Muhammad Saad Khattak
EVER since the 5 August 2019 when Modi took the fateful decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution, the people of India-occupied Kashmir are languishing the agony of a perpetual curfew, state terrorism and deaths by other means that are shortages of food, medicine and stress-related diseases emanating from denying communication with the near and dear ones across the world through a blanket digital and electronic blackout with mainland India and outside world. Mind you, all this is happening when concurrently a race for regional and global domination between major regional and global powers is at play with South Asia as a major playing ground. The scuttling of the Afghan peace process in which Pakistan was a major player and could have been a major beneficiary is by no means accidental. Distant and nearby inimical powers are at play to keep Pakistan destabilized and under constant pressure both from the east and west to further perpetuate its economic woes while denying it the benefits of prevalent economic opportunities.
Domestically, despite its earnest efforts to successfully confront the multifaceted and multidimensional politico/diplomatic, economic and governance-related challenges, somehow in the overall analysis, the government has not fared well-commensurate to the expectations of the majority who voted Imran Khan to the power. Despite the fact that the present government took over the reins at a time and in a situation when major surgeries at all tiers and in all fields were required (courtesy the previous governments) which the government was determined to initiate. In fact, the very reason for the almost blind public confidence in Imran Khan and his party was their expectations of efficient governance led by a team of impeccable character and integrity that he kept professing all along with his electoral campaign.
One year down the lane, ‘RealePolitique‘ has been seen at full play both on the domestic, regional and global chessboards. It seems that the challenges on almost all fronts are proving too ominous for the Prime Minister Imran and the rather controversial and run of the mill team he chose to play with. Targeting all political opponents simultaneously without due priority to day-to-day agonies of common people has increased public frustration with their high hopes nose-diving besides creating political instability at a critical time when everyone regardless of political affiliations is required to be united on critical national issues. This was the combined domestic and regional environment that Modi was waiting for, prepared for and struck at a time of his choosing.
There is not an iota of doubt that Prime Minister Imran and his government have put in tremendous effort to successfully project and internationalize Kashmir dispute never done by previous governments but the question is that what has been tangibly achieved? Perhaps nothing as of now. This is happening at a time when both PM Imran and PM Modi are in the US in connection with UN General Assembly’s summit, both lobbying for their countries. Addressing a huge Indian American gathering, President Trump reiterated in his speech to rid the world of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ as if all that is happening in the IoK and mainland India against minorities is either not visible to him or India`s importance and US regional interests are far more important than the dying Kashmiris on a daily basis. So much for global conscience and justice! Is Pakistan braced up and alive to these challenges of a biased global conscience in which major international players’ side with India for geopolitical and geo-economic priorities rather than responding to the call of morality and blatant human rights violations perpetrated upon the Kashmiris of IoK on a daily basis?
Given the above, what needs to be done? One, the diplomatic manoeuvre initiated after 5 August that has successfully internationalized Kashmir issue needs to be followed through with increasing vigour plugging the existing loopholes in the strategy and effort. Besides proactive measures at our missions’ level abroad, the Pakistani and Kashmiri Diaspora should be effectively organized and mobilized to generate pressure on local governments and societies to raise their voices for the just rights of Kashmiri people of IoK. Two, fully cognizant of the fact that neither status quo nor going back to Articles 370 and 35-A is a solution to the 72-year-old dispute on the UN Security Council’s agenda, just solution in accordance with the aspiration of the people has to be arrived at. The Indian action and consequent imprisoning of eight million innocent unarmed civilians in their houses certainly call for extraordinary steps from the international community and Pakistan. The international community has to be awakened and compelled to extend all types of humanitarian and military support to an unarmed body on the brink of genocide waiting to be exterminated from its land.
Pakistan, besides its politico, diplomatic and moral support has to overtly prepare for a possible military showdown that will have every possibility of escalation to sub-conventional dimensions having unbearable consequences. Three, the government should take steps at all tiers to keep the present and future generations informed about the political, ideological, legal and moral dimensions of the issue so that the society at large remains unanimously behind every government on this issue of critical national importance. While both governments of India and Pakistan are struggling and lobbying for their stated positions with no mutually acceptable recipe for its peaceful solution, the possibility of a military confrontation is seen rather near than distant. Regardless of who will win or lose in the end, it surely will leave the two countries devastated and its people, even more, poorer for decades to come and that is what the international community must stop.
— The writer, a retired Maj Gen, is DG Pakistan Institute for Conflict & Security Studies, an independent think-tank based in Islamabad.