1st December 2021
Kashmiri panelists called for a review in Pakistan’s approach to the ongoing Kashmir Conflict, with an urge for the country to play its role in facilitating dialogue between indigenous Kashmiris with the states of Pakistan and India, and push for global solidarity with the affected people of the Valley.
The resolutions emerged during the discussion session “Conflict in Kashmir: Bypassing Kashmiris” on day one (November 20) of the Asma Jahangir Conference 2021 – Challenges to Human Dignity. Moderated by senior Dawn correspondent from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Tariq Naqash, the panel included host of Kashmir Time on AJKTV, Naila Altaf Kayani; Kashmiri journalist for Turkish newswire Andalou Agency, Iftikhar Gilani; chief spokesperson for the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Mohammad Rafiq Dar; journalist and host of Nasim Zehra@8 on 24 News HD, Nasim Zehra; and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado, Dr. Ather Zia.
Kayani, also a social and human rights activist from Muzaffarabad, said that Kashmir and Afghanistan are two different issues and should not be intermingled. She emphasized that terminologies play an important role in a struggle, and that therefore there needs to be a great degree of care in using terminologies while presenting a case for Kashmiris.
In this regard, she maintained that keeping in view the magnitude and intensity of the atrocities being committed by India, the term “human rights violations” is insufficient. Rather, they should be referred to as war crimes, and which must be pursued under universal jurisdiction of the international criminal court of war crime tribunals.
She also pointed out that Kashmiris were bypassed on many occasions not only by the external actors but also by local leaders when they gradually replaced the nomenclature “Azad Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir” by the “Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.”
Joining the session via video link from Ankara, Turkey, Gilani emphasized that Kashmiris are being systemically disempowered, for which old approaches need to be reviewed in favor of new, more effective ones. He posited that it necessary to bring AJK into the conversation as now is the time to empower and strengthen its institutions and its people, and one way to do so is to bring AJK’s indigenous leadership brought forward.
Dar stated that bilateralism has dented the Kashmir issue. Recounting its history, he explained that United Nations prohibits both India and Pakistan from affecting any territorial change in Kashmir, however on August 5, 2019, India unilaterally changed the status of the territory.
He suggested that Pakistan rescind the Shimla agreement and initiate dialogue process between all three parties. Dar also added that Pakistan should integrate Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with AJK and form a national revolutionary government, or give GB the same status as AJK and form a single joint independent council, comprising nominees of both governments, and give them free hand to represent the Kashmir case.
Zehra said Pakistan lacks a clear policy toward India, which has effectively weakened decision-making on Kashmir. She held that Pakistan’s current Kashmir strategy is insufficient, and that there is an urgent need to expedite the process otherwise the current Indian dispensation will leave nothing for it in a matter of mere months.
Dr. Zia, who also joined the session from Colorado, USA, through video link, stated that the Kashmir issue is getting re-internationalized after India militarily and forcibly stripped the region of its autonomy in 2019. She used the concept of “sanctioned ignorance” (Spivak 1999) to trace how the Kashmir issue and the demands of Kashmiris have been overwritten, invalidated, and criminalized by India. The analysis contends that the Indian discourse obfuscated the Kashmir issue which led to the waning of international attention and solidarity for the Kashmiris. She said that forging a global solidarity for Kashmir will entail understanding the issue in its original historical context and reinstate it as a genuine people’s resistance.