Wednesday August 17, 2022

‘Indian atrocities on Kashmiris should be pursued as war crimes’

November 22, 2021
‘Indian atrocities on Kashmiris should be pursued as war crimes’

LAHORE: The Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir should be termed as war crimes instead of human rights violations. This was the unanimous view of the speakers at a panel discussion “Conflict in Kashmir: bypassing Kashmiris” held under the banner of “Asma Jahangir Conference – Challenges To Human Dignity ” held at a local hotel here on Saturday.

Participants of the panel discussion included Iftikhar Gilani, Nasim Zehra, Mohammad Rafiq Dar (Chief spokesperson of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Naila Altaf Kayani, and Dr. Ather Zia while the panel was moderated by journalist Tariq Naqash.

Ms Naila Altaf Kayani, journalist and host of Kashmir Time on AJK Television from Muzaffarabad, said that Kashmir and Afghanistan were two different issues and should not be intermingled. She maintained that keeping in view the magnitude and intensity of the atrocities being committed by India, we should no more use the term human rights violations instead, we should always refer to them as war crimes. And they must be pursued under universal jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court Of War Crime Tribunals. She also pointed out that Kashmiris were bypassed on many occasions not only by the external actors but also by local leaders who gradually replaced the nomenclature “Azad Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir” by the “Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.”

In his presentation through video link from Ankara, noted journalist Syed Iftikhar Gillani emphasized that Kashmiris were being systemically disempowered. He said old approaches need to be reviewed and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) should be brought into the conversation because it is time to strengthen the institutions and its people. He said AJK’s domestic leadership needs to be brought forward and a proactive approach should be adopted. He said the concept of geo-economics, which is the new focal point of Pakistan’s foreign policy, involves several reforms and number of measures.

Rafiq Dar said that bilateralism dented the Kashmir issue severely. Every Kashmiri stands for total freedom, independence and sovereignty that was snatched from them in 1947. He said the UN prohibits both India and Pakistan from effecting any territorial change in Kashmir but on Aug 5, 2019 India unilaterally changed the status of the territory. Pakistan should rescind the Shimla Agreement and let a dialogue process take place between all three parties, Dar said. The government and political leaders of Pakistan should show magnanimity over the solution to the Kashmir issue, he maintained. He added that Pakistan should not favor any particular ideology which hurts the sentiments of other segments of the Kashmiri society. He also stressed upon Pakistan to re-activate its diplomatic relations in keeping with human rights violations. Dar suggested that Pakistan should integrate Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with AJK and form a national revolutionary government or give GB the same status like AJK and form a single joint independent council, comprising nominees of both governments, and give them free hand to represent the Kashmir case.

Anchor person and author Nasim Zehra said Pakistan lacks clarity on India policy and subsequently the decision-making on Kashmir is weak. Pakistan is doing a lot but that’s not sufficient and needs to move much faster. Otherwise, within a few months, the current Indian dispensation will leave nothing for it, she said.

Dr Ather Zia, anthropologist, author and poet of Kashmiri origin participated in the discussion from the USA through video-link. She said that the Kashmir issue was getting re-internationalized after India militarily and forcibly stripped the region of its autonomy in 2019. Zia highlighted the use of sanctioned ignorance (Spivak 1999) to trace how the Kashmir issue and the demands of Kashmiris were overwritten, invalidated, and criminalized by India. Zia contended that the Indian discourse obfuscated the Kashmir issue which led to the waning of international attention and solidarity for the Kashmiris. She said that forging a global solidarity for Kashmir will entail understanding the issue in its original historical context and reinstate it as a genuine people’s resistance. Baba Jan from Gilgit and Manzoor Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar from former Fata, also addressed the event.