MUZAFFARABAD: The outgoing president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Sardar Masood Khan, has described his five years in the presidency as “hectic and challenging but productive.”

Talking to this correspondent on Tuesday — the last day of his term — he said the office of the AJK president had provided him “yet another platform to work for the rights of the Kashmiris because prior to it he had already been campaigning, as a diplomat, for the self-determination and human rights of his people in the UN and foreign capitals.

“The past five years constituted continuity in that endeavour in a political role.”

Mr Khan recalled that when he became the president he presented a six-point formula the crux of which was to take the issue back to the international forums and global community.

“We succeeded in doing that even before August 5, 2019,” he said referring to the day when India stripped occupied Kashmir of its special status.

Says his successor is a veteran politician and will carry on the common mission

In response to a question, Mr Khan said he would not characterise his feelings, on the occasion of completion of his term, as “satisfaction, contentment and pride.”

“Well, we worked day in and out with an unwavering commitment but our mission for which this state was created - freedom of occupied Kashmir from Indian tyranny and repression - is unfinished.”

“The sufferings of the oppressed Kashmiris have increased exponentially, warranting an effective strategy to end this never-ending holocaust.”

When asked what he could mark as an achievement over the past five years, he replied: “Massive outreach.”

Elaborating, he said: “We knocked on many doors in the international community and opened quite a few. We went to the places where people would not go for Kashmir normally - foreign universities, think-tanks, national and multinational parliaments.”

Declining to draw a comparison between himself and his predecessors under the parliamentary form of government, he said: “They did their job and I fulfilled my obligations.”

Mr Khan replied in the affirmative when asked if there was anything that could not be achieved the way he had envisaged.

“One, while parliaments and international media have spoken up for Kashmiris and called out India for its crimes against humanity, we have not been able to persuade the governments of the powerful states to clearly articulate their policies on Kashmir, because ofrealpolitik,” he said.

“And, two, we have not yet been able to turn the Kashmir cause into an international civil rights movement. The freedom movement’s apparentcul-de-sacbecause of India’s colonial and irredentist occupation of the territory since August 2019 needs to be broken through.”

He pointed out that millions of Hindus from India had been settled in occupied Kashmir; 80pc of Kashmiris’ land was being usurped; and Kashmiris’ livelihoods and businesses were being strangled or de-legitimised.

“This is genocide; these are [the] war crimes. We need the support of a critical mass of global citizens to stop Hindutva’s fascist juggernaut in the occupied territory.”

However, he said, in spite of employing all brute methods India would fail to quell the quest of Kashmiris for freedom and keep them subjugated at gunpoint for a long time.

Terming his successor, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, a veteran politician who had been working over the decades on Kashmir with the international community, he said he was sure he would carry on the common mission with full zeal and passion.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021

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