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Kashmir : The Forgotten Conflict

During his recent address to the UN General Assembly, PM Nawaz Sharif had said: South Asia needs strategic stability and this requires serious dialogue to achieve nuclear restraint, conventional balance and conflict resolution. He proposed a new peace initiative, comprising four specific and feasible steps: 1) Pakistan and India formalise and respect 2003 understanding of a complete ceasefire in Kashmir and LoC; 2). Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the threat of force under any circumstances; 3). Steps must be taken to demilitarise Kashmir; 4). Agree to mutually withdraw troops from Siachen. India out rightly rejected the proposals, indicating that it wishes to impose a bilateral regime unilaterally. Core issue of these four steps is the Kashmir dispute with huge humanitarian dimension.
People of Jammu and Kashmir across the Line of Control as well as Kashmiri diaspora, the world over, observed the 69th Black Day to recall and condemn the invasion of Indian army on October 27, 1947. As a part of well-planned conspiracy, India had landed its armed troops in Kashmir; and since then it continues to control Kashmir by use of force and military might, instilling fear among the people, subjugating them and usurping all their rights. With each passing year, Black Day event is attracting enhanced enthusiasm from the friends of Kashmir.
When terrorism tainted Prime Minster of India Mr Narendra Modi travels to UK in mid-November, he shall also be greeted by the rallies by Kashmiri diaspora calling for an end to India’s repressive occupation over Kashmir. The UK alongside the US had slammed travel restrictions on Modi on account of his personal culpability in anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, killing over 2000 Muslims; Modi was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Now since becoming Prime Minister, he is brewing unrest in IHK through deliberate provocative actions. He is busy wheeling dealing for abrogating Articles 370 & 35 of Indian constitution which do not recognize IHK as a part of Indian Union; legal validity of this fact has also been recently endorsed by the IHK High Court. During this year, Indian security forces have violated the LoC for more than 400 times resulting in loss of innocent civilian lives and properties.
The Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK), an international human rights group, has submitted a petition to the five permanent (P-5) and ten non-permanent members of UNSC members offering new ideas to end Indian military occupation of Kashmir. The new ideas work in tandem with the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir. The humanitarian catastrophe in Kashmir has reached critical levels and warrants “an urgent and immediate” international intervention, said YFK in the petition.
Black day was marked with a complete shutdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir and rallies in the world capitals. The call for the shutdown was given by Hurriyet leaders Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabbir Ahmed Shah and Muhammad Yasin Malik; it was also supported by pro-freedom organisations and the High Court Bar Association of the Indian occupied territory. A protest demonstration organised by Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party was held in Islamabad against the night raids, arrests and harassment of people by the Indian forces; Kashmiri women also participated in the protest in large number. A protest was also held in Srinagar against the desecration of Holy Quran. The Jammu and Kashmir Social Chairman Devinder Singh, addressing the gathering, said that the communal forces had made the Muslims and Sikhs of Jammu their prime target.
In London, the Kashmir Concern, UK, organised a candle vigil at Birmingham on the occasion of 70th anniversary of United Nations that coincided with the Foundation Day of AJK government. Likewise, Kashmir Committee Jeddah held a meeting to mark the day. Committee unanimously adopted a resolution, which underscored that in the absence of the right of self-determination, it is not possible for the Kashmiris to enjoy any other rights as recognized by international human rights and humanitarian laws. The resolution expressed gratitude to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for their consistent support to the Kashmir struggle. It urged the OIC to make efforts to harmonize meetings of its Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir with the meetings of the Human Rights Council and other relevant bodies.
In Srinagar and Rawalpindi, the APHC leaders presented a Kashmir Memorandum to the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan, calling for early solution to Kashmir dispute, prevention of massive human rights violations, arrests and killings of Kashmiri youth under various pretexts.
In New York an All Parties Kashmiri ‘Million March’ was held as mark of protest to show to the world that Kashmir dispute has yet to be settled according to the UN resolutions and as per aspirations of the Kashmiris. The march was jointly sponsored by all groups who believe in the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. Effort succeeded in mobilizing thousands of people who came from far off places.
On conclusion of March, a memorandum was presented to the Secretary General of the UN, which urged the SG to use his good offices and appoint a person of international standing, like President Mary Robinson, Bishop Desmond Tutu or Kofi Annan, as his special envoy on Kashmir and persuade India and Pakistan to initiate a peace process with the association of United Nations as well as the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
In Brussels, Kashmiri community observed the Black Day drawing attention of the European Union to exercise its influence in an early settlement of Kashmir dispute. In Colombo also ‘Kashmir Black Day’ was observed; a peaceful assembly was organized by Kashmir Study Forum, Pakistani and Sri Lankan community camped opposite United Nation Office at Baudaloka Mawatha; the UNSG was urged to exercise the mandate entrusted to him by the UN Charter.
Kashmir dispute has emerged as one of the greatest human crises in history which is marked by extra judicial killings, rape, detention, and kidnapping of Kashmiris. In the Indian Occupied Kashmir more than 94,000 Kashmiris have been killed, out of which over 7000 were custodial killings at the hands of Indian occupation forces. More than 106,000 structures have been destroyed, more than 22000 women have been widowed, over 107,000 children have been orphaned and more than 10,000 women have been raped and molested by Indian military and paramilitary troops stationed in IHK since 1989. Recent surfacing of unmarked mass graves in the valley has laid bare the brutal repression unleashed under the garb of law enforcement. These incidents necessitate UN intervention to safeguard human rights in IHK.
The international community is now alert to the need to normalize the situation in South Asia, and this is not possible without ending the massive Indian human rights violations in Kashmir. Kashmiri activists worldwide have intensified their contact campaign with diplomats, politicians and the media everywhere, they feel that this is the best time to convince India to end the military occupation in Kashmir; they are more optimistic today than ever. The Kashmir issue cannot be placed on the back-burner since durable peace in the region can be achieved only by addressing it “upfront”. When it comes to Kashmir, there is no backburner. If history is any guide, the dispute must be addressed upfront for a lasting peace.
There are countless opportunities between India and Pakistan and they must move from conflict management to conflict resolution. A beginning could be made by starting the process of demilitarization and revocation of all draconian laws enforced in IHK.

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Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

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