By Syeda Mamoona Rubab
The prime minister did a good job projecting the Kashmir cause at UNGA, writes Syeda Mamoona Rubab
It has been a week since Prime Minister Imran Khan made an impassioned appeal to the world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to act on Kashmir, but little has changed for the poor Kashmiris, who continue to suffer from Indian Occupation force’s heavy hand.
Latest images published by New York Times this week show the continuing struggle of the Kashmiris against Indian occupation despite the restrictions, which are now two month old, and their sufferings at the hands of the Indian security forces.
Meanwhile, Indian forces have continued with ceasefire violations along the Line of Control causing more loss of life among the Kashmiris living in Azad Kashmir near to the line separating it (AJK) from the occupied region. As these lines were being written, Indian deputy high commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia had been summoned to the Foreign Office to receive another protest over the death of another woman due to Indian shelling. Regrettably despite all Pakistani protestations over the past few years, Indian troops have persisted with ceasefire violations targeting civilian populated areas with artillery fire, heavy-calibre mortars, and automatic weapons.
Ahluwalia was reminded that targeting civilian populations was against human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws and at the same time warned of the threat posed by such actions to regional peace and security and the chances of strategic miscalculation.
One conclusion we can draw from the continued brutal Indian repression in the Valley and ceasefire violations along the LoC is that Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive has not generated enough pressure on Delhi to improve the situation there.
The resentment among Kashmiris against Indian Occupation, their repression by Indian troops, India’s diversionary tactics for distracting the world from the rights abuses in the Valley, the extremist Hindu ideology that drives these brutal actions and the threats to peace and security due to ceasefire violations by Indian forces was what Mr Khan had to highlight in his speech at the UNGA.
PM Khan spoke for nearly fifty minutes, against an allotted time slot of 15-20 minutes, touching on themes like climate change, financial corruption, and Islamophobia. However, the thrust of the speech was on the situation in Kashmir especially since the illegal and forcible annexation of the Valley on August 5 following which a lockdown was imposed on the Valley, troops deployment was increased to close to a million and rights abuses intensified.
The prime minister did a good job projecting the Kashmir cause. International media described the speech as “emotional” (NYT) “impassioned” (Al-Jazeera), and “fiery and heated” (Khaleej Times), while Washington Post noted that the largely “extemporaneous” speech categorically warned of a potential bloodbath in Kashmir and the threat of growing radicalization among the Kashmiris.
The speech was much anticipated because of the recent events in Kashmir although it is customary for Pakistani leaders to speak on the matter in their speeches at the UNGA session. Therefore, it had to be a focused and serious effort to attract the world attention. PM Khan was cognizant of the situation and had rightly noted in his comments reported in the media prior to his New York visit that he would present the ‘Kashmir case’ at the UN General Assembly “like no one ever did before.”
It has to be remembered that effectively presenting the case at one event is just one small step. There has to be a sustained effort for awakening world’s conscience about the atrocities being committed in the Valley. All efforts, therefore, have to be geared towards urging the world to immediately end impunity being enjoyed by India because of its (world’s) silence over atrocities in Kashmir.
A good reminder of how difficult and challenging this task would be is what recently happened at the Human Rights Council – Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made a nice speech, UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in her opening statement at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir, and then there was a joint statement delivered by Pakistan on the rights situation in Kashmir on behalf of over fifty countries. Everybody was happy. But, when push came to the shove Pakistan could not find enough support to table a resolution in the Council on Kashmir. Not even all the OIC countries in the Council came to Pakistan’s support.
Major countries, one must not forget, have though in one way or the other expressed concerns over the aggravation in rights situation and worsening regional security, but there has so far been no outright condemnation of Indian move to annul Article 370. It would not be wrong to say that many of the global leaders are still struggling to comprehend the wider consequences of the Indian move, while others are too worried about their interests in India.
The reporting of the international media on the Kashmir situation has, meanwhile, been the unprecedented help for Pakistan in projecting Kashmir issue at the international stage. Major international media outlets have regularly pointed out the repression of the protests, arrests of leaders and activists, and the communications blackout. Articles in reputed papers and commentary on international TV channels – New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and BBC just to mention a few have not only highlighted the Indian highhandedness in Occupied Kashmir, but also questioned India’s democratic credentials, which have long been India’s strongest point in building ties with the West. One must at the same time bear in mind that this forceful reporting is just a partial expose of the situation because of the restrictions on media’s access to the Valley.
Positive media coverage was nothing less than a divine help because there is no denying the fact that despite having a strong Kashmir case, Pakistan had been suffering from credibility crisis – something of which Indians have been taking advantage of. Kashmir cause has in the past suffered immensely because of Pakistan’s narrative lacking credibility. Things look different this time. But, do we now have the capacity to capitalize on the situation? At the same time we ought not to overlook the fact that the future direction of the movement would be determined by the Kashmiris themselves and international media will have a crucial role in projecting it abroad for winning world’s support.
The writer is a senior researcher at Islamabad Policy Institute. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.