IK’s UN Speech and Plight of Kashmiris


By Nayyar N Khan

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 27, 2019 in New York City. at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 27th of September at the organization’s headquarters in New York. His speech covered four main points i.e. Climate Change, financial corruption in developing countries with reference to Pakistan, Islamophobia and the last point was human rights violations in Indian administered Kashmir. His passion and enthusiasm may have enthused millions in his country and around the globe because of his emotional gesticulation while signifying the case of Muslims to the world community. Categorically he is successful in gathering sympathies in his home country, where he is heading an insubstantial government facing the contentions of incompetence and hollow slogans. Many opposition leaders including two former Prime Ministers and a President are behind the bars since he became the PM. Unemployment, significantly slowing economy, rising prices of medicines and primary food material and ever low national reserves leading to increasing poverty are the major threats his government is facing since he took the oath. Opposition parties are planning a grand protest march called “Freedom March” to unseat him in October. Among this chaotic situation he was in desperate need of some political oxygen to gain some strength in Pakistan. UNGA speech would boost his theoretical agenda of fighting corruption in his country.

But taking into consideration the factual analysis of his full of sensations and fiery speech at UNGA along with his engagement with international press and think tanks at New York for a week, there is lot that carries no material weight. For instance, he warns international community for “consequences beyond the borders” if Kashmiris are not given the right to self-determination in due time. There is no doubt that Kashmir conflict can attract such antagonistic reaction. But when Khan referred to 11 UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, he is empirically incorrect for not understanding the mechanism of UN package on Kashmir outlined in 1948. UN resolution dated 13th August 1948 advised both India and Pakistan to take necessary steps before a plebiscite takes place in Jammu Kashmir. First step was ceasefire to which both countries agreed. The second one was withdrawal of all Pakistani nationals and military personnel from the state of Jammu Kashmir, then India would withdraw bulk of its army as specified by UN leading to plebiscite. One may ask very legal and fundamental question to Mr. Khan; “has Pakistan taken the 2nd step mentioned in UN package on Kashmir?” The simple answer to this question is “NO”, so how international community can take a serious note of Khan’s plea for granting Kashmiri people right to self-determination when his country did not follow the pattern? He, very rightly criticized India for abrogating article 370 and 35A of its constitution granting a special status to Jammu Kashmir. Both these articles were negotiated out at the time of Kashmir’s accession to India and were off shoots of an already existing law of 20th April 1927 (SSR-IL84/1927). The state subject rule (SSR) was articulated when Jammu Kashmir was a princely state in British India to protect the citizenship rights including property and employment rights of Kashmiri people. The same was agreed upon while acceding with India and thus India protected these rights under article 370 and 35A of its constitution.

Surprisingly, Pakistan itself practically abrogated the state subject rule in its administered part of Jammu Kashmir (Gilgit Baltistan) in 1974 without even making a formal announcement or statement. Mr. Khan’s criticism of India for abrogating clauses from her constitution would have been factual and worthy if Mr. Khan would have restored the same rights in Gilgit Baltistan before making a formal request at UNGA. It would have earned a greater respect and practical help towards Kashmiris rights movement. The third and most painful aspect of Khan’s ambitious speech at UNGA was to depict Kashmir dispute as a war between Hindus and Muslims, thus sabotaging the political, cultural and social rights of Kashmiri people. Mr. Khan would have known that Jammu Kashmir which has been declared disputed by the UN is a multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic Himalayan country. Out of 20 million inhabitants in Jammu Kashmir, around 65% are Muslims and 35% are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs. They all are equal citizens for determining their political future per UN resolutions. Playing religion card is nothing less than further complicating the dispute and creating a mistrust in religiously coherent and historically pluralistic society having history of peaceful co-existence.

The most important point in this regard while taking Khan’s engagement at the UNGA was practicality of legal and international support to Kashmiri people. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are the powerful institutions as compared to UNGA in making international impact. Pakistan practically failed to get a resolution or formal statement from UNSC after India imposed curfew in its administered Kashmir. The 42nd session of UNHRC at Geneva that concluded the day when Khan was speaking at UNGA, Pakistan could not even garner the support of 16 member of UNHRC out of 47 to table a resolution condemning human rights abuses, lockdown and communication blockade of 8 million Kashmiris for over 55 days.

After having a brief analysis of Khan’s ambitious speech at UNGA, it is obvious that these words can mesmerize the emotional folks in his country but by failing to take practical steps to back his verbal support for Kashmiri people one should not think of a miracle to happen. Warning of war can further escalate the already tense relationship between India and Pakistan. Yes, there are grave human rights violations in Jammu Kashmir. India must lift the curfew and release the political prisoners. But mere ambitious speech and out of context claims can further the tyranny in Jammu Kashmir, instead of helping the oppressed masses that are locked in their houses without having any contacts to the outside world.

(Nayyar N Khan is a US based peace activist and a freelance journalist of Kashmiri origin. He can be reached at [email protected])         

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