Plot was hatched to freeze Kashmir issue, PM reveals

Published February 6, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks at the special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Sunday. — APP
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks at the special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Sunday. — APP
ISLAMABAD: People carrying the flags of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir hold a protest rally to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day at Constitution Avenue, on Sunday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star
ISLAMABAD: People carrying the flags of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir hold a protest rally to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day at Constitution Avenue, on Sunday.—Mohammad Asim / White Star

• Calls for introspection to find answers to unresolved issues of Kashmir, Palestine
• Special AJK assembly session, symbolic human chains mark Solidarity Day
• Shehbaz says IMF scrutinising every subsidy

MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday disclosed that a plot had been conceived to freeze the Kashmir issue for 20 years but hastened to declare that no Pakistani could even think of allowing this to happen.

“Moments ago, some people shared with me in the [speaker’s] chamber that a plot was conceived to defer the plebiscite in Kashmir until the next 20 years. There cannot be any conspiracy and cruelty with the Kashmiris bigger than this,” he said in his address at the special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly here. The session was presided over by Speaker Chaudhry Anwarul Haq.

“I think, no Pakistani politician or serviceman or soldier can even think anything like this,” added the premier.

In the same breath, he added: “The Almighty has ordained for sagaciousness and consultations to resolve issues and if we adopt this course and employ all of our resources while having full faith in Him, we can get the Kashmiris their right.”

PM Sharif’s disclosure was a veiled affirmation of rumours doing the rounds for some time about the freezing of Kashmir issue for 20 years through backchannel diplomacy. However, he did not add detail to it.

The special session of the AJK legislature was held to mark “Kashmir Solidarity Day” which was observed across the country through a slew of activities to voice support for and solidarity with the people of India-held Jammu and Kashmir.

Of these activities were formations of symbolic human chains at several places, including bridges linking the AJK territory with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, to manifest the bonds of brotherhood between the people of Kashmir and Pakistan.

At one such ceremony in Kohala, one each cabinet member from AJK, KP, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan were in attendance along with hundreds of people from all walks of life.

After landing in Muzaffarabad, Mr Sharif who was accompanied by AJK Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas also visited the ‘Monument to the Martyrs’ where he laid wreath and offered fateha.

Inside the assembly hall, before the PM was given floor, AJK premier Ilyas, leader of the opposition Chaudhry Latif Akbar, PML-N president Shah Ghulam Qadir, PPP president Chaudhry Yasin, JKPP chief Sardar Hassan Ibrahim and former AJK premier Raja Farooq Haider also spoke briefly, during which they gave several suggestions vis-à-vis Kashmir issue.

PM Sharif appreciated the manifestation of “unity, consensus, solidarity and unanimity” by the Kashmiri leadership from all parties, saying it would send a disturbing message to Indian government and [other] enemies because these traits encouraged and empowered nations and societies to achieve their goals.

“If suchlike gestures are replicated in the rest of the country, no problem will remain unresolved for long.”

Of India-held Kashmir, he said it had turned red over the last 75 years with the blood of innocent Muslims.

“On August 5, 2019, Narendra Modi stripped occupied Kashmir of its special status and converted the entire territory into a prison. But this oppression will not last long. The great sacrifices rendered by the Kashmiris with dauntless bravery […] are bound to bear fruit.”

Conflicting response

While citing the examples of East Timor and South Sudan, PM Sharif maintained that the world powers had facilitated the plebiscites to segregate these territories from Indonesia and Sudan on the basis of religion. However, he added, in the case of Bosnia this “civilized world” did not swing into action before hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims were butchered and dumped into mass graves.

PM Sharif lamented that in India-held Kashmir and occupied Palestine efforts were being made to equate the oppressor and the oppressed, because their only “fault” was their being the Muslims. He emphatically stated that despite all odds, the governments and people in Pakistan had always advocated the cause of Kashmiris from the core of their hearts because Kashmir was Pakistan’s jugular vein.

“Certainly, Kashmiris must be seeking for a distinct support [for their emancipation] from us and their grievance is justifiable, but I want to make it clear that there is not a single instance that the 220 million people of Pakistan have forgotten them for a single moment.”

He said Kashmiris had a genuine question that while the Almighty had blessed Pakistan and other Muslim states with a legion of resources, why the issue of Kashmir as well as that of Palestine were still unresolved despite the lapse of 75 years during which both had faced worse atrocities.

Unity is the key

“This answer is not easy. We will have to hold ourselves accountable to find it,” he said, and added: “If the Muslims – from Muzaffarabad to the last corner of Africa – make a determination that we have to gain freedom for Kashmir and Palestine, I swear both areas will certainly gain it. But this has to be done by deeds, not by mere words.”

Recalling the commitments of India’s first premier Jawaharlal Nehru about plebiscite, he said the Indians had hoodwinked the whole world by lying and dilly-dallying at all forums.

While warning India that it could get a crushing response for casting an evil eye on nuclear-armed Pakistan, he repeatedly underlined the need of gaining economic and political stability to get freedom for the Kashmiris.

In response to some fiscal demands by PM Ilyas, Mr Sharif invited him to Islamabad along with his team to discuss the demands with him.

‘IMF combing every book’

“We are faced with huge financial challenges. While I talk to you here, an IMF delegation in Islamabad combing every book and subsidy of every single penny.”

“We have to live, but like the living nations do and not with a begging bowl. This continued to happen over the past 75 years, but someone somewhere has to stop it. And this will stop when the whole nation will unite to challenge poverty, hunger and dearness and generate the country’s internal resources.”

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023

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