Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday announced that Pakistan would take the matter of India revoking the special status for occupied Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said the decision had been taken in light of several pre-existing UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.
- Pakistan to approach UNSC regarding Kashmir
- India's claim that altering Kashmir status is its 'internal matter' rejected
- Pakistan has not closed its airspace
- Pakistan's commitment to complete Kartarpur Corridor stands
- Suspension of trade with India will not affect Pakistan's trade with Afghanistan
- Samjhota Express service to be discontinued
The minister said Pakistan rejected New Delhi's impression that scrapping Article 370 of the Indian constitution was its "internal matter", saying the claim was wrong from a historical, legal and moral perspective.
He also questioned India's claim that the change in the constitutional status was aimed at taking steps for the welfare of Kashmiris, wondering what had stopped New Delhi from taking such measures since Article 370 was inserted into the Indian constitution seven decades ago.
Noting that as many as 900,000 troops had been deployed in occupied Kashmir, he asked the Indian government whether turning the region into a virtual "jail" was one of its welfare steps.
Challenging India's claim that the Kashmir move was its internal matter, Qureshi said former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had declared "countless times" making at least 14 solemn promises and commitments that "the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people."
"The goodwill and pleasure of this (Indian) parliament is of no importance in this matter," the minister quoted Nehru as further saying.
In an address to the nation in 1947, Nehru had said: "We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. We will not, and cannot, back out of it."
According to Qureshi, Nehru had told the Indian constituent assembly on one occasion that, "As soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as the United Nations."
"If however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir," the minister quoted the former Indian premier as saying in one instance.
Citing his conversation today with Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Qureshi said it was India, and not Pakistan, that was avoiding to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.
The minister termed as "fake news" reports that Pakistan had closed its airspace in the wake of recent tensions with India.
Qureshi also clarified that Pakistan's commitment to build the Kartarpur Corridor, which once completed will connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district, "stands".
"We respect all religions and do not want to become a hurdle in the way of people-to-people contact," he said, urging the Indian Sikh community to ask their government whether it is willing to see the project through.
He also rubbished the impression that Pakistan's suspension of bilateral trade with India would impact its (Pakistan's) trade with Afghanistan, saying: "We do not want to put our Afghan brothers into any difficulty."
The foreign minister once again cautioned the international community that India could stage a "new false-flag operation".
"It is very likely a drama like 'Pulwama 2' could be staged to divert the world's attention from the oppression in [Kashmir]," he said.
The minister also confirmed that the Samjhota Express train service between Pakistan and India would no longer continue.
Answering a question, Qureshi ruled out a military option to deal with the threat emerging from India, saying Pakistan was looking at "political, diplomatic and legal" alternatives.
"[But] we have decided to remain vigilant and take safeguards against any aggression," he stressed.
India asks Pakistan to reconsider downgrading of ties
Qureshi's announcement comes as India's Ministry of External Affairs, a day after Pakistan decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with New Delhi, through a statement asked Islamabad to review its decision so that "normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved".
On Wednesday, the National Security Committee (NSC) decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India and suspend bilateral trade, among other steps, in response to New Delhi’s move to annex occupied Kashmir.
The country's top national security body, which met for the second time in three days, also directed the armed forces to remain vigilant. The committee had last met on Sunday, a day before India announced revocation of Article 370, which gave occupied Kashmir an autonomous status, and legislated to bifurcate the Valley into Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
"The intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties. The reasons cited by Pakistan are not supported by facts on the ground," India alleged in the statement issued on Thursday, adding it regrets the decision taken by Pakistan to downgrade ties.
"The recent developments pertaining to Article 370 are entirely the internal affair of India. The constitution of India was, is and will always be a sovereign matter," added the statement.
Pakistan, however, has maintained that the steps taken by India are in violation of international law as well as United Nation resolutions.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his address during the joint session of parliament, said India had violated its own constitution, own Supreme Court, the UN and Geneva conventions by revoking the special status of Kashmir.
The Pakistan Army had also rejected Indian actions regarding Kashmir, saying: "Pakistan never recognised the sham Indian efforts to legalise its occupation of Jammu & Kashmir through article 370 or 35-A decades ago."
Voices within India, including opposition and the media, have lambasted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the "unconstitutional" move.
'Unacceptable to people of Kashmir'
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, during his weekly briefing on Thursday, said that the government of India has been told to withdraw its high commissioner. "India has also been informed that Pakistan will not be sending its high commissioner designate to India," he said.
"Pakistan has strongly condemned and rejected the announcements made by the Indian government regarding the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which is an internationally recognised disputed territory.
"No unilateral step by the Indian government can change this internationally accepted disputed area as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council resolution nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and of Pakistan," added Dr Faisal.
NA speaker writes to foreign parliaments
Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser wrote letters to the speakers of legislatures of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's 189 member countries, apprising them of the Indian move to revoke occupied Kashmir's special status and the crippling lockdown in the region, it emerged on Thursday.
In the letter, he said India has carried out "the heinous act of annexation" of Kashmir in violation of its own constitution.
"The entire occupied valley has been put under siege with a dawn-to-dusk curfew, suspension of internet services and a complete blockade of any other means of means of communication," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Dawn.com.
The deteriorating situation between India and Pakistan "can put the entire world peace into severe danger because of the hegemonic designs of New Delhi", the speaker wrote, urging lawmakers across the world to raise their voices against such "heinous crimes against humanity" and help the people of occupied Kashmir in achieving their right to self-determination.
Fear of genocide, ethnic cleansing
A day earlier, as the NSC announced its decision to downgrade ties with India, lawmakers in a joint session of parliament denounced the action on Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he feared “genocide and ethnic cleansing” by India in Kashmir.
“God willing, one day Kashmir will become Pakistan,” he said.
The lawmakers later unanimously approved a resolution condemning the action, saying that as a disputed territory, no change in its status could be made by New Delhi under UN resolutions on Kashmir. It also asked India to reverse the changes, lift an indefinite curfew and release all detainees in occupied Kashmir.
Indian authorities have clamped a complete shutdown on occupied Kashmir as the Hindu-led nationalist government in New Delhi scrapped the region’s statehood and special status, including the right to its own constitution — a move slammed by Pakistan.
The changes include lifting a ban on property purchases by nonresidents of Kashmir, opening the way for Indians outside the territory to invest and settle there. The Muslim population worries that such measures would change Kashmir’s demography, culture and way of life.
The Indian government has shut off most communications, including internet, cellphone and landline networks, with occupied Kashmir. Thousands of additional troops were sent to the already heavily militarised region out of fear the government’s steps could spark unrest. Insurgent groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.
With additional reporting by Javed Hussain in Islamabad.