Day of solidarity with the Kashmiri people

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The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium in Jeddah in solidarity with the Kashmiri people who have been living under Indian occupation since the partition of the subcontinent between India and Pakistan. The Kashmiris have been subjected to violations of human rights by the Indian occupation forces.

Several leaders of the Pakistani community in Jeddah attended the symposium, which began with a recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an. This was followed by a speech session. The speakers dealt with the persecution, killing and displacement of the Kashmiri people at the hands of Indian security forces. They called on the Pakistani government to exert efforts to pressure the United Nations to implement resolutions, adopted by it earlier, to hold a plebiscite as was decided following the first war between India and Pakistan after India sent troops to Jammu and Kashmir.

The speakers called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and human rights organizations to intervene and mount pressure on the Indian government to respect human rights in Kashmir. They also demanded that the Pakistani government repatriate and rehabilitate Pakistanis, who have been stranded in Bangladesh since 1971.

When my turn came to speak, I started by thanking the organizers for inviting me to address the symposium, which was held in solidarity with the people of Kashmir who have been suffering under Indian occupation since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

According to the two-nation theory, on which the partition of the subcontinent was based, the regions where the majority of the population was Muslim should be part of Pakistan while regions dominated by Hindus should remain part of India. On the basis of this theory, it was quite natural that Kashmir, where Muslims constituted more than 90 percent of the population, would become part of Pakistan. However, the Hindu maharaja of Kashmir sought India’s intervention to remain semi-independent. India did not accept his request which forced him to accept the demand of India to allow its forces into Kashmir. This was not acceptable to Pakistan, and subsequently India and Pakistan fought the first battle over Kashmir.

Eventually, the United Nations intervened to end the conflict and called for a cease-fire, to which both countries agreed. The UN adopted resolutions calling for a plebiscite under which the Kashmiri people would have the right to self-determination. India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru initially championed a plebiscite to determine Kashmir’s sovereign destiny. Accordingly, India sponsored plebiscite resolutions that were adopted by the UN Security Council but later Nehru and his successors reneged on their international legal obligations in this regard. On the other hand, India held elections and considered them to be an alternative to the plebiscite, but that was unacceptable to Pakistan and was not approved by the United Nations.

The problem of Kashmir is the oldest problem in the Muslim world. It was followed by the problem of Palestine in the following year. In fact, the problems of Kashmir and Palestine were the creations of British colonial rulers. The United Nations was unable to resolve the problems of Kashmir and Palestine because of the conspiracies of Western countries with India regarding Kashmir and with Israel pertaining to Palestine. Apart from this, the weakness of Islamic countries and their inability to exert pressure were also instrumental in failing to permit the people of Kashmir and Palestine to secure their legitimate rights. We hope that the period of weakness and division in the Muslim Ummah will not be prolonged and that it will be replaced by unity and solidarity to secure the rights of Muslims all over the world, especially in Kashmir and Palestine.

I emphasized in my speech that India should sit at the negotiating table with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir problem. In this way, the two countries can work to strengthen bilateral cooperation between them in addition to pooling their economic and financial resources for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries instead of diverting these resources for the sake of the ongoing arms race between them. There is only one solution to the problem and that is the plebiscite, which was earlier endorsed by the United Nations. The two parties need courage to tackle the situation, and there should be political realism on the part of the Indian leadership. The imposition of unilateral will on an unarmed people is contrary to all the international conventions that give Kashmir the right to determine its own destiny.

At the end of my speech, I spoke about the problem of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh and the failure of successive Pakistani governments to address that issue despite the sacrifices these people have made for Pakistan, starting from their migration from the Indian state of Bihar and their standing by the Pakistani army during the civil war that ended with the secession of East Pakistan and the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh.

Bangladeshis considered these people to be traitors and have forced them to lead a miserable life in squalid camps without any basic amenities. I drew attention to many articles, written by myself and others, that demanded that the stranded Pakistanis be repatriated and rehabilitated in Pakistan. These people should at least be granted Pakistani passports, so that they can have the freedom of mobility and can find a solution to their problem by themselves.

I also pointed out that a plan has been formulated by PRC officials based on the concept of self-financing under which the Pakistani government would undertake the repatriation and rehabilitation of stranded Pakistanis after which they would pay the cost of this from the income they earn after obtaining a job or from the donations of benevolent people.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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