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September 4, 2016

Enough rhetoric Imaan Mazari-Hazir


September 4, 2016

Since the extrajudicial killing of Burhan Wani, in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK), protests and demonstrations have erupted all over IOK. The heavy-handed tactics employed by India have arguably resulted in an exacerbation of violence and resentment within the territory.

Politics, however, must go on as usual as clearly evidenced through Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement, on July22, 2016, affirming that he awaits the day “Kashmir becomes Pakistan”.

‘Kashmir will become Pakistan’ is a slogan we’ve been hearing since the partition of the Subcontinent. It’s a decent chant: short and catchy, thereby ensuring it can be churned out at every political rally whenever Pakistan finally remembers the plight of the Kashmiri people.

What is unfortunate, however, is the fact that not a single quarter of the state has been able to develop anything apart from this slogan. There is no policy and absolutely no explicitly-delineated agenda when it comes to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute (and no, sending in jihadis is not a sustainable or beneficial policy for anyone).

While one refuses to believe that no one in government has any idea regarding the historical development of the dispute, it becomes clear that the government of Pakistan is either entirely unable or completely unwilling to take up this issue.

The fact remains that if you ask a parliamentarian or sitting minister about the Kashmir dispute, they will only be able to tell you that Kashmir is under Indian occupation and that the human rights of the people there must be respected. If they know a little more than the others they’ll throw in the term ‘self-determination’ while they’re at it. That’s all well and good but this is not the level of knowledge those in government should have about a dispute of such a nature, which has been the subject of numerous UNSC resolutions.

Not a single policymaker will be able to tell you that historically neither India nor Pakistan have a claim over Jammu and Kashmir. The reason they can’t tell you this isn’t because they want Kashmir to be part of Pakistan but because they have no idea that Jammu and Kashmir has always been an independent state. If one looks at the history of the Subcontinent, one would realise that Jammu and Kashmir never acceded to ‘British India’ under the Government of India Act 1935. This was the act which provided for accession of Indian states to British India, and it is clear from the lack of accession made by J&K that it wished to maintain its independent status.

In fact, if one goes further back and takes a look at the Treaty of Lahore 1846, the British had sold Kashmir and its ‘dependencies’ to Gulab Singh of Jammu. Following this, the Treaty of Amritsar 1846 proceeded to grant Kashmir independence forever through Article 1 which stated: “The British government transfers and makes over, forever, independent possession, to Maharaja Gulab Singh, and the heirs male of his body, all the hilly or mountainous country, with its dependencies, situated to the eastward of the river Indus, and westward of the river Ravi, including Chamba and excluding Lahore, being part of the territory ceded to the British government by the Lahore state, according to the provisions of Article 4 of the Treaty of Lahore...”

In the aftermath of Partition, as occurred across the rest of the former Subcontinent, riots and disturbances broke out in Jammu and Kashmir. On October 25, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh fled from Srinagar to Jammu. A day later, on October 26, in this tense environment, the Maharaja signed the well-known Instrument of Accession and sent it to Louis Mountbatten. The very next day, on October 27, 1947, Mountbatten responded to the Instrument, granting accession of Kashmir to India pursuant to a qualification. The qualification read: ‘where the issue of accession has been subject of dispute, the question should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state’.

Without the aforementioned understanding of the prevalent circumstances at the time, it is no surprise that Pakistani politicians and policymakers can’t draw the necessary links between the language contained in the qualification and that encapsulated within UNSC Resolution 47 (1948). The latter provides for a plebiscite and has been essentially forgotten by Pakistan.

One fails to understand why our sovernment officials demonstrate such shock and surprise when India is able to garner the support of the international community even when it has blatantly engaged in the commission of heinous war crimes. There are over 300 legal advisers in the Indian Foreign Office. Meanwhile, Pakistan thinks it can develop policy with one adviser and no foreign minister.

There has been no legal response from the Pakistani side following UNSC resolutions 91(1951) and 122(1957) which reject the ratification of the Instrument of Accession by the Indian Constituent Assembly. There has been no pressure from Pakistan, heard or felt in the international community that utilises Article 370 of the Indian constitution as a basis for holding a plebiscite in Kashmir.

While we play politics and share propaganda videos of Kashmiris holding up Pakistani flags, we fail to realise that this is not just territory we’re fighting for: we’re playing with peoples’ lives. This doesn’t just apply to Pakistan but also to India. For so long, we have allowed so much hatred to build up against one another that we have reached a stage where we genuinely believe that our territorial claims are more significant than the lives of those who are fighting for the right to determine their collective destiny.

If Pakistan genuinely seeks resolution of the Kashmir dispute, it should seriously consider getting its Foreign Office in shape and beginning some intensive briefing sessions for the parliamentarians and representatives that it sends abroad to represent the stance of this country on the plight of the Kashmiris.

If our government still doesn’t realise that the human rights argument cannot stand alone, it should do that fast and look into building its capacity with regard to the international humanitarian law aspect that would strengthen the case for a Kashmir that can finally stop bleeding.

Ignorance is neither a justification nor acceptable. Our ignorance has cost lives. It is time we moved from rhetoric to knowledge and action.

The writer is a lawyer.

Email: [email protected]