Pakistan's Kashmir Gambit: Let UN Play Judge
11 November 2003
One World South Asia
Ahmad Naeem Khan
Lahore: With the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) endorsing its stance on Kashmir's right to self-determination at last month's summit, an emboldened Pakistan is planning to move a similar resolution in the UN General Assembly this week, though many are skeptical about its outcome. The move is perceived as an effort by Pakistan to draw a clear line between 'freedom struggles' and 'terrorist' movements, while keeping alive the concept of right to self-determination. India and Pakistan have gone to war over Kashmir and administer chunks of territory each has held since 1948. Pakistan-backed militants have been waging a guerrilla war against Indian security forces since 1991. Says political analyst Ghayoor Ahmed, 'In some parts of the world the monster of neo-colonialism has raised its ugly head. It is, therefore, necessary to evolve a just and comprehensive definition of terrorism, a definition that would distinguish it from the peoples' struggle for national liberation.' According to him, the principle of self-determination and maintenance of international peace and security are inseparable. Last month, the OIC's 10th summit in Malaysia called for signing a convention to 'distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination of people living under occupation or foreign domination.' The OIC reaffirmed its support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for their right to self- determination by virtue of the UN resolutions. It called for the respect of the human rights of Kashmiris, and urged India to allow international human rights organizations to verify the status of human rights in Indian-administered Kashmir. The OIC called for serious negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the will of the people of the territory. Despite the world's resolve to fight terrorism, there is a consensus that the war on terrorism should not transgress internationally recognized human rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, says Ahmad, who is also a former diplomat. Pakistan says its resolution will 'reaffirm the universal realization of the right of all peoples, including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination, to self-determination.' It will call upon 'those States responsible to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment….' Says Pakistan's ambassador to the UN Munir Akram, 'The just settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people is central to the promotion of normal ... relations between Pakistan and India.' Noting that efforts are being made to equate the legitimate struggles of Palestinians and Kashmiris with 'terrorism,' Akram says, 'We should forcefully resist efforts to de- legitimize the struggle for self-determination by depicting it as terrorism.' 'We must also prevent misuse of the war against terrorism for denial of self-determination and the arbitrary use of force against foreign States,' stresses Akram. But chairman of the separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Amanullah Khan holds a radically different view. He believes Kashmir should be given independence for 15 years before a plebiscite is held to determine its future. He observes that both parts of the disputed state should be united and their people allowed to rule for 15 years after which they should be given the right to decide whether they would like to accede to India or Pakistan or remain independent. Khan emphasizes that the people of Kashmir alone should decide their future. Both India and Pakistan should realize the ground realities. Neither of the two countries should consider surrendering to each other any part of the state in their possession. During her visit to the eastern city of Lahore in September, Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) leader Srilata Swaminathan supported the Kashmiris' right to self-determination. Swaminathan warned that Kashmir was very important for the world's sole superpower, which was seeking access to Central Asian oil reserves. She told Kashmiris that besides fighting to win their right to self-determination, they should also contribute their share in the struggle against anti- imperialism. Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry, former Prime Minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, says Pakistan should raise the issue at international fora to exert pressure on India. 'Whenever there is international diplomatic pressure on India for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, India's leaders talk about some proposals just to hoodwink the world community,' he remarks. Asserts international law expert Ahsan Rehman, 'Self-determination is not only a part of customary international law, but also enshrined as one of the principles of the UN as laid out in Article 1:2 of its charter.' He adds, 'Pakistan and India are also parties to the Almaty Declaration, which reaffirms its commitment to the right of self-determination for people remaining under foreign occupation. The declaration emphasizes that this principle must be exercised in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.' But not everybody is so gung-ho about a successful UN intervention. 'Getting UN help is useless because it has no role in international affairs. It is just watching over the interests of the US and the West,' declares Kashmiri social activist Mansoor Mir. Lamenting the West's double standards, he adds, 'In East Timor the US and the West actively supported the principle of self-determination for the Christian population. But in the case of Kashmir, the US and the West have never shown any enthusiasm.' 'It is clear that the US and the West will only support democracy and democratic principles when these promote their national interests,' comments Mir.