The illegal annexation of Kashmir in August 2019 by the Indian government is a dark and pivotal moment in the history of India and the region. It marks the formal descent into majoritarian, authoritarianism by the Indian state. The annexation of the territory of Kashmir and the betrayal of the Kashmiri people is colonialism in both form and substance. The international community has both a legal and ethical responsibility to take notice and intervene before this assault turns into a humanitarian catastrophe which would not only threaten the lives of millions of Kashmiris but also the stability of the entire region.

I had the unique privilege of becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan not only at the time of a historic transition to democracy but also of unprecedented regional and international challenges: Kashmir being central amongst them. I began my term in office by reiterating the firm, principled position of my party and my country that the people of Kashmir should be given their inalienable democratic right to choose their destiny. My actions were guided by the sentiments articulated by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto speech in the United Nations Security Council in September 1965, I along with millions of Pakistanis am bound to the Kashmiri people by culture, geography and history. My policy was clear: Pakistan will extend all possible diplomatic, legal and moral support to the Kashmiri people and their struggle for freedom.

We remained committed to peace and open to negotiation however never at the cost of our principles or the freedom of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters. I advocated for peaceful solutions to all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan with the hope and ambition for a better future for the people of South Asia. The former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh called me a “man of peace.” However, it was peace predicated on equality, dignity of the Pakistani nation and on the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.

Our advocacy for the cause of the Kashmiri people was robust and far sighted. The fact that the present government of Pakistan did not forsee the fire ignited on August 5, 2019 is worrying.

My confidence on the Kashmir issue came from my commitment to the values of freedom and democracy; both at home and abroad. I made sure that the parliament was the engine driving foreign policy and all matters of national importance were debated in the parliament and represented the joint will and resolve of the people of Pakistan to the world. It pains me today to see the attempts being made to bypass the parliament and the failure of the present government to build meaningful consensus on issues of national importance and identity, such as Kashmir.

 Today, we need a robust response to the naked aggression by the Modi government in Kashmir. India’s complete disregard of international law and norms places an urgent responsibility on the United Nations and the international community to respond; the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.

The deficit of competence and credibility of the present government of Pakistan has meant that government’s response has not demonstrated the seriousness and the rigor that the situation demands. Yet, we will not let the personal attacks and the disregard of the democratic norms hurt the Kashmiri people. We have pledged our support to this government on the issue of Kashmir since we believe that national interests and priorities should be above political point scoring.

The illegal occupation of Kashmir and the resulting usurpation of the fundamental rights of the Kashmiris is not an “internal” matter of India and concerns the entire world or at least anyone who believes in the protection of fundamental freedoms and respect for international norms. History is on the side of the Kashmiri people and the people of Pakistan will continue to contribute to the march of the Kashmiri people towards their destiny, their freedom.