Volume 23 Issue 11, November 2019


By Javed Jabbar

While the UNGA speech by Prime Minister Imran Khan on 27th September 2019 was both unusual and compelling for its being extempore and for its pungency, it was not meant to be a magic wand that instantly transformed or resolved the crisis. Nor was it meant to present tangible solutions --- except to remind the world that it owes a debt to the people of Kashmir who have been caged like --- or worse --- than animals, as well said by the Prime Minister.

Seen and heard, remembered and impactful. Was the speech only one small step forward --- or a giant leap ahead ?
As we wait for time to reveal the answer to that question, as of writing this text, there have been notable gains for the case about Kashmir since the wretched actions by India on 5th August 2019. Statements of concern have come from China, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia and even some segments of the European Union, UK and USA, as also yet another issuance by the OIC Secretariat. There has been unprecedented coverage by the global media. But it is not anywhere close to the frequency and detail which the subject deserves. Disproportionately, much more coverage is given to the protests in Hong Kong in order to embarrass China. BBC, clearly wanting to preserve and expand its advertising revenues from India, insensitively launches a series called "Worklife India" --- even as the lock-down on the working lives of 8 million Kashmiris continues unabated. The insensitive indifference to Kashmir of leading media in most countries is appalling and shameful.

Do media matter?
One eloquent indicator of how limited and superficial is global media coverage on Kashmir post-5th August 2019 is the fact that most reports in both leading print and electronic media around the world rarely refer to the hard fact that India has violated a dozen resolutions of the UN Security Council. Nor do most global media reports mention the huge number of Indian armed forces deployed to suppress Kashmir. Instead of citing the accurate, approximate estimates of 500,000 troops to now over 800,000 troops, most reports mention only the recent "additional troops" of about 45,000 moved in just before or after 5th August 2019. The moral of the story is that, per se, mere increased coverage of Kashmir does not mean more factual and more pertinent coverage.

And as for volume and frequency of coverage being seen as benchmarks for the imminence or the likelihood of positive change in an unresolved crisis, perhaps the classic case is that of Palestine. Whereas, the courage and tenacity of the PLO and the people of Palestine in general and over the past 40 years, in particular, have ensured that even Western global media take regular or occasional notice of Israel's cruelty, frequent media coverage of the plight of the Palestinians has not made an iota of difference to securing justice. Perversely --- increased media coverage of the suffering of the Palestinian people has actually led to Israel expanding its illegal settlements and its brazen outright theft of Arab territories.

While Pakistan should certainly formulate and implement a comprehensive, multi-dimensional strategy to continuously focus the world's attention on the atrocities being committed against the people of Kashmir by the Indian State, the use of conventional media and social media can be only one of a multi-pronged approach to the future. The other components of how Pakistan is to deal with the situation arising after 5th August 2019 comprise factors that, in the limited space of this text, may be partially listed but require individual and separate elaboration later, or elsewhere.

Components of strategy:
A pivotal component of the strategy is the consistent reiteration of the fundamental principle. That Pakistan is irrevocably committed to the fulfillment of the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The “how” and the “when” that relate to this basic precept require continuous reflection and, whenever required, revision. Consideration of one hard fact is unavoidable. Of the 5 veto powers in the UN Security Council, Pakistan can rely only upon China to threaten to, or actually use its veto in favour of Pakistan, or to prevent any move against Pakistan. While this is comforting, this is not enough to secure UN intervention. For the foreseeable future, it is not possible to visualize a new UNSC Resolution that calls for the conduct of a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir under UN auspices. This does not mean that Pakistan should cease to campaign for its ultimate, ideal goal. It is only to ensure that we remain in a condition of reality-check.

After allowances made for the economic or strategic self-interest of States in maintaining non-conflictual relations with a large country like India, and thereby ignoring even the humanitarian aspects of the Kashmir tragedy, there are also other factors that deter widespread global support for Pakistan's just stand on Kashmir.

Internal reform imperative:
First: unfortunate but undeniable, is Pakistan's negative image. Acquired for reasons good and bad, this is a bitter reality that needs to be changed for the better as the campaign for Kashmir goes on.

Second: Pakistan's own inefficient, slow-speed in meeting all FATF requirements. We should have worked at hyper-speed to meet all criteria and swiftly end any scope for lingering suspicions and allegations. While acknowledging several corrective actions taken in recent months,the mid-October 2019 evaluation retained Pakistan on the grey list till February 2020. This retention should spur emergency-level action and signal even greater vigilance for the future, not complacency that allows a relapse. As a co-Chair of the Asian Committee, India works overtime to corner Pakistan in FATF.

Third: we must show zero tolerance for violent extremists and even verbally aggressive extremists. Neither category should be permitted to approach the LoC or conduct militia activities anywhere in the country. It should also not be allowed to circulate hate material or use conventional and social media for this purpose. We should comply with all UN-prescribed requirements about persons and organizations blacklisted for terrorism. The country has paid too high a price for the dubious, self-damaging thesis by which extremists have been permitted to spout rhetoric or conduct violence-linked activities inside and outside our country.

Fourth: where we rightly hold India responsible for perpetuating the oppression in Kashmir, we in Pakistan also need candid self-criticism and implement extended self-reform. This internal redesign and reconstruction, though painful but unavoidable, will be a protracted process spread over years. But action has to commence immediately if the change is to become tangible in the months and years ahead. There are already welcome signs that both the civil and military leadership are conscious of this need and are taking steps in that direction. However, due to the baggage carried from the past, complete coordination and synchronization between intent and action need to be ensured. Such single-mindedness alone will enhance our credibility and capacity to conduct a global campaign for Kashmir that stimulates decisive action.
India has already prepared fake episodes of terrorism which it will proclaim as being Pakistan-linked in order to divert attention from its own brutalities. Any weakness on our part in permitting irresponsible elements to offer India material on a platter for exploitation will seriously damage the case we present for the rights of Kashmir.

Fifth: domestic political solidarity should project a united front, particularly to India. It is bizarre for Maulana Fazlur Rahman to insist on a march titled "Azadi " against the PTI government when that is exactly the slogan energizing enslaved Muslims of Indian-occupied Kashmir. The parading of uniformed JUI-F zealots brandishing sticks is a violation of the law against private militias . It is distressing to witness how major political parties support this most inappropriately timed and named plan. It is curious as how the private TV channels are giving this divisive scheme disproportionate coverage, even with criticism of it.

New public diplomacy
Pakistan needs to initiate and invest in a vigorous campaign of conventional as well as innovative public diplomacy. This new effort should use both media and non-media instruments to project the cause of the right of self-determination and to mobilize public opinion across the world. Though this should have happened several years ago, and particularly so immediately after 5th August 2019 --- better late than never!

To implement a truly notable campaign, substantial financial resources will be required. In view of the funding restraints faced by the Federal Government, it is unlikely to be able to invest more than a fraction of the amount needed to make a campaign noticeable at a time when the world faces multiple crises. For the first year alone, this writer estimates that an investment of about US$ 15 million to US$ 20 million are required to make a dent in the world's attention-span. The prosperous part of the Pakistani diaspora and parts of Pakistan's own rich class should be inveigled upon to contribute. It is even worth considering the launch of special bonds to raise financing --- because each dollar spent will fetch manifold returns! A simultaneous goal of this public diplomacy campaign has to be the alteration for the better of Pakistan's negative image in overseas countries.

From somewhere near the bottom, we need to move several notches up by projecting our several strengths --- even as we work overtime to reduce our many weaknesses. Like charity, change for the better begins at home.

Competition for attention
As we strive to reform ourselves in order to invigorate global support to the people of Kashmir, it is sobering but necessary to remember that the struggle to keep the tragedy of Kashmir alive and central to the world's attention is an effort that has to compete with several other sources of on-going tension and conflict. These include: Yemen, Iran-Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Kurds, Iraq, Turkey-Greece, China-South China Sea neighbours, Brexit, refugees and migrants from the Mediterranean into Europe, illegal and legal migration into the USA, Ukraine-Russia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Palestine-Israel, Libya, undermining of residential rights of 1.9 million people in Assam, India: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh-Myanmar, Venezuela, West, Central and East Africa (Somalia), Venezuela, etc.

This is apart from other critical issues such as climate change, drought, unseasonal floods, hurricanes, rains, displacement of 65 million people as a result of these phenomena and human conflicts.

There is plenty of work to do --- starting with the building of a multi-party consensus within our own country. Far from sight in October 2019, but worth an investment of statesmanship and vision. The onus is as much on the Government as it is on the Opposition. But the Government has the larger share of responsibility. Let the struggle for Kashmir be energized by authentic, not bargain-based reconciliation.

Let the conventional news media also conduct their own internal reform to replace the fostering of daily acrimony and hyper-criticism with quiet, calm, constructive communication.

The writer is a former Senator and Federal Minister and a member of the oldest Pakistan-India Track 2 Dialogue known as the Neemrana Initiative. www.javedjabbar.net

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