Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief spokesperson Rafiq Dar says India is following the policy of disintegration of the parts of Kashmir by bifurcating Ladakh from the state and by annexing Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) with its territory, Pakistan is doing the same.

“Pakistan should integrate GB with Azad Kashmir. It can be a one unit or GB can be given a similar set-up as AJK with both parts having a joint independent council, comprising nominees from both the parts and that council should be empowered to take up the Kashmir case at the international level,” he suggested while addressing a session titled “Conflict in Kashmir: Bypassing Kashmiris” during the Asma Jahangir Conference at a hotel here on Saturday.

Mr Dar pointed out that the Kashmir Question was reduced to the India-Pakistan bilateral issue in Tashkent, Shimla Agreement, Lahore Declaration and Islamabad Declaration and these bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan bypassed Kashmiris.

“The presence of Kashmiri leadership, the principal party, was missing there and that’s the reason for the failure of bilateralism until now,” he declared.

The UN Missions used to come to Kashmir for assessing the situation but after these bilateral agreements, these mission stopped visiting to Kashmir, Mr Dar continued. He stressed that Kashmir was not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan and every Kashmiri stood for total independence, reunification of the divided parts of Kashmir and sovereignty. He condemned the extrajudicial killings of Kashmiris by the Indian forces. The UN sought both India and Pakistan against going any territorial change in the parts of the state that both countries administered by India in 2019 tried to change the status quo and we expected Pakistan to respond vehemently to this Indian move. He demanded a dialogue between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris.

Journalist Nasim Zehra rejected the statement of Mr Dar that Pakistan was integrating any part of Kashmir by making it a part of its own territory. She was confronted by a Kashmiri youth from the audience over her claim, but reiterated that Pakistan had done whatever maximum it could have done for Kashmir. She said the Kashmiris were always taken into confidence and during the Nawaz Sharif era, Yasin Malik remained in Pakistan for 10 days for consultations while Pakistan also consulted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Ms Zehra added that atrocities being committed to Kashmiris in held Kashmir by India were unprecedented. She talked about the genocide of Kashmiris even before the Partition of India, adding that the Kashmiris remained steadfast in their struggle for freedom.

Journalist from India held Kashmir Syed Iftikhar Gilani, through the help of slides, gave the facts and figures of demography and population of the held Kashmir. While giving figures, he presented the current situation in the held Kashmir and how India was trying to change the situation by imposing its rule and bringing the officials and bureaucrats from outside Kashmir to rule over the Kashmiris.

He said Ladakh was generally considered a Hindu majority region which was factually wrong. He said Kashmir has been ruled by outsiders since the Mughal era centuries back.

Kashmiri journalist Naial Altaf Kayani said the Kashmiris had been bypassed, not only by those outside it but also by their own leaders in Azad Jammu and Kashmir as well as the United Nations. Referring to the Indus Basin Treaty, she said the right to the resources of the land rested with the Kashmiris only but Pakistan, by signing this treaty, admitted that the held Kashmir and its rivers were the legal part of India. “The Kashmiris were also bypassed when Sheikh Abdullah traded the right to self-determination with inclusion of 35-A in the Article 370 of Indian constitution.”

Ms Kayani urged Pakistan to think beyond rhetoric, keeping in view the onslaught of RSS and BJP and in the held Kashmir. She demanded that ongoing war crimes in the held Kashmir must be tried under the international laws and urged Pakistan to move petitions in the UN as well as International Court of Justice over India’s war crimes in Kashmir.

Tariq Naqash, the correspondent of Dawn in Kashmir, who also moderated the session, said discussing what Pakistan could not do or did not do would be akin to crying over the spilt milk. He added that only appreciation of the sacrifices given by Kashmiris in their freedom struggle also did not serve any purpose. He raised the questions of how things could move forward when Narendra Modi was ruling in India and Pakistan government was bereft of any fresh ideas. He suggested that Kashmiris should be given a leading role for finding solutions to their issues.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2021

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