Referendum and right of self-determination | ByProf Dr Muhammad Khan


Referendum and right of self-determination 

THE statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan over the referendum (plebiscite) in Jammu and Kashmir State is being interpreted differently by different political parties, creating misperception.

The Prime Minister mentioned two-staged referendum; the UN mandated plebiscite which allows Kashmiris to determine their future status with Pakistan or India.

In second-stage, upon Kashmiris decision to join Pakistan (since overwhelming population of Kashmiris desires to join Pakistan); they will determine as how to join with Pakistan (as a state, province or else as an autonomous region) through another referendum.

This is clearly mentioned in Article 257 of the Constitution of Pakistan, thus the statement of Premier is neither a deviation from the UN resolutions nor contradicts the constitution of Pakistan.

Article 257 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that, “when the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State.”

Besides, the referendum (plebiscite) would be in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir rather in AJK only.

United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) through its Resolution of January 5, 1949 guaranteed a free and fair plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir with the sole objective of granting the people of Jammu and Kashmiri their right to self-determination.

This is the inalienable right; the people of Jammu and Kashmir had in 1947 and valid till-to date.

The only obstacle in the exercise of this right is Indian obduracy, which has constantly caused a barrier ever since the passage of UNCIP Resolution on January 5, 1949. Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations ensure grant of this right to over 100 states.

This is clear from UN membership; UNO had 51 countries as its members in October 1945 and today over 193 countries are members of this international organization.

In all cases, the right of self-determination formed the basis of such a large international community.

The biggest question, people of Jammu and Kashmir ask today from UN and its 193 member States that after all why they have been deprived from this inalienable right of self-determination, enshrined in the UN Charter and UN resolutions.

Through a well-planned strategy, India referred the Kashmir dispute to UN on January 1, 1948 on the sole plea that Maharaja of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to it through an Instrument of Accession.

Indeed, it was an incorrect plea as the evidence proved later that, Maharaja did not sign the instrument of accession before 27 October 1947, the day Indian state forces invaded the Princely State.

India was sure to have a walk-over upon presentation of this so-called instrument of accession at UN.

But, during the debate over the dispute between Pakistani and Indian representatives, reality was revealed over to United Nations about the Indian illegal occupation of the State against the wishes of its subjects and against the partition plan of India.

Moreover, even in the so-called instrument of accession the will of the people was to be kept as deciding factor.

The UNCIP resolutions (August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949) were indeed the rejection of Indian stance over Kashmir.

Through these resolutions, UN made Kashmiris as the principle party to decide their future political status through a free and fair plebiscite.

At UN two concurrent happenings took place as a result of India reference of Kashmir case. One; Indian efforts to get UN certification for its military invasion into Kashmir was rejected.

Two; instrument of accession was not accepted as the legal document for the accession of the State with India.

This happened despite Lord Mountbatten was still the Governor General of Post-Colonial India.

Lord Louis Mountbatten remained Governor General of India from 15 August 1947 to 21 June 1948.

India is cognizant of the fact that, despite its brutal use of force and massive human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), it can neither suppress the popular will of Kashmiris nor can it deprive them from attaining their long-awaited right of self-determination.

It’s indeed the matter of time and international awakening that Kashmiris will get their right of self-determination through UN administered plebiscite (referendum).

Nevertheless, after unilaterally changing the status of IIOJK in August 2019, India is making demographic changes in IIOJK at mass which is yet another violation of UN Charter, UN resolutions on Kashmir, Fourth Geneva Convention and International Law.

Amongst various speculations, Kashmir’s right of self-determination through a free and fair plebiscite was fully supported in April 2021 by top military commanders.

The 240th Corps Commanders Conference gave a clear road-map to political leadership of Pakistan for a realistic and tangible pursuance of Kashmiri’s right of self-determination.

Indeed, the ‘right of self-determination’ enshrined in Article 1 of UN Charter brought an end to the occupation and colonialism from all over the world.

Nevertheless, Indian occupation and colonialism is a big question mark on the fairness and efficacy of United Nations.

Imran Khan’s statement for the two-staged referendum and respecting the will of the people of the State is a welcoming step.

However, the question arises, did Pakistan pave the ground for the conduct of plebiscite (referendum) by sufficiently perusing India, United Nations and permanent member states of UNSC.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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