The Pakistan embassy on Sunday hosted a gathering in Doha to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. During his speech, the Pakistani ambassador, Shahzad Ahmad, said that the Government of Pakistan has declared an additional ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ keeping in mind the disturbing situation in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.
The ambassador implored the international community to step forward and help the Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination. He also urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission to send fact-finding missions. It was predictable and laced with a large serving of vitriol.
By raising the issue, Pakistan has once again blatantly disregarded its pledge to the 1972 Simla Agreement. Signed by the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and then-Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the two countries contracted that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that has to be resolved without third party involvement.
Dwindling international support and a losing battle
Pakistan’s Kashmir bogey has hardly left any impression in the Gulf or the West. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has in the past issued statements denouncing the bloodshed in Kashmir, much of it triggered by terrorists reportedly supported and trained by Pakistan. The Gulf States have not issued any announcement so far validating Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, which indicates an erosion of global support, if not a rebuff. Even North Africa, a Muslim majority region, hasn’t come out in Islamabad’s defence.
While Pakistan’s customary allies have, expectedly, maintained their official line, the capitals in the West haven’t shown much interest and have exercised restraint despite several briefings by Pakistan foreign ministry in the recent past. What they have been unable to overlook is the fact that Pakistan protected Osama Bin Laden until he was eliminated by the US and the country still harbours UN-designated terrorists, like Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who roams freely on its soil with its tacit support.
In the current scenario, Pakistan is largely perceived as part of the problem, which is a sign of its failure to sell its outlook on Kashmir to the global community. India, on the other hand, has mostly succeeded in shrugging off the impact of its own faults against the Kashmiris and has managed to expose Pakistan as the culprit.
Kashmiris continue to pay a heavy price
Since the uprising that started in the Valley in 1989-90, Pakistani authorities continue to hold the position that they only provide moral and political support to the freedom fighters for the liberation of their homeland from India, while India maintains that Pakistan is accountable and fuels the insurgents and their terrorist activities. It also alleges that Pakistani army personnel are involved with the uprising. The violence has killed close to 50, 000 people, which does not include people who have gone missing due to the turmoil. Some human rights groups put the death toll at twice that number.
Reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have recognized Indian reports of organized human rights breaches by militants, ranging from kidnapping to ethnic cleansing of several hundred thousand Hindu Kashmiri Pandits.
A 2010 US state department report held insurgents in Kashmir and other parts of the country liable of committing grave cruelty, including the killing of Indian security personnel and civilians, and of engaging in extensive persecution, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.
Pakistan needs to restructure and tidy up its policy on Kashmir. Considering the deeply embedded antagonism on both sides, it will not be easy for a solution to emerge, but India and Pakistan need to seize every given opportunity to come up with a revamped policy that is aligned with today’s realities. Alleviation of the anguish of the Kashmiris ought to be the collective concern.