Kashmir issue highlighted at Pakistan High Commission seminar

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LONDON: Pakistan High Commission organised a seminar on Thursday (November 14) in connection with the ‘Kashmir Black Day’ which Pakistan and Kashmiris observes every year on 27 October. Speakers at the seminar expressed concerns over prevailing situation in J&K and told the international community of “slow burning and perpetual genocide there”.

High Commissioner Mohammad Nafees Zakaria took into account multiple facets of the longstanding dispute of Kashmir. He traced genesis of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe and said Kashmir issue is back on the international radar in the wake of illegal action taken by the BJP government on 05 August 2019.

“The status of the longstanding international dispute of Kashmir was changed in blatant violation of UN Security Resolutions, which promised Kashmiris’ right to self-determination under a UN supervised plebiscite”, he added. Mr Zakaria said the siege and the ensuing humanitarian crisis necessitated immediate response from the international community.

Nafees Zakaria said; “Given the Indian forces’ track record of atrocities and crimes against humanity, it is not beyond comprehension that the stories of tragedies of individual families may start to surface in due course since media, human rights activists or even the relatives have absolutely no access to the Kashmiris under siege. He identified that there are numerous crimes against humanity, committed by the Indian forces, including more than 2 dozen massacres since 1989, mass rape of Kashmiri Muslim women of Kunan Pashpora, dilemma of ‘Half Widows’, mass blindings and physical tortures, all documented by international human rights organisations.

Dr Nazir Gilani, President Human Rights – JKCHR explained the genesis of Kashmir issue and aftermath of the partition. He spoke about the legal framework in which so far the Kashmir dispute has been discussed and dealt with by the UN and various countries including UK, USA and others.

Dr Gilani shed light on the background of the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir and shared the history of legal debates on the dispute. He emphasised on educating the people about the jurisprudence of Kashmir for deeper understanding of the conflict. Mr Gilani cautioned the constant siege of Kashmir could have bearing on communal relations in the UK; therefore, international community must pay attention to the humanitarian crisis in IOK.

British Barrister and former UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, Mr Ben Emmerson QC spoke on human rights violations in Kashmir in the light of numerous documented accounts and emphasized on the legal accountability of crimes in J&K.

He said Kashmir is facing a unique and possibly existential crisis. He deplored the paradoxical irony that it is only when the human rights situation becomes worse that the world starts paying attention to it. Despite documented evidence, Mr Emmerson added, the world has turned a blind eye to the glaring atrocities against Kashmiri people. He refuted Indian narrative of Kashmir being an internal matter and termed it to be a Nazi defence against human rights abuses. He said Kashmir is clearly an international crisis.

Mr Emmerson equated the plight of the Kashmiri people to the “slow burning genocide”. He refuted Indian claims of those killed in IOK as terrorists and said the International People’s Tribunal Report on mass graves proved them to be indigenous Kashmiris by examining their DNA. He noted that no one wants to see the military solution due to its grave consequences, rightly pointed out by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Summing up, the QC said that given the disproportionate presence of the military in IOK, indigenous people cannot get the right to self-determination through fighting; therefore, under the circumstances, it is imperative for the international community to intervene and resolve the conflict. Mr Emmerson assured the Kashmiris that he stands with them.

Ms Anthea McIntyre, MEP urged to stop immunity of Indian forces from prosecution for crimes. She called upon all EU countries to condemn what is happening in IOK. She asked how India could expect to be the permanent member of the UNSC when its human rights record is so appalling. Ms McIntyre said UK wants trade with India but not at the price of human rights, which to too high a price. The MEP also recalled her recent visit to Pakistan and AJ&K where she listened to the heart rending stories of the victims of Indian firing along the Line of Control.

Kashmiri leader, Professor Nazir Shawl deliberated on the impact of Kashmir issue on regional prosperity and development. He said peace is a precondition for prosperity and development. When the right to life has been snatched from the Kashmiris, how could we expect prosperity? Prof Shawl posed the question. He was of the view that regional trading blocs like EU and ASEAN are pre-requisite for prosperity and development but India has constantly been impeding regional development by scuttling SAARC.

All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) representative, Ms Sahmim Shawl (wife of Nazir Shawl) said the Indian government has been following the policy of fear, humiliation and torture to break the will and resolve of the Kashmiri people. In order to destroy the economy and livelihood of the Kashmiris, the Indian government imposed siege on IOK exactly when the apple crop was ready for picking, she apprised.

Ms Uzma Rasool, a young woman of Kashmiri descent, delved on the plight of Kahmiri women. She narrated the account of Kunan Pashpora mass rape of women in 1991 by the Indian occupation forces and its devastating socio-psychological impact on the lives of the victims. She shared that women in IOK are so traumatised that they sleep in groups at night for their safety and security. Ms Uzma condemned the Indian politicians who, in the wake of 05 August measure by Indian Government, announced that they could now marry ‘fair Kashmiri women’. She said in “IOK” there is a state endorsed sexual violence going on and appealed for international intervention in IOK.

At the end, the High Commissioner thanked the speakers and attendees for their participation. He hoped that the seminar would raise awareness about Kashmir issue. Mr Zakaria urged the participants to become the voice of the voiceless Kashmiris and provide them with moral support.

The seminar was concluded with the unanimous approval of the Kashmir Black Day 2019 Seminar Document. First Secretary, PHC, Aneel Zafar conducted the Seminar.