Published On: Mon, Feb 8th, 2016

Rejuvenated Kashmir Solidarity Day

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

February of every year engages the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir living in all the three administrations on both sides of the cease fire line, Kashmiri diaspora spread around the world, their sympathisers in India and in particular the Government  and the people of Pakistan around the rights movement of the people of Kashmir. February 05 is officially designated in Pakistan as a Kashmir Solidarity Day to express support for the people of Kashmir in their just struggle for right of self-determination. February 11, 1984 is the day when Maqbool Bhat was hanged in Tihar jail in Delhi and February 09, 2013 is the day when another Kashmiri Afzal Guru walked to the gallows in Tihar jail in Delhi. February 29, 1975 carries the significance when Z A Bhutto called for a shut down against Indira-Abdullah accord of 1975. In fact it is the month that discredits Indian administration of justice, when it came to dispensing justice to a Kashmiri.

New awakening

February 2016 is quite different. There is a new awakening around Kashmir and a new institutional determination to support the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for a free vote in a UN supervised referendum. The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Pakistan Parliament met on 01 February 2016 in the Parliament House and made many policy recommendations on Kashmir. The most important one is that “Pakistan should continue to call for the resolutions of the Kashmir dispute as the core issue between the two countries. Continuity of the proactive diplomacy on Kashmir on all international fora should be pursued. A key component of Pakistan’s proactive involvement on the Kashmir issue should be lending moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri’s struggle for self-determination according to the UN Resolutions”. The recommendations add, “Expansion of democratic space by tapping into civil society voices in Pakistan Administered Kashmir as well as Jammu Kashmir and seek reduction in state-sponsored violence against Kashmiris in Jammu Kashmir”.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs recommendations have rehabilitated Kashmir as the core issue, which was disturbed during the re-arrangement of outstanding issues agreed in the June 19-23, 1997 India Pakistan talks at Islamabad. The two countries had identified eight ‘outstanding issues of concern to both sides’ and had decided to set up working groups to address these eight outstanding issues of concern, in an integrated manner. Kashmir was an include in these eight concerns and not a ‘core issue’. The recommendations made at the 01 February 2016 meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs has rehabilitated Kashmir as the core issue. It is in line with UN Resolutions that have slated Kashmir for primacy, expedition, urgency and immediacy.

Test for current leadership

February 05, 2016 has been observed as a Kashmir Solidarity Day not only in Pakistan, Pakistan Administered Kashmir but around the world. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to Muzaffarabad and addressed the joint session of Pakistan Administered Kashmir Assembly and Pakistan Administered Kashmir Council as an expression of support to the people of Kashmir. Prime Minister of Pakistan said, “Kashmir issue was a test for current leadership of Pakistan and India and people of both the countries could not prosper and progress, until the lingering issue was resolved.”  He addressed the world community and said “It is the matter of UN’s authority and prestige to solve the issue of Kashmir according to its resolutions.”

Pakistan’s narrative on the Kashmir solidarity day was fresh and convincing. Addressing India, Prime Minister said, “Difference of opinion between two countries is not unheard of. What is unusual is that for six-seven decades, we have not been able to get rid of these differences.”  He added that solution to all outstanding issues with India including Kashmir lies in dialogue. “I brought this up with the Indian leadership and would like to reiterate that the solution to our problems lies in dialogue. Unless we sit together and talk about these issues, they won’t be resolved.”

National festival

Kashmir Solidarity Day bore the semblance of a national festival. Every organizations, every school and people from all walks of life came out to walk on the roads, making human chain to express their solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Press and electronic media brought out special editions and telecast special discussion and programmes.

Various organizations held conferences and seminars. A National Kashmir Conference was organised by Pakistan Human Rights Party and National Press Club – Islamabad at National Press Club, Islamabad-Pakistan auditorium on 04 February 2016. An All Parties Conference on Thursday 04 February 2016 was organised by Pakistan Observer and Nazariya Pakistan Council (NPC) at Aiwan-e-Quaid, Islamabad – Pakistan to mark the Kashmir Solidarity Day. I was invited as a special guest speaker at the two conferences.

On balance it was opined that dialogue is the reliable instrument used by civilised communities throughout history to settle disputes. Speakers welcomed the initiative of a dialogue between India and Pakistan taken by Prime Minister of Pakistan. Speakers welcomed the position taken by the political leadership of Pakistan at the 69th and 70th sessions of UN General Assembly in New York on the question of Kashmir. The position taken by military leadership (General Raheel Sharif) on Kashmir, first at Youm-i-Shohada in April 2014 and at RUSI (The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies) in October 2015 in London was flagged as reassuring and very important for any meaningful progress on Kashmir.  Speakers expressed their satisfaction on the timely decision of the Government of Pakistan in notifying on 07 January 2016 the President of the Security Council to retain Kashmir (The India-Pakistan question) on the list of matters of which the Security Council is seized.

Reference to ICJ

It was highlighted that Indian Government coerced the Jammu and Kashmir Government (elected from only a part of the territory of the State) to waive visa restrictions (Permit System) placed on an Indian citizen to enter the State on 31 March 1959. The down side of this remains that today it is an Indian citizen who is monitoring the freedom of movement of a Kashmiri since 01 April 1959. The matter needs to be brought to the attention of UN Security Council that it is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948 and UN Security Council Resolution of 30 March 1951.

Strong opinions were expressed on the need to approach the UN Security and inform it that Government of Jammu Kashmir at Srinagar has failed to be a neutral and responsible Government and JK Assembly has not performed the duty to establish “a Plebiscite Administration to hold a plebiscite as soon as possible”.  It was stated that opinion needs to be sought from International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the non-honouring of United Nations outsourced duties by the Government of Jammu Kashmir and the Government of India.

Speakers pointed out that a reference to International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Kashmir dispute was first suggested by the Prime Minister of Great Britain in November 1947 and later by the United States of America in August 1951. The US State Department Memorandum titled “Kashmir Dispute: Future Action” was prepared on 27 August 1951 for ICJ, with a view to knock out India’s principal arguments surrounding its administration in Kashmir. It was said that the option of seeking an opinion from ICJ should be as one of the many steps that need to be taken on Kashmir.

It was highlighted that notice should be taken of the fact that “The RSS has become active in Kashmir and is using its auxiliary Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) and allied groups such as Daryaganj-based Jamait Ulema-e-Hind and a network of 20 to 30 NGOs to spread its influence and agenda (Hindutva) in Kashmir.” RSS is known to have sent volunteers in 1931 to assist the Dogra forces to suppress the Muslim uprising in the Valley.  All support should be provided to Hurriyat, religious bodies, civil society and others to neutralise the RSS and MRM influx.

Below the poverty line

Deep concern was expressed on the increase from 9.4 percent to 10.35 percent in the number of Kashmiri people living below the poverty line (BPL). The survey report of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation – India states that the number of households living below poverty line in Jammu Kashmir has risen to 4.17 lakhs. The poverty rate in the state rose from 9.4 percent in 2009-10 to 10.35 percent in 2011-12.  Government of Pakistan was urged that arrangements must be worked out to provide urgent humanitarian and development aid to the people living in the Valley as agreed in item 10 and 11 of Kashmir resolution adopted at the Islamic Summit held in Morocco in December 1994.

Reaching out to India

February 05, 2016 was markedly a different solidarity day as compared to this day in the past. Government of Pakistan expressed faith in the continuation of its support to the people of Kashmir and at the same time did not fail in reaching out to India for good neighbourly relations in the interests of both people. Government of Pakistan, civil and military leaderships, the people of Pakistan at home and abroad and the people of Kashmir all seemed on one page in their resolve to support the just cause of the people of Kashmir. The new addition has been the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Pakistan Parliament that, “Pakistan should continue to call for the resolutions of the Kashmir dispute as the core issue between the two countries.” The recommendation of “Expansion of democratic space by tapping into civil society voices in Pakistan Administered Kashmir as well as Jammu Kashmir and seek reduction in state-sponsored violence against Kashmiris in JK”, flags a new and robust strategy.


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