Article 370 Abrogation and Pak Response

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Imran Khan sought Trump’s mediation on Kashmir during his visit to the US

Islamabad may have observed August 5 as ‘Yaum-i-Istehsal’ for Kashmir with a special song for the occasion but far from restoring Article 370, New Delhi is looking forward to holding the next round of elections in J&K

Neelofar Qureshi

THOSE who grew up believing Pakistan’s assertion that India was in “illegal occupation” of J&K were taken by surprise when New Delhi abrogated Articles 370, 35A of Indian Constitution and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories. However, the pro-Pakistan camp felt reassured when Pakistan’s Foreign Office announced it had summoned Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria and that “the Foreign Secretary conveyed Pakistan’s unequivocal rejection of these illegal actions as they are in breach of international law and several UN Security Council resolutions.” Those in Kashmir supporting secession were confident that since these “illegal actions” were “in breach of international law and several UN Security Council resolutions,” Islamabad would be able to convince both UNSC and the global community to put pressure on New Delhi to reverse its unilateral abrogation of Articles 370, 35A and divide J&K into two Union Territories.

Another reason why secessionists didn’t lose heart after abrogation of Article 370 was their belief in Pakistan’s claim that it’s stand on Kashmir was “principled” and thus, they were confident that when Islamabad brought India’s “illegal actions” to the notice of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ), both would direct New Delhi to withdraw its August 5 order. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced that he would travel the world as “Kashmir ka safir (Kashmir’s ambassador) and promised to “forcefully present Kashmir issue like never before” at the UNGA annual meet in September. Unfortunately, while Islamabad’s attempt to seek intervention of UNSC in this matter failed, its much-publicised plan to take up this issue to ICJ didn’t even take off. As far as Khan’s UNGA address is concerned, Islamabad and the Hurriyat may have lauded it as a ‘big victory’, but this claim is questionable as abrogation of Article 370 hasn’t been reversed.

There was no public outcry in Kashmir when Article 370 was abrogated and Hurriyat leaders claim that they were unable to mobilise public opinion against the August 5, 2019 order since they were under detention. However, this explanation isn’t very convincing because in the past, Hurriyat leaders have been able to organise massive protests even when they were caged. Thus, this strange behaviour does raise suspicions that their silence could be part of a secret deal with the center related to the ongoing National Investigation Agency (NIA) investigation into their alleged hawala money transactions.

Militants were the only ones in Kashmir who were active after New Delhi abrogated Article 370. However, they started a new trend of targeting apple traders and migrant workers, which wasn’t appreciated by the public and continued killing of locals on suspicion of being informers only added to public resentment. It also sent a negative message to the international community by linking the ‘self-determination’ movement with terrorism. United Jihad Council chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin has always boasted of how militants are giving security forces a tough fight and keeps assuring us that the ‘armed struggle’ would achieve its aim of driving them out of Kashmir. However, just recently, while paying tributes to HM commander Riyaz Naikoo killed by security forces in an encounter, Salahuddin publicly confessed that “The enemy (Indian army) is in a strong position” in Kashmir.

Ever since Article 370 has been abrogated, all Islamabad has been able to do is to feed Kashmiris with hollow promises. While Prime Minister Khan announced observance ‘Kashmir solidarity Day’ on a weekly basis, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Bajwa promised that the army is prepared to go “to any extent” for the sake of Kashmiris. Unfortunately, while observing Kashmir solidarity day every week has achieved nothing, Gen Bajwa’s assurance remains unfulfilled. And now, just a few days before the first anniversary of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, Pakistan has ‘presented’ us with yet another catch-phrase of ‘Yaum-i-Istehsal’ (Day of Exploitation). However, by doing so hasn’t Islamabad indirectly accepted that despite its “principled stand” on Kashmir, it hasn’t been able to do anything to reverse abrogation of Articles 370 by India?

In hindsight, it appears that Islamabad’s response to New Delhi’s abrogation of Articles 370 was ill-planned and thus proved ineffective. It’s immediate reaction of downgrading diplomatic relations and suspending bilateral trade with India were unwise moves as they made no difference to New Delhi. Next, it’s evident that by end September last year, Khan had realised that Islamabad’s inability to generate support against Article 370 abrogation and he openly admitted this by saying, “even if the rest of the world is not standing by Kashmiris, Pakistan is.” However, rather than do something about this, Islamabad decided to take this issue to UNSC, which was another big blunder because with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi telling Pakistanis “not to live in a fool’s paradise” since UNSC members wouldn’t be “waiting for you with garlands in their hands,” it’s evident that Islamabad also knew that nothing would come out of this issue at UNSC.

By taking Kashmir to UNSC and failing to get any support for its “principled stand” challenging abrogation of Article 370, hasn’t Islamabad ended up reinforcing New Delhi’s position that Kashmir is a bilateral Indo-Pak issue and that UNSC or any other nation or organisation has no role to play in its resolution? Lastly, Islamabad’s decision not to approach ICJ in this matter has been interpreted by the international community as an indication that Islamabad had no legal basis to justify its opposition to the abrogation of Article 370. Thus, while Islamabad may have observed August 5 as ‘Yaum-i-Istehsal’ for Kashmir with a special song for this occasion prepared by the military’s media wing, Inter Services Public Relations, far from restoring Article 370, New Delhi is looking forward to holding the next round of elections in J&K.

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