Commonwealth nations must play their role, for an equitable solution of the Jammu Kashmir issue
A letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May was also handed over to officials at 10 Downing Street, London. As United Kingdom will host the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April of 2018, the letter urged to set up a Mediation Panel comprising of commonwealth nations, which would engage with the concerned parties for a solution, that is consistent with the unfettered, and inalienable right of Kashmiris, to determine their political destiny.
The letter was handed over by Zafar Khan, Mahmood Hussain, Sabir Gul and Tariq Sharif.
The copy of the letter is below
Rt. Hon’ble Mrs Theresa May MP,
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
10 Downing Street
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
10 Downing Street
Date: 23 January 2018
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Commonwealth nations must play their role, for an equitable solution of the Jammu Kashmir issue.
As United Kingdom will host the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April of 2018, we take the opportunity to seek British support, on the unresolved political status of Jammu Kashmir, usually referred to as Kashmir. We believe Her Majesty’s Government is in a uniquely privileged position on the occasion, to extend its support for a meaningful engagement towards a just, and equitable solution of the longstanding Kashmir issue.
Last month, on the crucially important issue of reunification and Kashmir’s political status, we wrote to the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt. Hon Baroness Scotland, and reminded her that the Commonwealth nations, needed to take constructive steps towards a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue at the 25th CHOGM in London this year. We asked the Secretary-General to set up a Mediation Panel which would engage with the concerned parties for a solution, that is consistent with the unfettered, and inalienable right of Kashmiris, to determine their political destiny. While Rt.Hon. Mr Boris Johnson MP, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was sent a copy of the letter, on the important question of Kashmir’s future political status however, we felt it particularly germane, to engage directly with you .
Prime Minister as you are aware, for seventy years now, India and Pakistan have utterly failed to address the all-important question of Kashmir’s future status. Both have fought full scale wars, and continue to confront each other across the ceasefire line, that forcibly divides Kashmiris under their de-facto rule. The ceasefire line in Kashmir also represents de-facto rather than de-jure border. Separation of Kashmiri people in general, and hundreds of thousands of families in particular across the ceasefire line, is enforced by armies of both India and Pakistan. At least a dozen substantial resolutions of the UNSC were passed on the issue, which were supported, and in some cases sponsored by Her Majesty’s past governments. Bilateral agreements, like the Tashkent and Shimla Accords, were signed and agreed upon by India and Pakistan. Thus far however, not even an iota of progress has been made towards a solution, while entrenched positions of both countries, add enormously to the suffering, misery, indignity of separation, and occupation for the Kashmiris.
Prime Minister India for her part has demonstrated an extreme intransigence over the years, and is fervently insistent that Kashmir is an internal affair of India. Despite staking claim to be given a permanent seat on the UNSC, India however, has completely reneged on all the commitments and solemn pledges, which she made at the United Nations. Today India’s de-jure position in Kashmir therefore, is that of an occupier. With a growing economic position however, India invests an enormous amount of energy in aggressive diplomacy, to make Kashmir a non-issue at the international level. India’s militarised violence over the years has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths of Kashmiris. India’s military in Kashmir, acts with impunity under laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act-AFSPA. Thus a culture of impunity prevails in Kashmir, which makes India’s huge military deployment in the territory, virtually unaccountable for its violations of human rights.
Since 2014 in particular, Indian government has shown an unprecedented military and political aggression in its policies against the Kashmiris, and their pro freedom leadership. Indian government has declared war on the people, especially the young of Kashmir. Hundreds have been blinded in an unbridled, and indiscriminate use of force with weapons such as the pellets guns. More than150 people have been killed, and more than fifteen thousand injured since July of 2016. Indian military even stoops, to the reprehensible level, of using innocent Kashmiris, as human shields. India imposed longest ever curfew in the history of Kashmir for two months, to tire Kashmiris into submission, and discredit their political leaders.
The Joint Resistance Leadership-JRL- comprising of Sayed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz-umar Farooq, and Mr Muhammad Yasin Malik, has been put under constant house arrests and incarcerated, as in Mr Malik’s case, through a revolving door process of being incarcerated in police stations or in Srinagar Central Jail. The fundamental democratic rights of the leaders to free speech, free movement and engagement with the people, is denied to them. The harassment of leaders and activists, as part of an aggressive culture of impunity, and political victimisation, is rife. Many activists, and leaders like Shabir Shah for example, languish in Indian jails on politically motivated charges.
Furthermore the Indian government, quite insidiously prevents the JRL to interact, and engage with religious minorities. This is a deliberate attempt to engineer, not only a religious and communal cleavage within Kashmiri society, but to malign the political resistance, and its leaders as ‘sponsored’. This is one of the reasons, why India confines political leaders either in their homes or in custody. The Indian government with its aggressively sharp political rhetoric, encourages communal extremism of its ideological bed fellows, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-RSS- in Kashmir. Equally as the progenitor of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the RSS exerts an incontrovertibly enormous grip, on the policies of the ruling BJP in India.
Even the mortal remains of leaders, whose executions can only be described as judicial murders, are not handed over to their families, despite repeated demands for their return by them. Mortal remains of both Muhammad Maqbool Butt, who was hanged in 1984, and Afzal Guru who was hanged in 2013, remain buried in the grounds of India’s Tihar Jail. India shows immense pride in being the largest democracy in the world. In Kashmir however, India’s democracy represents nothing other than intolerance, and betrayal of peoples’ rights and aspirations.
Prime Minister India and Pakistan’s presence, and their confrontation across the divide in Kashmir, is a constant threat to peace in the region. As nuclear powers, each of them has the capacity to destroy the entire sub-continent, and beyond. Their armies pose a mortal danger to Kashmiris, and a much greater one, to their own combined populations of one and a half billion people. Indo-Pakistan rivalry is also a fundamental reason for lack of social, economic, and infrastructure development on both sides of the divide in Kashmir. In the dispute over the status of their country, Indo- Pakistan confrontation, has quite painfully rendered Kashmiris invisible. Kashmiris’ cries of anguish and betrayal are not heard, as a consequence of the deafening reality of status-quo, enforced by India and Pakistan in their divided country.
Of course Kashmiris recognise the importance of peace, stability, and economic development in their society. Forced geographic separation, and social dislocation during the past seventy years however, has deprived them of a unified country. Their democratic rights on both sides of the ceasefire line, have been ignored and subverted. They have endured violent oppression in the Indian held part of their country. And furthermore blatantly, and in a brazenly defiant manner, India has deprived them of the right to decide, a right which is inalienable, and God given.
Prime Minister, in 1982 an illustrious, and esteemed predecessor of yours, had to despatch thousands of young British soldiers to the South Atlantic, with the noble objective, to enforce, and assert, the fundamental human right of the Falkland Islanders to decide. Equally, as a genuine reflection of being the oldest democracy in the world, and without malice and recriminations, Her Majesty’s Government in 2014 of which, you were a prominent member, acceded to the demand by the Scottish nationalists, for the democratic right to decide, on Scotland’s union with the United Kingdom. It is quite ironic and sad therefore, that a country which boasts of being the biggest ‘democracy’ has allowed its military in Kashmir to kill, by all accounts around, a hundred thousand people, for making the same legitimate demand to decide. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, India also demands the privilege of being made a permanent member of the UN Security Council, despite openly defying and disregarding its numerous resolutions on Kashmir.
Prime Minister, Kashmiris wish both India and Pakistan well. Both countries have huge potential, despite facing the perennial challenges of social and economic inequalities. Both India and Pakistan have combined population of over a billion and a half, and growing fast. While this presents enormous challenges, it also provides them with an immense energy for innovation and economic and technological development in their societies. It is in this context that Kashmiris across the ceasefire line have welcomed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor-CPEC-.
As the mega CPEC project begins its journey to Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar, it first enters into Pakistan controlled, Kashmir region of Gilgit Baltistan. Kashmiris therefore, expect CPEC to, primarily benefit Gilgit Baltistan region, as well as others parts of Pakistan administered Kashmir. However, due to lack of democracy, and unrepresentative political structures in Gilgit Baltistan, and the territory of Azad Jammu Kashmir, the extent of real benefits to these regions, of Pakistan controlled Kashmir from CPEC, are a cause for serious concern. As a consequence, this concern has accentuated the demand for tangible democratisation and merger of both regions, including setting up of a democratically elected Joint Council for the regions, free of control from Islamabad. Thus far however, Pakistan government is not responding to these people centric demands.
Prime Minister, seventy years of forced division has not dimmed the burning desire of Kashmiris, to reunite and live as a free people. However, as long as India and Pakistan are embroiled in, and control Kashmir, the desire remains but a distant dream. We therefore, urge you to use your deeply warm relations with both countries, and the Commonwealth, to extend British support for setting up of a Commonwealth’s panel of mediators at the 25th CHOGM in London, that would engage with concerned parties, for a peaceful resolution of the conflict over Kashmir’s political status.
In conclusion we urge you to engage with Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers directly, and persuade them to take the first step along with the Kashmiris, for a peaceful and lasting resolution. As Kashmiris, we desire a peaceful solution, but do not have partners in our quest for peace. Kashmiris wish to make their country a bridge of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan. Kashmiris wish for a peaceful and prosperous South Asia, and seek to see India and Pakistan develop neighbourly relationship similar to that, which exists, between the United States and Canada. But above all, Prime Minister, Kashmiris as a nation, must be allowed to decide. And for the sake of justice and democracy in Kashmir, India and Pakistan must be persuaded, to facilitate an unfettered decision by the Kashmiris- as this is the only way forward.
Head of Diplomatic Bureau-
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front-JKLF
119-123 Cannon Street Road,