CJ Werleman reports on the Pakistani Prime Minister’s support for self-determination for the disputed region

Pakistan’s declaration that it will give Kashmiris the right to decide between joining Pakistan or attaining independence – saying that it will encourage and respect the result of a United Nations-mandated plebiscite – is a clear reminder that, in the territorial dispute between the two Asian rivals, it is India that stands in the way of peace.

Speaking before thousands of people at a Kashmir Solidarity Day rally in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Friday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged his support for Kashmiri self-determination.

“When you decide on your future, and when the people of Kashmir, God willing, decide in Pakistan’s favour, I want to say that after that Pakistan will give Kashmiris the right that if you want to be independent or a part of Pakistan,” said Khan. “This will be your right.”

Khan’s comments are not only consistent with Article 257 of Pakistan’s Constitution, which states that “when people of State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and State shall be determined in accordance with wishes of people of the State”, but also with United Nations Security Council resolutions 47, 51, 80, 96, 98, 122 and 126.

For the past seven decades, however, India has defied these resolutions in denying eight million residents of India-Occupied Kashmir the right to determine their own future by maintaining military control over the territory, while granting only semi-political autonomy to the local population. 

But, on 5 August 2019, the Indian Government suddenly and without warning stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status by revoking Articles 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution, imprisoning local political leaders, undoing restrictions on property ownership and employment, and enforcing a military imposed lockdown.

The message from the country’s far-right Government was clear – it intends to illegally annex and colonise the Muslim majority territory with non-native Hindu settlers. It has since put rhetoric and policy into action by announcing domicile rights, including access to property ownership and employment, for non-locals. New Delhi granted tens of thousands of domicile certificates in the final months of 2020 alone.

Almost without exception, Kashmiris in India-controlled Kashmir view the Hindu majority country as a foreign occupying power, one hellbent on subjugating and annihilating the territory’s indigenous identity. Kashmiri nationalism predates the creation of the Indian and Pakistani states. 

A 2019 survey conducted by Central University of Kashmir and New York’s Skidmore College found that 91% of college and university students in India-occupied Kashmir want a complete withdrawal of the more than 500,000 Indian soldiers from the region.

“Among our survey respondents, the preferred route to resolving the Kashmir conflict was a plebiscite in which Kashmiri people vote to determine the future of their region,” observe the authors of the report.

The Kashmiri people have been waiting more than 70 years for the United Nations to come good on its promise to mandate the holding of a plebiscite in the territory. It passed a resolution in 1948 to grant them a choice between joining Pakistan or India, with the former supporting the option of independence to be included in the referendum.

India has successfully lobbied the international community into sidelining the Kashmir dispute, knowing that only a tiny percentage of the territory would choose it over independence or Pakistan. It has duped international political leaders and news media organisations into believing that the conflict is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, when, in fact, it is an issue between India and the people of Kashmir.

“The people of Jammu and Kashmir are the key constituent to the dispute because they have to decide about their political future and this is a position recognised by the United Nations,” Masood Khan, President of Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, told me when we spoke several months ago.

“The United Nations has been sidelined in the dispute over Kashmir…[and as such] we are moving towards a human rights apocalypse in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

This sidelining and both-siding of the conflict, in which India and Pakistan are portrayed as equal belligerents or equally guilty of protracting the dispute, however, can be found in any of the world’s major newspapers, including The New York Times, where a search of the word ‘Kashmir’ in its archives reveals headlines such as: ‘Rising Tensions in Kashmir’, ‘Kashmir in Crisis’ and ‘Violence in Kashmir’.

A more accurate telling of these stories would read: ‘India Rises Tensions in Kashmir’, ‘India Puts Kashmir in Crisis’, and ‘Indian Military Violence in Kashmir’ – given that India is almost solely responsible for all international law and human rights violations in the region.

Pakistan does not murder the Kashmiri people and then bury their bodies in mass and unmarked graves. India, on the other hand, has killed more than 100,000 of them since 1989 – the year a Kashmiri insurgency broke out in response to New Delhi rigging elections and shooting protestors. A 2011 human rights commission inquiry into India’s atrocities in Kashmir found the existence of 2,700 unknown, unmarked and mass graves, containing 2,943 bodies.

Many of the corpses were bullet-riddled, decapitated or mutilated.

It was India, not Pakistan, that violated the ceasefire line more than 1,300 times in the past year, including artillery and air force strikes. Sure, Pakistan military responds in kind, but the key difference is that it does not target civilians or residential neighbourhoods or use human shields.

Ultimately, it is Pakistan, not India, that wants to internationalise this conflict. It is Pakistan, not India, pledging to allow the Kashmiri people to determine their own future, and thus it is India, not Pakistan, that continues to make Kashmir the world’s hottest nuclear flashpoint.

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION

A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story! Sign up to our newsletter (and get a free edition posted to you)

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Werleman's Worldview

Werleman’s Worldview: The New Age of Political Violence in America

, 17 August 2022
The reaction of Donald Trump, Republican politicians and right-wing commentators to the FBI's recent raid on the former president's Florida home signals a crisis for the US, says CJ Werleman

Werleman’s Worldview: Nancy Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan will have Little Bearing on China’s Longstanding Imperialist Dreams

, 3 August 2022
China has long determined to use whatever means necessary to attain total dominance over the Western Pacific, writes CJ Werleman

Werleman’s Worldview: The British Muslim Students Caught Up in the ‘War on Terror’ in Bulgaria

, 28 July 2022
CJ Werleman speaks to Mohammad Amin about how his life has been derailed over terrorism accusations with no evidence behind them

More stories filed under Argument

‘Damn Rees-Mogg’s Politics of Civility’

, 27 January 2023
The Conservative MP's promise to bring back ‘civilised political debate’ in his new GB News show is an insult to the people harmed by this Government, writes Iain Overton

Concerns that Government’s Finance Bill Benefits Big Money and Harms the Planet

, 27 January 2023
The Financial Services and Markets Bill risks wrecking the UK's commitment to net zero, writes Thomas Perrett

Rishi Sunak’s Government is Sinking Into its Own Swamp 

, 26 January 2023
The Prime Minister promised a break from the chaos and corruption of Boris Johnson's administration. After three months, his MPs fear little has changed

More from the Byline Family