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Last chance for Kashmir

On 5th August, 2019, the Government of India revoked Article 370 and 35A of its Constitution, thereby, annexing and removing the stately existence of Jammu and Kashmir. This agonizing development brings back memories not just from the 70 years of freedom struggle for Kashmiris but a historical legacy of pain and torture even before 1947. This development is the darkest hour for Pakistan and Kashmir since the takeover of the Muslim majority valley since independence. As the world watches, while the resolutions of the United Nations prove to be mere paper work and the economic interests of significant nations obstructing them to do the right thing, this is the last chance for Kashmir. Yet again, might is destroying the right. Pakistanis with their own internal challenges are caught in a fix to stand with their Kashmiri brethren in this fight for freedom and existence.

It is a scholarly mistake to analyze Kashmir with the origin occurring in 1947. Conversely, the story of Kashmir and its exploitation goes back much farther. Briefly, in 1589, the Mughals conquered and annexed Kashmir as a land stretching 86,000 square miles to their dominion. After the bloody battle for Kashmir, the Mughals did nothing for the Kashmiris other than the beautification of gardens so that they could convert Kashmir into a summer vacation spot. After the Mughals were gone, Kashmir was ruled by the Afghans and then by the Sikhs since 1819. The Sikhs were defeated in the Anglo-Sikh War and as a result, the Kashmir region was sold to the Dogra family, who had assisted the East India Company to win wars in the sub-continent. Gulab Singh, a Dogra prince, paid 7.5 million rupees for all lands, resources and people in Kashmir to the British Government. This arrangement between the British Raj and the Dogras continued will the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. Hari Singh, the then, prince of Kashmir wanted to maintain autonomy even when Kashmiris, being majority Muslim, wanted to join Pakistan. This was in contiguity of religious, cultural and linguistic ties that the Kashmiris had with Pakistanis. Hari Singh in his hesitation delayed the decision to join either India or Pakistan. When the news came that he was bargaining on the future of Kashmiris with the Government of India with the threat of Indian Army taking over. The Government of Pakistan moved its armies backed by tribesman to thwart the scheme. As a result, Hari Singh, signed the annexation of Kashmir to India in October, 1947. A war broke out, for which a ceasefire was called by the United Nations and Kashmir was divided by a Line of Control. Gilgit-Baltistan came under the territory of Pakistan while Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh remained under India. Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to the UN resolution for plebiscite, one which was never conducted and it appears, the commitment will never be honored by the Government of India.

Pakistan from the first day of its independence has claimed that Kashmir being a Muslim majority region should be governed by the will of its people. It deserves to be given its political rights for freedom and self-determination. Pakistan has even gone to war with India in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999. India has been committing human rights abuses in the form of extra-judicial killings, rape, extortion, torture and lockdowns to strangulate the freedom struggle but it has continued without abatement. India has accused Pakistan of terrorism and used it as an excuse to crack down with all sorts of tyranny towards the people and leaders of Kashmir. Now, this struggle has entered its last phases. According to international media and human rights organizations, some 4,500 killings have taken place and over 3000 women have been raped with countless cases of grievous injuries inflicted by the Indian police, paramilitary and the Indian army. The international community has failed to address these atrocities from every angle.

In January 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out with its manifesto for the elections. Narendra Modi, who was previously implicated in the killings of scores of Muslims in religious riots in Gujrat, vowed to bring Kashmir on equal footing with the rest of India. Article 370 as part of the Indian Constitution since 1947, gave special status to Kashmir. The article allowed stately autonomy to Kashmir, including the right to have its own constitution, making its own laws, having its own flag while foreign affairs, communication and defense prerogatives remained with the central Government. Now, the Government of India is bent on cancelling the state of Kashmir into mere dominion territories in India divided into two regions, Kashmir and Ladakh, based on Muslim majority and Hindu majority regions. After this division, the leaders of Kashmir will no longer be able to have influence over residency, property ownership and voter demographics. In simple, Kashmir would cease to exist with zero socio-political rights. This is conquest of the modern age and the legal system in India is powerless due to the massive public weight and pressure of Hindu extremist media and violent political outfits. There seems to be no hope for sense to prevail. BJP won the election with a majority and showed no hesitation in implementing its violent manifesto in Kashmir with an iron hand which began with a complete black out of communications and transportation of thousands of troops in Kashmir. The popular leaders of Kashmir like Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others have been put under house arrest. Schools, offices and transport remain suspended as a state of pariah and chaos continues.

 

Pakistan has resorted to an aggressive diplomatic stance. Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken up the mantle as the “ambassador of Kashmir”. The UN, OIC and EU have been apprised of the Indian violations of international law, UNSC resolutions and human rights abuses but to no avail. The economic interests of nations with a country of over 1 billion population, restricts them to do anything apart from verbal condemnation. It seems, this task rests only on the people of Pakistan and the Kashmiri youth. Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, the people and the armies of Pakistan are prepared to fight for the existence of Kashmir, till the end. If there is war, it must be kept in view that although smaller in size, Pakistan has an extremely potent and well-trained army. It is one of those armies that have successfully defeated terrorism, something that even the American army could not achieve in Afghanistan. Also, the nuclear strike capability of Pakistan is greater than its Indian counterpart. If there is a nuclear war, there will be what military experts call, A.M.D, short for assured mutual destruction.

The BJP, in its arrogance and blood thirsty doctrine, is not considering the fact that in revoking Article 370, it has rekindled the flames of freedom struggle in Kashmir and elsewhere. Instead of a diplomatic arrangement, India is now an occupying force. This will not only fuel hatred for the Indian government in Kashmir but also in other troubled regions with freedom movements, such as the Naxalite and the Khalistan struggle. Another fact of the matter is that a considerable territory of Ladakh is under the Chinese Government which the Indians lost in the Sino-Indian war of 1962. If the annexation of Kashmir and Ladakh affects the arrangement with the Chinese, in case of war, China will surely claim its ownership of Ladakh and Hsi chin region. Also, the CPEC and OBOR initiative, which is the primary objective of Government of China, involves Kashmir as a critical region with major border ports in Azad Kashmir and Baltistan. If India ventures into Azad Kashmir, there will be a joint front by Pakistan and China.

These are testing times and the people of Pakistan and Kashmir have decided to take this challenge head on. Great nations are born when they pass through extreme challenges and this is one of those times for Pakistan and Kashmir. As a philosopher once said, “War is strange, the less you are ready for it, the harder it is to avoid”. This is a fight we cannot avoid but it is one that we have to win for ourselves and our future generations. There was no better time for Pakistanis to unite, not just for themselves, but for their Kashmiri brethren who have been suffering to achieve freedom for the last 7 decades, now is the last chance for Kashmir.

(The writer Is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation)

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