Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday drew attention to the increasingly apparent divisions within India after an 11-member contingent of its opposition parties was prevented from visiting Srinagar, questioning what can realistically be expected in terms of a dialogue over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
"This is the true face of the Indian government which the world is witnessing today," said the foreign minister as he addressed a press conference in Islamabad.
"Today the fascist attitude of the Modi administration was demonstrated at the Srinagar airport," he said, referring to the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders being barred from entering Srinagar shortly after they landed.
"I call upon democratic nations of the world to view that footage [of the airport]. When they treat their own this way, what expectation can we [Pakistan] have from holding a dialogue with them?" said Qureshi.
India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order on August 5, a decision which was strongly condemned by Pakistan as well as the opposition parties in India. That same evening, India imposed curfew-like restrictions in the restive region.
Qureshi, in his briefing, highlighted the stifling communications blockade in the disputed territory which had forced media to use whatever "broken equipment" they have to record footage and send it out through their relatives.
"So in this environment, he [Gandhi] goes to assess the situation, wishing to meet the Kashmiri leadership. He is arrested at the airport and transferred to New Delhi on the next flight," said Qureshi.
The foreign minister also spoke of how "the Congress party spokesperson, while attempting to hold a media briefing in protest, was arrested mid conference".
UN Secretary general apprised of latest developments
The foreign minister said that he spoke to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres about this recent development as well as yesterday's protest in various places after Friday prayers in which "tear gas and pellet guns were employed to injure people".
He said his aim was to apprise the UN secretary general of the situation in occupied Kashmir since the meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss it.
"He is in Paris and I spoke to him. I thanked him for his statement and the way he presented a legally and politically sound stance on the issue. I'm sure Kashmiris must have also gained courage from his statement," he said.
Qureshi said he also thanked the United Nations for convening the UNSC session.
"With the closed-door meeting the message we [Pakistan] got was that it is the wish of all members that the matter be resolved peacefully," said the foreign minister to the UN secretary general.
"But I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that on the one hand we are being advised to move forward peacefully, and [on the other] today is the 20th day of curfew — the curfew continues day and night," said Qureshi to Duterres.
"I also drew his attention to the fact that yesterday, Friday prayers were impeded — a fundamental right of every Muslim — a lot of mosques were locked up, and some people who wished to proceed to the UN office there, were fired upon with pellet guns, were subjected to shelling and tortured," he added.
The foreign minister said he told the UN secretary general that of the three parties to the Kashmir dispute, two had clearly presented their stance regarding the August 5 measures taken by India.
Pakistan, in every possible shade of its political opinion, has rejected the August 5 action which stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, he said. "It has declared the move unconstitutional, illegal, in contravention of the UNSC resolutions, and in violation of the UN charter."
"All the Kashmiris have also rejected these measures," he said.
"The third dispute to the party stands divided. And it was evident in the way things played out at the Srinagar airport today," said Qureshi.
"I also talked about the human rights violations, thousands of detentions, food shortages, medicine shortages because I feel his voice has weight. This is such an organisation. When the secretary general of the United Nations gives a statement, it has moral weightage. And the world listens."
Qureshi said he also spoke of the use of pellet guns and cluster bombs (lobbed from across the Line of Control). Furthermore, he said he had apprised Guterres of Prime Minister Imran Khan's apprehensions of a "false flag operation" and that India is likely preparing to "create a Pulwama-like drama".
'Your words have weight'
He said he urged the secretary general to ensure that the United Nations move forward in addressing this issue with the same spirit that it always has in dealing with conflict.
"I requested him that given his organisation's efforts which have always prioritised preventive measures in a conflict, and as there is a humanitarian crisis in the making, and given the threat in terms of peace and security, that his organisation move forward [and act] immediately."
Qureshi said he presented Guterres with the following points in this regard:
- United Nations must play its role for the safety of the lives of the Kashmiris.
- Your Security Council's resolution binds you to stand as an obstacle in the face of demographic changes.
- We hope that the United Nations will expedite its efforts towards the lifting of the curfew in occupied Kashmir.
- Your words have weight, kindly do the following: The P5 leadership must be informed of the sensitivity of the situation and whether or not the security council convenes a session, do keep on briefing them because they should know what the situation is leaning towards as it evolves.
- The oppressed and unarmed Kashmiris, their hungry children, and their fearful parents expect that the United Nations Human Rights division will continue to play a lead role in highlighting the situation.
- The Kashmiris await justice. They look to the international community with patience and hope it has their back. If it lets them down they will have no choice but to make use of whatever option is available to resist this sort of highhandedness, this undemocratic order and these inhuman actions.
The foreign minister said that he requested, despite knowing full well of the scope of his commitments, that he visit South Asia and Kashmir "as the situation in the region demands it".
"I invite him. The citizens of Azad Kashmir will await his arrival. We are ready to facilitate him for wherever he wishes to go and whomever he wishes to meet.
"And in this situation in which facts are being hidden and twisted, he himself should demand he be allowed to visit [occupied Kashmir] so that he can see the situation for himself, present the facts to the world and play his role in averting a humanitarian crisis," said FM Qureshi.
The foreign minister said that Guterres gave him "a very patient hearing" and assured him that he would speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss the issues highlighted today. According to the foreign minister, "Guterres said he had offered to play a role in the past to defuse the situation and is ready today too but India had not been forthcoming".
FM Qureshi said that Secretary General Guterres assured him he would continue to play his role and will share whatever was communicated to him by the foreign minister with his spokesperson in New York who will "represent his [Guterres'] voice".