On a day when separatist leaders were being hosted at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on the occasion of Pakistan Day, a motion condemning Islamabads announcement declaring Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as its fifth frontier was being passed in the British Parliament. However, as expected, both Islamabad and the separatists have chosen to downplay this rather unusual development. However, from the perspective of those whose lives have been turned into a nightmare by the turmoil in Kashmir, this is something far too serious to be brushed under the carpet.
The motion passed by the British Parliament has raised some very crucial issues that cannot be ignored as it states that GB is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947. Thus, the British Parliament has explicitly not only contradicted the fundamental argument of Islamabad and the Hurriyat that India is in illegal occupation of Kashmir but even gone to the extent of saying that the real villain responsible for the Kashmir tragedy is not India but Pakistan. These are very serious allegations that need to be immediately rebutted with factual evidence both by Islamabad and the Hurriyat because not doing so could well be misconstrued as tacit acceptance of these accusations!
The motion passed by the British Parliament has raised some very crucial issues that cannot be ignored as it states that GB is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947. Thus, the British Parliament has explicitly not only contradicted the fundamental argument of Islamabad and the Hurriyat that India is in illegal occupation of Kashmir but even gone to the extent of saying that the real villain responsible for the Kashmir tragedy is not India but Pakistan.
Islamabad and the Hurriyat have been blaming New Delhi for oppressing the people of Kashmir and depriving them of their basic rights. On this issue both Islamabad and the Hurriyat have been very active – while the former has prepared and handed over dossiers on this subject to the UN, the latter is continuously demanding intervention of the international community to stop repression of Kashmiris. However, while taking no cognisance of complaints made by Islamabad or the Hurriyat, the motion passed by the British Parliament says that in GB (with an alluded reference to entire Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) intended) people are denied their fundamental rights including the right of freedom of expression. This is indeed a very pejorative statement that tempts one to ask as to why the British lawmakers have said so.
The answer is not very hard to find as it is obvious that the British parliamentarians are referring to section 7 (2) of The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974 which states that No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the States accession to Pakistan. And it is because of this curbs on freedom of expression in PaK that both Islamabad and the Hurriyat have lost out while presenting their case on Kashmir. Though Islamabad refers to PaK as Azad Kashmir (Free Kashmir), but by imposing restrictions on freedom of expression here its claim that the people of PaK are emancipated doesnt hold water. Thus, the international community doesnt take Islamabads accusations of high handedness in IaK seriously as it considers it to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black!
By maintaining a stoic silence on Islamabads control over PaK and encouraging Kashmir banega Pakistan ideology, the Hurriyat has compromised its own standing as far as its struggle for the right to self determination is concerned. The motion passed in the British Parliament is a blessing in disguise as it has exposed the cardinal flaws in the Kashmir strategy that Islamabad and the Hurriyat have been following. Though outrightly rejecting the contents of this motion is the simplest way out, but doing so would be a monumental mistake. Therefore, theres a need to keep emotions aside and deliberate on this issue rationally so that suitable actions can be taken to make the Kashmir narrative more convincing.
To start with, we have to accept the fact that the Kashmir issue isnt confined to the people of only one side of Kashmir and it equally concerns our brethren in PaK. And since the whole struggle is about the right to self determination in J&K as decreed by UN resolution 47, no part of it can be excluded. We also need to accept that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved with assistance of the international community. Therefore, the Hurriyat which is spearheading the self determination campaign in J&K needs to re-establish its credentials within the international community of being a party that genuinely speaks for the entire people of Kashmir by extending the sphere of its concern to PaK. This will also help it shed the proxy of Pakistan tag. As far as Islamabad is concerned, if it wants the world to really believe that the people in PaK are azad and contented, then it has to seriously consider scrapping section 7 (2) of the PaK constitution as it is irrelevant and also undemocratic.
Tailpiece: Six months ago Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani announced that never before have we been so close to freedom with such clarity as we are now. However, now that the British Parliament has passed a motion that outrightly debunks Islamabads and the Hurriyats stance on the Kashmir issue, our leaders need to take some hard decisions so that precious lives are not lost in following ambiguous strategies.
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