MOHAMMED Ali Jinnah’s profound words on 14h August 1947 can be viewed as a fore warning to the people of Pakistan and Kashmir when he stated: “Do not for a moment ever think the enemies can ever succeed in their designs but at the same time do not make light of the situation…. very grave and dangerous situation will be facing you…” Since the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by India, the area is a military zone with over 700,000 Indian soldiers who daily carry out a system of arbitrary arrests, raids, curfews along with extra-judicial executions, rape and torture, against the over 7 million caged there.
The UN was denied access by India to the region after 2700 unmarked graves were identified by a team of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in Northern Kashmir. The report concludes that there is “every probability” that the remaining over 2100 unidentified graves “may contain the dead bodies of persons subject to enforced disappearances”. Since the new President of Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan took his position on 16th August 2016, expectations of the Kashmiri people have been high, as not only is Mr Khan a descendant of a family of Kashmiri freedom fighters, his grand uncle was Sardar Ibrahim khan known as Bani e Kashmir (father of Kashmir) and Ghazi-e-Millat (hero of the nation.)
Sardar Ibrahim was a seasoned lawyer who had studied at London’s Lincoln’s Inn. After the resolution of Kashmir’s accession with Pakistan in 1947 he declared jihad against Maharaja Hari Singh’s forces and with his guerrilla warriors and managed to take hold of the part known today as Azad Jamuu and Kashmir. He also formed in 1990, the Jammu Kashmir People’s Party (JKPP) in order to provide a political platform to the people of the region. Due to his popularity, he served as President of Azad Kashmir for four terms.
President Masood Khan has the same passion and zeal when it comes to the issue of Kashmir, and one hopes is as politically astute as his grand uncle as the challenges he faces are enormous. Post 9/11 the political climate is toxic created by the illegal ‘War on Terror’ which has justified rampant Islamophobia and hatred against Muslims in Western countries. The continual mantra in western media that ‘not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’ has intentionally tainted the legitimate struggle against oppression and injustice by Kashmiris.
India is using current unrest in IOK to its advantage, killing and supressing Kashmiris and shifting the blame on Pakistan to internationally label it as the epicentre of terrorism. A series of Indian false flag attacks and operations like Uri, Pathankot and Mumbai attacks, which raised more questions than answered as to who committed them, legitimised marginalisation of Muslims. Even though Investigating Indian Officer Satish Verma in 2013 said that the Mumbai terror attacks in 2009 and the assault on Indian parliament in 2001 was carried out by Indian government forces; to discredit Pakistan and continue the oppression in IOK.
The President of Azad Kashmir is aware of the intricate problems facing country and in an interview with him at Kashmir House in Islamabad, first fact he reiterated was urgent need to counteract virulent disinformation campaign that India is perpetuating on world stage. He explained: “One of the main issues we have to deal with is disinformation campaign that India is carrying out through western and Indian media while using powerful Washington based lobby groups. India is covering up atrocities it’s committing in IOK through lies and distortion. Does world know that lethal pellets are being fired at young Kashmiris to make them blind; doctors cannot cope with blinded girls and boys arriving at hospitals every day?
Since the protests began in July against the killing of freedom fighter Burhan Wani mass shootings are taking place and on October 30th the Greater Kashmir newspaper reported that 1,631 civilians had been hit in the face, including 1,100 with injuries to their eyes. Aware of the media blackout, President Masood Khan strongly feels that social media is also a powerful platform and on his last trip to the US he presented a seven-point strategy urging active participation of Pakistani and Kashmiri youth for the liberation of occupied Kashmir against Indian oppression.
The current phase of uprising in Kashmir is coinciding with some significant development taking place inside Pakistan and around it. In the face of new geo-strategic realities, especially in wake of rebalancing Asia, the critical challenge faced to President would be voicing the concerns of his countrymen and implementing a strategy for change; this would include a robust media campaign highlighting not only the glorious and tumultuous history of the people, connecting past with present, but also incorporating the Kashmir issue in all the schools curriculum.
The President who is a diplomat and worked at the UN is a great believer in the rule of law, said: “I hope the right of self-determination which was given by the United Nations to the Kashmiri people will be upheld by the international community and finally implemented.” However, the President is positive that the situation regarding Kashmir will change, “irrespective of India’s objections and links with powerful US lobbies. The most important change will be taking place after the implementation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project which will open up new horizons and long term development”.
He is especially confident that CPEC which will facilitate trade between People’s Republic of China and Pakistan’s port of Gwadar through a construction network of highways, railways and pipelines. “It will bring long term economic development to not only Pakistan and AJK but all those that want to participate also like Russia, Iran Uzbekistan. This is why India is intent on sabotaging the project by instigating insurgencies in Karachi and Balochistan as was recently confessed by an Indian spy after he was caught by Pakistan officials.”
He stressed: “moral and mental aspects of the freedom movement, which have been misrepresented with twisted facts by a hostile media needs to be addressed so the realities suffered in the struggle for independence is effectively highlighted”. President further stressed that creating awareness of events of past will have an impact on the current climate inducing a much-needed empathy exposing the many sacrifices made by people of Kashmir in the struggle for liberation. The critical question in these volatile times is “will Indian destabilising tactics succeed and how will Pakistan stay on course? The President was adamant that “no matter what level of Indian objections overt or covert, the fight for self- determination in IOK will also be continuing”
— The writer is a journalist based in London, UK.