
Foreign Office
Foreign Office does not have a planned and energising schedule on Kashmir. It does not serve the interests of the nation and the jurisprudence of Kashmir case. On the contrary runs with the whims and holding the tail of the ruler. Foreign Office took the risk of agreeing to distance from UN resolution on Kashmir and volunteered to sell the 4 point formula of Musharraf. If India had played clever, Pakistan would have lost its legitimacy in Azad Kashmir as sought in the Act 1974 under UNCIP Resolutions. There are some able and exciting people in the foreign office but in aggregate one finds that their knowledge on Kashmir is unreliable, remote and has passed its sell by date. It is a job for life for them and Kashmir is a remote interest. One could see the constituency of their approach and lack of diligence by looking at the FO website details on Kashmir.
Except a few exalting exceptions Pakistani envoys deputed at the UN in Geneva, Washington and New York misinform Islamabad on their activities on Kashmir. They do not want to rock the boat in their present and future relations with India. Indian goodwill is very important for them in their future jobs after retirement at the UN. More so these envoys do not regard themselves as servants of the nation and lock themselves up in a mission to look after their hay while the Sun shines.
If foreign office had been diligently all out to advocate the case of Kashmir, Prime Minister of Pakistan need not depute an army of 22 MPs to do the talking at various fora in 2016. Sending 22 envoys may be a good diplomatic move. But it is not the number but the quality of the number that brings rewards. Most of these MPs when questioned on Kashmir case on various TV channels were an absolute disappointment. Foreign Office could have made a respectful intervention and guided the Government on the manner of sending these envoys and on the basic quality of an envoy needed at these times.
The style of foreign office is still colonial and they treat the citizens of Pakistan as a vanquished people and the people of Kashmir hardly matter to them. My interaction with them for the last 30 years does not encourage me. With my apologies to those who remain an assuring exception, I hasten to say that they have lost the spine to say no to any untoward pressure.
Government of Azad Kashmir
Government of Azad Kashmir was formed to “provide for the better Government and administration of Azad Kashmir until such time as the status of Jammu and Kashmir is determined as envisaged in the UNCIP Resolutions”. It had to build a strong institution for self-determination. Unfortunately the character of politics and manner of Governments in Azad Kashmir drifted away from its course.
Late Z A Bhutto during his visit of Azad Kashmir in 1975 had rightly said that politics in Azad Kashmir was a ‘filth depo and the waters of the two rivers were not enough to clean it’. Early 50s, 60s and 70s were years of polarization between locals and muhajirs. An unreal sense of suspicion was floated against muhajirs and was ruthlessly exploited by local politicians against muhajir leadership. K H Khurshid became the prime victim of this intrigue. Somehow the local behaviour transformed or it decided to adjust to seek some share in the ownership of a militant and political resistance started in the valley against Indian occupation in early 1990s. The synergy of interest did not go beyond hollow political statements or rested with scant attempts to corrupt a few from State coffers.
Institution of Self Determination
It is over 46 years that Government of Azad Kashmir has continued to avoid to build an institution of self-determination as provided in article 8 in Act 1970 and Article 11 in Act 1974. The author as Secretary General of JKCHR filed a constitutional writ petition in December 1992 reminding the Government of Azad Kashmir of its failure under the Constitution to work for self-determination. We did not push it to any unreasonable manner and left it to the Government to make up its mind.Ultimately the long debate ended in April 1999, when the full bench of Azad Kashmir High Court found that the Government of Azad Kashmir had failed in its constitutional duties on establishing the institution of self-determination.
One is surprised that a civil society institution should have needed to go to court and then endure costs for a case for 7 years. We left it at the point of High Court judgement and the Azad Kashmir Government has remained in contempt of court ever-since 02 April 1999. The judgement is reported in Yearly Law Reporter 1999.
Influence of Islamabad
One would not expect a Kashmiri Government to be out rightly so hell bent to fail the institution of self-determination. It may be and is likely that it did not have the character and reliable understanding of the case to present its case in Islamabad, in particular, during the AJ & K Council meetings before the Prime Minister of Pakistan (Chairman of the Council) or during other interactions with the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs.
It seems that Azad Kashmir Government was acting in extension of a policy adopted by Islamabad on Kashmir from 1965-1996. Government of Pakistan itself did not raise Kashmir at the UN SC for 31 years from 05 November 1965 to 15 September 1996. It was due to this negligence that Kashmir lost its regularity which it enjoyed at the UN Security Council agenda for 48 years from January 1948 to September 1996.The position of Kashmir as an agenda item on the SC has been disturbed. Kashmir is returned on the agenda annually at the request of Pakistan or a member State. This year the request was made by Pakistan on 07 January 2016.
Azad Kashmir Haj Delegation
Governments in Azad Kashmir have enjoyed the notoriety of corruption and quid pro quo with political parties in Islamabad. These Governments have squandered State coffers faking to be working for self-determination. All resources at their disposal were ill spent and a mediocre tier of opportunists remain on the benefit list of this Government.
It is a semi sovereign Government with all working vestiges of an independent State. However, if all institutions were to disappear or be abandoned, the Chief Secretary and a few other officers seem more than sufficient to run the administration. It is the relationship with Government of Pakistan to perform duties in accordance with UNCIP Resolutions and right-of self-determination, which justifies the semi sovereign status of the State.
Azad Kashmir Government has failed in putting in place the institution of self-determination or providing a better Government and administration, which remain the real basis of its seemingly sovereign state like apparatus. Azad Kashmir Government used to send its separate Haj Delegation to Mecca as envoys to meet the Haji’s coming from Indian occupied Kashmir and other hajis coming from all over the world. It was a powerful arrangement to enlist and energise the support of Muslims around the world.
It is very strange that in or around 1976 the practice of sending a separate official Azad Kashmir Haj Delegation was ended. It looks like that, it was done as a quid pro quo agreed in Shimla agreement. Heavens would not have fallen if Azad Kashmir Government, the politicians and the civil society had opposed the termination of this arrangement. Kashmir case could have been argued with Islamabad at various levels and a pressure generated in favour of keeping these Haj Delegations.
Not a single noble soul
One wonders that there was not a single soul in the Government of Pakistan, establishment, foreign office, civil society and media in Pakistan who could have highlighted the demerits of terminating the practice of an Azad Kashmir Haj Delegation. It proved that Azad Kashmir Government and the Pakistan Government of the times and thereafter were not qualified or interested to guard the institution of self-determination. The case history has not changed that much even today.
Kashmir is a legal case
We have attempted politics and militancy to undo Indian occupation in Kashmir. It would not be proper to examine the two tiers at this point except that it has offered India an opportunity to kill a generation in Kashmir. The human deficit created by the death of a generation is impacting the life in Kashmir and it also means an advantage awarded to India. Killing a generation is the death of self-determination. Demographic change is all that India wants. Indian soldier continues to kill since 1990 and it should not be a surprise, if India succeeds to fix numbers in its favour and invites us for a referendum supervised by the UN at some point. Indians would have perfected their mathematics by then.
Way forward
The only way forward is to revisit the past and correct our mistakes. Action needs to be taken on all fronts and the narrative has to be perfected. We have allowed India to force Kashmir Government to rescind the entry permit law in respect of the entry of Indian citizens in March 1959, allowed Kashmir Government to insert article 3 in J & K Constitution of 1956 and have allowed Indian Parliament to pass a Resolution of 22 February 1994. There is no evidence that Azad Kashmir Government and Government of Pakistan has ever, taken a serious exception to these happenings and invoked UN SC Resolution of 30 March 1951. We have continued to allow Indian army to remain in Kashmir in violation of UN Security Council resolution of 21 April 1948.
India has perfected its war machinery in the valley and it has been busy for the last two months in injuring, blinding and killing the Kashmiri youth. This time at the UN General Assembly, the narrative of the Prime Minister’s speech should be direct and in accordance with the gravity of the situation. We have a strong case and Indian stay in Kashmir is pending a vote under the supervision of the UN. India has no constituency in Kashmir and is doomed to lose the vote. Its army has accrued a criminal liability in Kashmir.
The present approach in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan has no merit and it has passed its sell by date. We closed down first Kashmiri embassy (Awareness Bureau) in Delhi in 2003. We tripped in our diplomatic work in Washington, Brussels and London. We have ended up with a Plea Agreement and approvers like CW1, CW2 and John against the Kashmir case.
Things need to be rehashed. There is an urgent need to work on the jurisprudence of Kashmir case. It cannot be done inopen public meetings. We need to sit indoors for a number of sessions and examine the Kashmir case. Universities and Colleges in Azad Kashmir, Pakistanis and Kashmirisat home and abroad could be asked to send their inputs on the strengths of Kashmir case and weaknesses of Indian occupation/claim.
We need to study the UN Resolutions on Kashmir and perfect our narrative. There is a lot of ignorance about these Resolutions and we seem to err in interpreting the Chapter VI and the Resolutions. It is time that Government of Pakistan invokes article 41 and in this regard starts listing the support of friendly countries and the international NGOs. Prime Minister of Pakistan could make a demand in this regard at the UN General Assembly. There are a number of other options that need to be worked on during full calendar of the year. Waiting for UN Human Rights Council sessions and UN General Assembly sessions is not a perfect remedy.

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