Never before was solidarity with the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir exhibited so strongly and overwhelmingly as on ‘Youm-e-Istehasl’ observed on August 5. The unity shown by the government, opposition parties and the armed forces in sending a strong and unequivocal message to India and the world community in regards to the unswerving resolve of the nation to continue its support for the righteous cause of self-determination of the people of Kashmir and redrawing the political map of Pakistan which also includes Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) and other disputed territories, deserves unqualified appreciation. It coincided with a complete strike in IIOJK and protest rallies by the Kashmiri diaspora all over the world at the call of veteran Kashmiri leader Ali Gilani.

As is evident, the architects of the constitution had kept the ultimate reality in view while setting territorial limits of Pakistan. My considered view is that they should also have drawn the political map of Pakistan along with the passage of the constitution. But as they say, it is never too late. The PTI government has done the right thing to atone the lapse in regards to expression of national aspirations and ethos concerning its territorial limits. The step is also in conformity with the spirit and stipulation of the UNCIP resolution of January 5, 1949 allowing the option of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan or India through a plebiscite held under the auspices of UN, obviating any other option.

In view of the indifference shown by the international community to the plight of the people of IIOJK, a strong response was needed by Pakistan as a legitimate stakeholder in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Prime Minister Imran Khan, while launching the new political map of Pakistan and also addressing the legislative assembly of AJK, rightly rejected the steps taken by India to end the special status of IIOJK and its annexation to the Indian union. He was right on the money to reiterate that the Kashmir issue could be resolved only through implementation of UN resolutions.

He has set Srinagar as his destination and also initiated actions to pursue that objective. However, he made it clear that while doing so, Pakistan did not want a military solution. The fact is that the issue of Kashmir cannot be resolved through military confrontation. Pakistan proved its credentials as a proponent of political solution of the issue by showing remarkable restraint when India committed the indiscretion of sending its planes to hit imaginary terrorist camps at Balakot in February 2019. It also exhibited its resolve and capability to defend itself against any aggression while reiterating its credentials as an advocate of peaceful existence with her neighbours, particularly India.

Pakistan understands its obligations as a responsible nuclear state and is also aware of the dangers of military confrontation between the two nuclear countries. India therefore also needs to realise that its aggressive posture towards Pakistan and illegal and oppressive actions in IIOJK are not going to resolve the issue. The reality is that the people of Kashmir and its political leadership have outrightly rejected Indian actions and vowed to continue their struggle till its logical end. Repeated encounters between the freedom fighters and the Indian security forces provide irrefutable proof of this reality. India has been using ruthless military might since 1989, but in spite of its oppressive actions and persecution, the freedom struggle has been gaining strength, and more and more Kashmiri youth are joining the armed struggle for freedom, a legitimate undertaking as per UN General Assembly resolution of December 1990 on the right of peoples to self-determination/struggle by all available means.

If India claims that the people of IIOJK approve of the Indian actions and want to be part of the Indian union of their free will, then why did it impose a curfew in the valley to preempt the protest rallies? Why it is keeping them under siege and lockdown and killing Kashmiri youth in search and cordon operations? It also needs to ponder the question as to why the world community has not subscribed to the Indian narrative that what it did in IIOJK was her internal matter. The Modi government must also find a legitimate answer to the question as to why Congress, intellectual circles within India and the pro-Indian leadership in Kashmir have repudiated the steps taken by his government in IIOJK. Another question that must be asked is whether what has been done in IIOJK has a legal legitimacy in view of the decision of the Indian Supreme Court and High Court of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir declaring that Article 370 had attained permanency and could not be repealed? The international community also needs to ponder over these questions and its obligations toward the people of Kashmir before the BJP regime, inebriated by its supremacist ideology, is able to trigger a catastrophic situation in the region.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist.