Let some intellectual contribution on Kashmir be generated from Karachi
The pre-lunch session on the second and final day (Thursday) of the conference on Kashmir organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) proved to be an extremely engaging one. Eminent journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman, who presided over the session, said if issues were left [like that], they became permanent. In his view, Kashmir is primarily a humanitarian issue. Kashmir today was one of the most magnificent and marvellous struggles for self-determination. We should salute the spirit of freedom that had inspired people [in Kashmir]. It’s the issue of Kashmiris, not of India or Pakistan. Pakistan at best was their counsel. Mr Rehman said the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution was not a sudden thing. Modi and his party had announced that they’re going to do that much earlier. Did we listen to them? We reacted only when it had been done. “We must remember that it is the will of the Kashmiri people that we have to defend.”
Mr Rehman said we were repeating our arguments to ourselves. “Have we examined India’s arguments? More importantly, have we examined what the other countries are saying?” In order to understand the situation we must realise that today in Kashmir there’s a national struggle for self-determination. It’s a national struggle and we shouldn’t communalise it. “How many delegations have we sent to countries which are opposing us? It’s a long haul. It’s not going to be solved tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We should be patient.” Mr Rehman asked, with reference to the talk about President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between Indian and Pakistan, whether Trump had commented on Article 370. “Has Mr Trump taken a position on what India has been doing? He would only tell you baba jo ho gaya woh theek ho gaya.” It’s not a matter which would be resolved emotionally. Let’s not give juvenile responses, he argued.
Mr Rehman said our options from day one were limited. Our option was “let there be an upheaval and the world will come and intervene”. We should read the lines carefully. “Are our hands clean? We have created a problem for ourselves that no country takes us seriously.”
Quoting Riaz Khokhar’s speech on the first day of the moot, he stressed that we needed to strengthen ourselves internally. “Let’s talk to the people of Pakistan.”
Mr Rehman said great injustices were being done in Kashmir. “This is the cruellest, most brutal treatment that the people of Srinagar are being subjected to. How can anyone justify it? We must not be angry about it. We must be talking [about it] and talk to those who are not with us. Whatever we say we should be serious about it. It’s not a joke. Regardless of all of that, and whatever Modi will do, the people of Kashmir will fight on.”
Earlier, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, founder of the Research Society of International Law, Islamabad, gave a speech on the legal perspective of the Kashmir issue.
He said in Pakistan we ignored research and the legal aspect of the challenges that the country was faced with. With respect to the Kashmir crisis, he pointed out that India through a legal document got something that it couldn’t get through military wars. In today’s jargon it’s called ‘lawfare’ [as in warfare], that is, to use international law in such a way that you achieve strategic targets that you otherwise wouldn’t. If you saw that Aug 5 document, it seemed [to Mr Soofi] that there was a team of 20 to 25 lawyers that worked on it for six months to a year, which was why they were able to rewire a very complex tapestry of the Indian constitution. It’s a controversial but plausible document. Whereas no legal team from our side worked like that.
Mr Soofi said there’s so much documentation on Kashmir that there had been regular moving of goalposts. The 1950s documentation tells us something else; the 1970s something else; there were international accords and official positions on them etc. The preparation in Pakistan on the Kashmir case left much to be desired. It’s unfortunate because it’s a case that the people of Pakistan had an emotional attachment to. We could give our lives for it but won’t do research (hum se jaan le lo, research na kerwao).
Mr Soofi suggested to the PIIA that it should gather some bright young lawyers at the institute supervised by him [Soofi], and ask them to use the archives from the PIIA library –– the material based on which a lawyer matured his analysis. “Let some intellectual contribution on Kashmir be generated from the city of Karachi,” he said.
Dr Rabia Akhtar, who is a member of Prime Minister’s advisory council on foreign affairs, gave a presentation on the ‘Post-Aug 5 Kashmir: political and strategic consequences’ and Altaf Hussain Wani, chairman of the Kashmir Institute of International Relations, Islamabad, spoke on the ‘Human rights violations in Kashmir’.
Pakistan urged to keep exerting pressure on India over Kashmir
Dr Rabia Akhtar, director of a policy research centre and a member of the prime minister’s advisory council on foreign affairs, on Thursday advised Pakistan not to let the controversial National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India overshadow the Kashmir issue or put it on the back burner. She also called for making efforts to engage China in the Kashmir issue.
She expressed these views while speaking at a session, titled ‘Kashmir Today’ at a two-day conference on Kashmir, titled ‘Conference on Kashmir: The Way Forward’, organised by the PIIA. The session was chaired by veteran journalist and former director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan IA Rehman.
Discussing the situation of Kashmir after August 5, 2019, and the political and strategic consequences of the Indian revocation of the special status of Kashmir for Pakistan, Dr Akhtar, who is the director of the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research, and the School of Integrated Social Sciences at the University of Lahore, said that with India claiming that Kashmir is its internal issue, Pakistan’s option to keep the Kashmir issue internationalised has been constrained.
“Pakistan, therefore, needs a new strategy to counter Indian narrative to ensure that the Kashmir issue does not fade away in the noise generated by the controversial NRC and CCA in India,” said Akhtar.
She maintained that today it was Kashmir and the death of the Shimla Agreement and tomorrow the casualty would be the Indus Water Treaty. “We have to think [over the question] that will the abrogation of the IWT be a new war.”
She said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would rule India for further four years but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah was there to lead the party for the upcoming 10 years. “The BJP is not going to lose its strength soon because the rival Congress is not in a position to gain a majority in the Indian parliament,” she said, adding that Pakistan also should think about whether India would feel empowered due to our inaction on Kashmir and adjust its next move accordingly.
Dr Akhtar also mentioned Modi’s recent statements about defeating Pakistan in 10 days and about gaining jurisdiction on Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). “Are we complacent or confident post-Balakot strikes? Pakistan should be clear on it and build a concrete narrative to counter the Indian narrative.”
Discussing the role of the Pakistani military, she said after August 5 last year, the Line of Control was constantly under fire and India also wanted to make Pakistan engaged in false flag operations, such as Pulwama. “In fact, India wants to keep Pakistan busy enough to derail its diplomatic game internationally,” she said.
The speaker also suggested that Pakistan continue to exert its diplomatic pressure on India and keep the international community engaged to generate pressure on India on the worsening human rights abuses in Kashmir.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a legal expert and former federal caretaker minister for law and justice, said India on August 5 carried a lawfare attack on Kashmir by issuing various laws that had the impact of hollowing out the Article 370 of the Indian constitution and thereby attempting to make stronger their claim of the title of territories of Kashmir.
Examining the legal maneuvering by the Indian government and its far-reaching legal implications on the law of the territory, Soofi said by exploiting its legal system, India managed to justify its claim on Kashmir – something which it could not gain through wars.
“When I assessed the document, it seems that a team of more than 20 legal experts have constantly worked from six months to a year to strategise the issue,” he said. “Unfortunately, Pakistan was in denial and its preparation of its biggest case is pathetic.”
“We are ready to sacrifice our lives for Kashmir but not ready to do some academic and legal research on the Kashmir issue. It is very unfortunate,” Soofi said.
Altaf Hussain Wani, chairman of the Kashmir Institute of International Relations, discussed the human violations in Kashmir and said the humanitarian discourse on Kashmir had long been overshadowed by the contesting political narrative and overwhelming security-centric discourse.
“Although the Indian occupation spans 73 years, the last three decades of military occupation in Kashmir normalised the de facto state of emergency in Kashmir which has a history of oppression and grave human rights abuses inflicted with complete impunity,” he said.
“In 2019, 366 people were killed in Indian-Occupied Kashmir and 80 among them were killed after the August 5 move,” he said, citing statistics released by a consortium of civil society groups in the held Kashmir. “Kashmir-based newspapers were banned for two months and only three local newspapers are allowed to operate but with an advisory that any news items criticising the Indian government’s moves on Kashmir would not be published.
He added that now the Indian government had been attempting to target the demography and culture of Kashmir. “They are allowing the outsiders to purchase immovable land in Kashmir and also replacing Urdu with the Hindi language in schools,” said Wani, who is also a member of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference – AJK chapter.