For over three decades Islamabad has been complaining about the inaction of United Nations on human rights violations in Kashmir. And now that the UNs Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has released its report on human rights violations in Kashmir and called for an international investigation, it was expected that Islamabad would do all it takes to ensure quick implementation of this recommendation. However, instead of promptly fulfilling its obligation by allowing the OHCHR investigating team unhindered and unconditional access to Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), Islamabad has instead put across the precondition that it would do so only if New Delhi permitted the UNHRC investigating team to visit Indian administered Kashmir (IaK).
Islamabads inexplicable demand for facilitating human rights violation investigation in PaK may come as a surprise to the unversed but for Kashmir watchers it gives a strong feeling of déjà vu as Islamabad has a long history of failing to take advantage of excellent opportunities. A typical example is that of UNSC resolution 47 which gives the people of Jammu and Kashmir their right to self determination by conduct of plebiscite. It was adopted on April 21, 1948 and all Pakistan had to do for enabling plebiscite in J&K was to withdraw its forces from areas of Kashmir under its control. However, for unknown reasons it hasnt done so till date and thus the issue of plebiscite in J&K has been languishing in the backburner for seven decades. And now with Islamabad placing its New Delhi first condition for investigating human right violations in Kashmir, it seems that the OHCHRs initiative is bound to meet the same fate as UN resolution 47!
Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal has attempted to justify Islamabads New Delhi first precondition by saying that India must not shy away from its international obligation (of allowing access (to the OHCHR investigators) if it has nothing to hide. And though this is surely a logical and very reasonable point of view, it does raise an equally pertinent point that if Islamabad too doesnt have anything to hide, then why it is linking conduct of OHCHR investigations in PaK with that in IaK. Probably, the rationale behind Islamabads conditional offer for investigations eludes me as Im no political pundit. However, common sense tells me that Islamabad loses nothing if it throws open PaK to the international investigating team even if New Delhi refuses entry of OHCHR investigators into IaK.
Since New Delhi is unlikely to allow any foreign investigation teams into IaK, Islamabad will achieve a massive diplomatic and moral victory if it facilitates unhindered access to the OHCHR investigators in PaK. By doing so, it would put New Delhi under great international pressure to fulfill its obligation for permitting OHCHR monitored investigation of human right violations in IaK. So the most probable reason for Islamabad placing a precondition appears to be an attempt to impede prompt investigations of human right excesses in PaK. Could it be that Islamabad also has some skeletons in its own Kashmir cupboard? What gives this presumption greater credence is that in while the OHCHR report may not be as harsh on Islamabad as it is on New Delhi, it hasnt ruled out the probability of human rights violations in PaK!
It is a bit too premature to predict whether something substantial will come out of the OHCHRs initiative. However, by putting both New Delhi and Islamabad under the scanner on the issue of human rights, the OHCHR has sent out a clear message that alls not well in both IaK and PaK. And for Kashmiris living on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) this observation means a lot because it reminds us that both New Delhi and Islamabad are equally guilty of suppressing our human rights. The writing on the wall is absolutely clear- while New Delhi is undoubtedly the Devil, but then Islamabad is no Angel either. Thus, the Hurriyat needs to seriously introspect on the blind faith it continues to repose on Islamabad. I have nothing personal against Pakistan but a very basic question on its Kashmir stance worries me a lot and since I have found no convincing answer, I pose this query to the joint resistance leadership (JRL). How can Islamabad ever succeed in demanding resolution of the Kashmir issue as per UN resolutions when it isnt ready to withdraw its forces and nationals from PaK, which is the mandatory precondition in UN resolution 47 for holding plebiscite in J&K?
In reality, the Kashmir issue isnt fundamentally as complex as it is being made out to be. However, certain avoidable blunders committed by Islamabad in the past ended up violating UN resolutions both in letter and spirit and this is why the K issue has become complex. For example, UN resolution 47 on plebiscite is absolutely clear- it is applicable to both IaK and PaK. Thus, how can Islamabad maintain that PaKs merger with Pakistan is legal without the will of its people being ascertained through a plebiscite and simultaneously claim that accession of IaK to India is illegal because the people there have been denied their right to self determination? Sometimes I feel our leaders intentionally choose to ignore this seriously flawed argument on which Islamabad and the Hurriyats Kashmir case is based because its unbelievable that such a monumental paradox could have escaped their notice. And thats why when it comes to the issue of self determination, we are today exactly where we were three decades ago!
We have already lost out on UN resolutions since Pakistan has refused to vacate PaK and has further wrecked its own narrative of J&K being disputed territory by ceding parts of Kashmir under its control to China. And with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) running through Gilgit-Baltistan region of PaK, Islamabads disputed territory claim has now been reduced to just a notional expression. Thus, if Islamabad sincerely wants peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue then it must walk the extra mile to ensure that the OHCHRs initiative succeeds rather than laying down the juvenile precondition of allowing the investigators into PaK only if New Delhi does so in IaK. And it is here that the JRL has to stop being mere passive onlookers and assume the more assertive role of demanding that its high time that Islamabad stops talking and instead starts walking its talk on resolving the Kashmir issue!
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