Volume 23 Issue 11, November 2019


SouthAsia: Considering the prevailing scenario, what are the options Pakistan is left with in Kashmir?
Mushaal Mullick: Pakistan should come up with a consistent, full-fledged and all-encompassing policy on Kashmir. Devised for a minimum five-year period, the policy must be based on a holistic approach as merely a journalistic approach cannot grab world attention. To keep raising the Kashmir cause on international fora, there must be a dedicated and strategic Kashmir Cell, where all segments of society, especially the Kashmiris, who are the key stakeholders, must work in unison and speak as one voice to expose the brutalities being committed by the Indian security forces against the innocent people of Kashmir. The people of Azad Kashmir (AJK) and the Hurriyat leadership should be brought on board as, without actively involving them, it would be impossible to develop an all-inclusive Kashmir policy.

Q: Do you think Prime Minster Imran Khan’s speech at the United Nations will make any difference?
A: At this time, it is very difficult to see any significant results coming from PM Imran Khan’s address at the UN. Honestly speaking, Pakistan has always supported us by raising the Kashmir issue at the UN, no matter whoever is heading the country, be it Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, and the others. However, when Imran Khan raised the Kashmir issue at to the UN, the circumstances were extraordinary. The Indian government had unilaterally abrogated Articles 370 and 35-A, bifurcating the Kashmir Valley and depriving it of its special constitutional status. Since then, IOK was placed under curfew and the Indian Army resorted to extrajudicial killings to suppress the Kashmiris, while the top Kashmiri leadership was under arrest, including Yasin Malik, my husband.

We need a very strong policy on Kashmir. No doubt, PM Imran Khan spoke at the UN straight from his heart, but mere speeches cannot win us freedom. A more practical approach is required in matters where concerns are very serious and when the case has already been placed in the UN General Assembly with some 12 resolutions passed by the UN Security Council in favour of the rights of the Kashmiris. I believe Imran Khan should have advocated those aspects in a more effective manner. Pakistan should demand for the appointment of a UN Global Ambassador on Kashmir as well as immediate de-militarization of IOK.

In his address at the UN, Imran Khan should have given a timeframe of 48 to 72 hours to the world leaders. He should have said that if the international community was not going to send UN peacekeeping forces to Indian-occupied Kashmir under UN Article 47, he would not be able to stop almost 2.2 million people of Azad Kashmir from crossing the ceasefire line as they want to help their Kashmiri brethren suffering from the brutalities of the Indian forces. He should have mentioned that the Pakistan government was under huge pressure from its people. These are the key points that must be highlighted and brought to the notice of the UN on an urgent basis. In fact, there was a crisis-like situation when the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and others were protesting and marching towards the ceasefire line. The situation demands robust policymaking to save the Kashmiris who are dying from Indian bullets.

Q: What best can be done in the given scenario?
A: More effective measures need to be taken. The UN has special mechanism and procedures. They have special declarations on disappearances, right to self determination, torture and the rest. There are various facets of the UN mechanism which need to be engaged because the world has been under the illusion that Pakistan and India would go for bilateralism, something that has been a spectacular failure. A 50-year period happens to be quite a long time - it’s half a century and still we are not getting anywhere.
My message to the Pakistani government is that the Kashmiri people will not buy any kind of dialogue with India as now they are coffin-clad, laying down their lives in millions for their freedom and the entire nation has not surrendered before the Indian occupation. We, the Kashmiris, have not made these sacrifices for any so-called peacemaking formulas or for any purported confidence-building measures. We demand our right to self-determination and will not accept anything less than an impartial and fair plebiscite to be held under UN auspices.

The Kashmiris are the main stakeholders and we know what we need. Besides the Pakistan government, we want everyone in the country to own the Kashmir cause, including the opposition, mainstream political parties and other institutions, such as the judiciary, the army, the media, civil society, the business community and the rest. Though some protests take place on the Kashmir issue time to time, but Pakistani people have never been mobilized at the grass root level. Some lip-service is paid on general forums but due to lack of pressure from the public, the Pakistan government has not been able to successfully form a well-defined, long-term policy on Kashmir. Pakistan’s religious parties keep raising the Kashmir issue but a lot more effort is required to mobilize public support.

Q: Is Pakistan acting more aggressively at present compared to the past?
A: In my opinion, Pakistan needs to do something more concrete and should go an extra length to form and implement policies that are result-oriented. Globally, there are various think-tanks, lobbying groups and strategists which can be used to internationally project the plight of the Kashmiris, particularly in the five permanent countries of the UN Security Council. Currently, many members of the U.S. Congress and the U.K. Parliament, as well as people in the U.S., U.K. and many other European countries are openly supporting the Kashmir cause. Besides this, the global media are giving very powerful projection to our plight, exposing the Indian brutalities on air. Slowly and steadily, it is trickling down through the international media and the global public is getting aware, which is a very positive development.

Q: Do you think that a full-scale war against India is an option for Pakistan?
A: India has waged a war on the Kashmiris. They are occupiers and have snatched all our fundamental rights. There is absolutely no political freedom in Indian-held Kashmir. There is a deep sense of claustrophobia among Kashmiris as they find themselves being cut off, completely defenceless and unaided. If you compare this struggle with the struggle made by Mahatma Gandhi and Quaid-e-Azam, such a situation never occurred for both these leaders. On the other hand, the leaders of the Kashmir Liberation Movement are badly treated by the Indian authorities. Both Quaid-e-Azam and Mahatma Gandhi had British passports. However, the Kashmiri political leaders and the Hurriyat leadership are not allowed to have any travel documents.

My husband Yasin Malik is locked up in a death cell, despite the fact that he is a peaceful person and is the most popular political leader of a legitimate struggle. Day by day, Indian authorities are increasing pressure on him, because they regard him as a major threat to them. On February 22, the anniversary of my wedding with Yasin Malik, the Indian forces raided our house when there was no one at home except my mother-in-law. They searched through the entire house, looking for things they were interested in. Finally, they got away with a photo album of our wedding ceremony. This shows the disgusting mentality the Indian forces have towards the Kashmiri people.

Q: Do you think that the US President’s mediation offer on Kashmir will produce any positive results?
A: I don’t think so. In fact, we cannot just rely on one country to settle the long-festering conflict. Many attempts have been made in the past, but to no avail. The recent example is the Lahore Accord that took place between Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Then General Pervez Musharraf took the reins and made some progress. At that time, there was definitely a third party intervention, though it looked bilateral on the face of it. The former US president Bill Clinton played an instrumental role to resolve all legitimate issues peacefully, especially the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Clinton called on the Palestinian leadership and activists to the White House and at that time he also personally contacted the Kashmiri leadership. In those days, Yasin Malik was jailed in Jodhpur in India. Clinton got him out and sent him abroad for medical treatment because of the torture he had suffered in the custody of the Indian police in 2001. The Bush administration also followed the same policy on Kashmir, but things changed after that due to some known and unknown reasons.

Q: Do Pakistan and India need to re-initiate bilateral talks to find a way-out?
A: I think it’s quite the opposite. As I said earlier, we have seen similar negotiations taking place in the past but with no positive results. In the guise of bilateralism, India basically lingered on with the status quo by using these talks as a time-gaining technique to tighten its grip and increase its control of a state already occupied over the last 50 years. India has always been the winner in the end.

What Pakistan needs to do is to engage the permanent five countries of the UN, namely the United States, the UK, Russia, China and France, as well as other important member states and non-member states to make them realize that the Kashmir dispute is not regional but a global concern and it must be resolved without any delay. The Kashmir issue is a nuclear flashpoint and if the two nuclear power states come to an exploding threshold, the disastrous effects would spread all over the world. In fact, the settlement of the Kashmir issue is linked to the security of the world. Pakistan must focus on winning international support, not for any dialogue, but for the final settlement of the dispute.

Q: Do you think there could be a mutually-agreed solution?
A: The Kashmiri leadership and the public have always supported a peaceful solution for the settlement of the dispute. But each time it is India that ditches and the price the Kashmiri people pay is enormous in terms of the time lost. This is in addition to the torture and brutalities inflicted by the Indian forces which shamelessly use rape as a weapon of war.

Imposed through the puppet Legislative Assembly of IOK, the black laws such as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), the Special Powers Act, the Telegraph Act, etc., give complete immunity to the Indian forces and they cannot be persecuted. They enjoy the licence to kill with unconditional support from the Indian State. The need of the hour is to expose these facets internationally. Particularly in the last two years, the UN Human Rights Commissioner has released some critical reports on the state of human rights in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The UNHC has asked to set up an independent commission, which is the highest form of protest coming from the UN. Pakistan should demand the UN to send its peacekeeping forces to IOK and the demand must be loud and clear.


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