Pakistan’s ‘self determination’ charade on Kashmir

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (right) has been critical of Pakistan PM Imran Khan's (left) policies. (Photo: PTI)
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (right) has been critical of Pakistan PM Imran Khan's (left) policies. (Photo: PTI)

With Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari mocking Prime Minister Imran Khan by saying “Earlier, Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir was on how we will take Srinagar. Now, under Imran Khan’s government, we have been forced to think on how we will save Muzaffarabad,” Kashmir has become a matter of personal prestige for Pakistan’s cricketer turned politician. New Delhi’s decision to abrogate Art 370 and Art 35A of the Indian Constitution [which in any case being temporary provisions was long overdue], was in exercise with its sovereign and legal right and as such could in no way be challenged. Yet, as this move proved to be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of Pakistan’s feeble Kashmir narrative, it so rattled Khan that he started tilting at windmills.   

However, while Khan couldn’t have done anything much in this case, he could have at least saved face by adopting a wait and watch policy to gauge international reaction. Instead, in true cavalier fashion, he initiated a series of knee-jerk reactions that only further strengthened India’s logical and legal stand on the Kashmir issue and simultaneously invalidated Islamabad’s fallacious Kashmir narrative. By refusing to entertain Islamabad’s request for holding a meeting on Article 370 abrogation issue on the plea that this decision violated UN resolutions on Kashmir, the UNSC sent out a clear message on the contrary. 

On Beijing’s request, UNSC did agree to hold informal meetings on Kashmir. Nevertheless, by making it clear that neither would details of the deliberations be recorded nor any official statement or communique be issued on its conclusion, UNSC yet once again firmly reiterated its stand of Kashmir being a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan that needs to be mutually resolved without any third-party involvement. This in turn is completely in line with New Delhi’s view on this subject and renders Islamabad’s incessant demand for UNSC intervention to resolve Kashmir issue totally meaningless.

By announcing that “An in-principle decision has been taken to take the issue of Kashmir to the International Court of Justice [ICJ]”, and then inexplicably developing cold feet, Islamabad has deflated its own Kashmir narrative. This is perhaps by far the best development from India’s point of view as it clearly indicates that even Islamabad knows very well that it has no legal grounds whatsoever to challenge India’s stand on Kashmir. Even though Islamabad’s reluctance in taking up the Kashmir issue to ICJ is irrefutable testimony of its inordinately weak case, New Delhi has unfortunately failed to exploit this aspect to counter Pakistan’s senseless tirade.

That’s why, Islamabad and Pakistani media are celebrating adoption of a resolution on the right to self-determination by the United Nations General Assembly. While the report in ‘Dawn’ has been captioned “‘Hope for Kashmiris’: UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on right to self-determination,the Pakistan Observer, heading is very specific and reads, “UN adopts Pakistan’s flagship resolution on Kashmir.” While the news carried by Pakistani media that the proposal was sponsored by Pakistan is correct, Dawn’s claim that it translated into “hope for Kashmiris” or Pakistan Observer’s interpretation that what was adopted was “Pakistan’s flagship resolution on Kashmir,” are both merely exaggerated conjectures.

However, Pakistan’s media can’t be entirely blamed for carrying misleading captions because their foreign office itself is saying so. Its statement reads “adoption of the resolution with consensus would provide the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir with hope in their just struggle for self-determination and freedom from oppression and occupation.” However, what Pakistan’s foreign office hasn’t disclosed is that since UNSC has itself ruled that the Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan, “self-determination” cannot be imposed by a third party. So, Pakistan’s foreign office is once again misleading the people of Kashmir by giving them the hope that a miracle in the shape of “self-determination” could perhaps come their way!

Despite its continuing failure to garner international support for its Kashmir narrative, Islamabad still continues to expound its illogical argument and selective stand on Kashmir. Any amount of rhetoric cannot change falsehood into truth, and perhaps this is the reason why mandarins in India’s External Affairs Ministry avoid a slug fest to counter Pakistan foreign office’s unending barrage of absurd statements. This approach certainly has its merits but then, at a time when social media is shaping public perception, one can’t overlook Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’s infamous lines that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. So, Pakistan’s slander on Kashmir needs to be demolished on a regular basis so that gullible Kashmiris are not beguiled by Islamabad’s misrepresentation of facts and its own duplicity on this issue.

For example, by contending that J&K is UNSC designated “disputed territory”, Pakistan has unilaterally decided that areas of Kashmir under its own illegal control are not disputed, which to say the least is downright hilarious. Next, if J&K is indeed a disputed territory, then Pakistan per se doesn’t have any territorial rights over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir [PoK]. So, how did Pakistan cede Shaksgam Valley [which is an integral part of J&K] to China in 1963? Furthermore, if J&K is ‘UNSC designated disputed territory’, then how has Pakistan allowed a third party [China] to undertake CPEC projects in this area without seeking prior concurrence of India or explicit sanction from UNSC? 

Next comes Pakistan’s perineal complaint regarding non-implementation of UNSC resolution 47 on Kashmir by India with specific reference to ‘self-determination’. While the uninitiated may find some substance in Islamabad’s portrayed grievance, even a cursory perusal of the well-articulated UNSC resolution 47 will reveal that the onus of fulfilling the preconditions for the conduct of plebiscite in J&K. One such mandatory precondition is ensuring a complete withdrawal of Pakistan’s fighting forces, including the army, tribes and other Pakistani nationals from PoK, which Islamabad has not implemented till date!

Lastly, Section 7 (3) of the “Azad Jammu & Kashmir (read POK) Interim Constitution, 1974” stipulates 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 State’s accession to Pakistan.” It’s high time that New Delhi asks Islamabad that when people of PoK are constitutionally debarred from questioning the ideology of ‘PoK’s accession to Pakistan’, how its people express their genuine choice during the self-determination exercise?

Pakistan has been getting away with its mendacities for too long and its high time New Delhi exposes its brazen lies about J&K!

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