Friday May 24, 2024

In solidarity with the Kashmiris

By Dr Murad Ali
February 05, 2022

Today (Feb 5), the people of Pakistan are observing Kashmir Solidarity Day to show their moral support to the Kashmiri struggle for independence. There is no doubt that on account of India’s swelling economic, political and military muscle at the global stage, world powers – the so-called advocates and champions of human rights – have turned a blind eye to India’s brutal human rights violations as Delhi has converted this paradise-like valley into a hell for its inhabitants and are equally responsible for the suffering of Kashmiris as Delhi is seldom censured for its indescribable human rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir.

Like the Palestine problem, the Kashmir dispute is a product of the British colonial power that left it unresolved at the time of Partition, and it has remained a bone of contention between the two neighbours – India and Pakistan – since then. Whatever the circumstances are today, Britain cannot be absolved of its role. It has a huge ethical responsibility to play its due role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and to unequivocally condemn Indian atrocities.

History will never forget, and should not forgive, the role played by Britain which has now become a silent spectator in this human tragedy that has befallen poor Kashmiris, following the partition of the Subcontinent. Similar are the roles of other Western powers – including the US – which point out human rights abuses only when they want to see them. In the case of its strategic partners like India, the US conveniently ignores such human suffering as the perpetrators are closely allied to them.

Also, how is the Muslim world and the so-called Ummah discerning the situation in Kashmir today? The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the only multilateral body of Muslim-majority countries across the globe, is not any different, having softened its stance on the subject. The OIC has divergent interests and is a fragmented and divided forum for multiple reasons. There is not much time for the people of Kashmir as the OIC is dominated by Saudi-Iran tensions as well as the competing interests and priorities of numerous member states.

Not long ago, in an unprecedented move, the only representative body of the Muslim Ummah invited Delhi as a ‘guest of honour’ in the 46th session of its council of foreign ministers held in March 2019 in the UAE. All this was done despite Pakistan’s strong protest and partial boycott. The late Indian minister Sushma Swaraj not only addressed the plenary session of the summit, but also convened several vital meetings with OIC member states.

All this took place amid India’s continued violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty and unabated gross human rights abuses in Kashmir. It must be remembered that since its establishment, the OIC has never taken such a soft stance on Kashmir. In 1969, India’s delegation was not allowed to participate in the first OIC summit because of Islamabad’s opposition. We are living in a different world now where national interests are supreme instead of values based on concepts like Islamic solidarity and brotherhood.

Today, some Middle Eastern countries are India’s largest trading partners as the region accounts for some 14 percent of India’s total exports and about a similar stake in India’s total imports. Since 1969, the OIC has remained the only significant multilateral platform where Pakistan could freely condemn Indian atrocities in Kashmir and communal riots in India, but this has now been neutralised by India.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Kashmir and their just cause? If most international powers have turned a blind eye to Indian atrocities, it was for the first time that the UN came up with a report on the human rights situation in Kashmir, which went beyond paying lip service to the issue. In 2018, the UN released a 49-page document which exposed the ugly face of Indian democracy and secularism and depicted a grim situation of human rights abuses in the valley. The report highlighted a consistent pattern of the violation of human rights and the blunt and protracted impunity for abuses committed by military personnel against unarmed Kashmiris.

“Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report says, noting that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations”.

The AFSPA prohibits the prosecution of military personnel unless the Indian government grants prior permission to this effect. “This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government,” the report affirms.

Owing to this, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and numerous other international as well as national civil society organisations have repeatedly asked for the revision of the notorious AFSPA laws that have provided blanket impunity to law-enforcement personnel against any human rights abuses committed against noncombatant Kashmiris.

The report urged that the UN Human Rights Council should consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. It is the right time to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who, for seven decades, have suffered a conflict that has claimed or permanently ruined thousands precious lives.

Pakistan and the world must do much more to hold India accountable for its inhumane treatment of Kashmiris. Unfortunately, the Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora in Europe, the US, Canada and other Western countries are fragmented and divided. Instead of dozens of unions, advocacy groups and organisations, there must be a few organised and efficient ones like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a Jewish lobby in the US.

Overseas Pakistanis and Kashmiris must learn some lessons from this lobby and proactively pursue the rights of Kashmiris and raise their voice at every possible forum.

The writer holds a PhD from Massey University, New Zealand. He teaches at the University of Malakand.

He can be reached