For over seven decades, people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have struggled to realise their inalienable right to self-determination. This right was guaranteed to them by the UN Security Council, international community and both India and Pakistan – the parties to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. But India reneged on its commitment, refusing to implement the UNSC resolutions by holding a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations to let the Kashmiris decide their own future. India has tried to muzzle the voice of the Kashmiri people through use of force by perpetuating an illegal occupation which has increased in brutality and oppression after 5 August 2019.
Often termed a nuclear flashpoint, the Jammu and Kashmir dispute imperils regional as well as international peace and security. At the same time, its humanitarian and human rights dimensions deserve particular attention of the international community. Resolution of this core dispute is also key to unlocking the true potential of development and regional cooperation so critical to addressing the common challenges facing the peoples of South Asia.
My leader Imran Khan wants to walk the talk to resolve the dispute. In line with PM Khan’s declaration to take two steps for peace if India takes one, a meeting between foreign ministers of Pakistan and India was planned on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session in September 2018. Regrettably, it was cancelled at the last moment by India. Earlier that month, the Prime Minister had written a letter to his Indian counterpart, calling for dialogue and peace.
Not only spurned, our peace overtures were probably misconstrued as weakness by the BJP-RSS combine that thrives on anti-Muslim, anti-minority and anti-Pakistan rhetoric and policies. India failed to translate bravado into action when, in February 2019, its misadventure across the Line of Control backfired. Pakistan shot down two Indian Air Force planes and captured an Indian pilot who was later returned as a gesture of peace.
Despite BJP’s proven and dangerous record of scuttling peace, Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Mr Modi on his electoral victory in May 2019 and expressed the desire to build peace in the region. India chose not to respond to that and a subsequent offer for dialogue made in June 2019.
The BJP had other ideas. They sought, illegally and unilaterally, to change the status of IIOJK. With nearly a million troops, it imposed a military siege on 8 million Kashmiris, imprisoned the entire Kashmiri political leadership and detained thousands of Kashmiri youth. Draconian laws, communications blackout and denial of access to international media and observers created a climate of impunity in which systematic and gross violations of human rights including enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings have continued unabated.
Amidst the military siege, India is trying to change the demographic structure of IIOJK in a cynical attempt to erase the distinct Kashmiri identity and majority to preempt a possible UN mandated plebiscite. All this flies in the face of UNSC resolutions and international law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention. Ironically, India, the perpetrator, wants a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council!
The immense human cost of India’s illegal occupation of IIOJK should jolt the world’s conscience. Moral bankruptcy and callousness of the Indian occupation forces was on full display recently when the mortal remains of iconic Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani were snatched from his grieving family. Geelani was denied a burial in accordance with his will. The lifelong freedom fighter passed away under prolonged incarceration, deprived of proper medical care and other fundamental rights. His family members are now being hounded through fabricated police cases.
Despite censorship, communications blackout and denial of access, a lot has been written and reported about the state of human rights in IIOJK. World leaders have spoken out, various parliaments have held discussions and hearings. Human rights violations have been extensively documented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its reports of 2018 and 2019. The violations have been taken up by various Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council, besides civil society and leading human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Pakistan unveiled a comprehensive “Dossier on Indian Human Rights Violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK)” on 12 September 2021. Publicly available and being widely shared with all UN member states, UN officialdom, human rights organisations and others, this document contains irrefutable evidence of a wide range of human rights violations and war crimes by Indian occupation forces in IIOJK. There must be accountability for these crimes.
The Dossier also exposes, with evidence, how India has been trying to malign Pakistan and undermine the indigenous and peaceful Kashmiri freedom movement through stage-managed false-flag operations and fake encounters. The Dossier vindicates Pakistan which has been alerting the international community about India’s actions and machinations.
The international community must urge India to lift the inhuman military siege in IIOJK; reverse its illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019; stop its illegal measures to change the demography of IIOJK; release the detained Kashmiri youth and political leadership, and; provide unhindered access to human rights and humanitarian organisations so that the true extent of human rights abuses could be brought to world attention.
Responsible members of the international community must step forward and convince India to cease its human rights violations in Kashmir. Selective approach to human rights diminishes their inherent universality. Kashmiris want to exercise their right to self-determination and Pakistan supports them wholeheartedly.
Lasting peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The onus is on India to stop its reign of terror in IIOJK and reverse its illegal actions to create an enabling ambience for peace. The international community must help achieve this objective. Pakistan will not be found wanting in this regard.