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Pakistan & AJK should do much more on political & diplomatic fronts on Kashmir: President AJK

Global Village Space conducts an in-depth interview with President Azad Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan, who previously served as Pakistan's Ambassador to China and United Nations. He responds to some of the most provocative questions on Kashmir.

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GVS News Desk |

GVS: World generally believes that if tribals from Pakistan would not have entered the former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, then the Maharaja would not have acceded to India since he had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan?

Masood Khan: This is not true. This is a myth propagated by India to justify its occupation of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Pakistan believes that the accession was contrived, fraudulent, and extracted under duress. Besides, the Maharajah of Kashmir, at that point, on October 26 or 27, 1947, had no right to accede to India when he already had entered into a solemn standstill agreement with Pakistan. That agreement was still in force the day he supposedly signed the Instrument of Accession.

Let’s get the sequence right here. The majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to join Pakistan. On July 19, 1947, leaders of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference assembled at the Srinagar residence of Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan– who subsequently became the founding President of Azad Kashmir– and passed a resolution stating that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir would accede to Pakistan. Later that month, a popular revolt started in Poonch which turned into an armed freedom struggle in the areas that constitute the territory of Azad Kashmir because they believed that India was planning to occupy the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir, with the connivance of the Maharajah, the Indian Government, and the British Viceroy.  Later events validated those fears.

What is even more revealing is that the Indian forces had started their preparations for the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir much earlier. Following the announcement of the partition plan on June 3, 1947, the Maharajah issued a decree asking Muslims to surrender their weapons and ammunition to the State. Once Muslims were disarmed, the Hindu militants started attacking and killing them with impunity. Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Defence Minister Baldev Singh started making active preparations for a military invasion in September and early October. During that period, India installed wireless equipment at the Srinagar airport, transported arms and ammunition to the state and deployed troops in Pathankot bordering Jammu. Lt. Colonel Kashmir Singh Katoch, an Indian army officer planted by Delhi as the Maharajah’s adviser, was made the focal point to prepare for this military operation.

Read more: Why International Community ignores the Kashmir tragedy? Lord Nazir Answers

Closer to the actual Indian invasion, some British officers, who opposed military action, were asked to step down. The irony was that at that point Lord Mountbatten practically took charge and oversaw the military operation on behalf of India, whereas when the Quaid-i-Azam asked General Douglas David Gracey, Pakistan’s first (British) Acting Commander-in-Chief, to send troops to Jammu and Kashmir, he did not obey the order. Thus, the fact is that India invaded Kashmir; Pakistan did not and could not move its troops even for self-defense. Azad Kashmir was liberated by its own people and only in the final four days the tribals joined.

The tribals entered into the state only on October 22, 1947; the Government of the Azad State of Jammu and Kashmir was founded on October 24, and Indian troops were airlifted to the Srinagar airport on October 27. The tribals’ presence in the state was used as an excuse to operationalize a well-prepared plan; the die was cast much earlier.

GVS: What is your opinion as per the authenticity of the ‘instrument of accession’? Has any Pakistani government or international and neutral authority examined it? 

Masood Khan: The authenticity of the so-called Instrument of Accession has not been substantiated up to this day; nor has an authentic copy of the instrument been made available. Alastair Lamb, a British historian, in his book Birth of A Tragedy: 1947, after thorough research, has established that it is not clear if the Maharajah ever signed an instrument of accession with India. He says that in fact, contrary to Indian claim, the Maharajah was traveling between Jammu and Srinagar on October 26, 1947, and that he was not present in Srinagar on that day to sign the instrument.

Besides, according to Lamb, the Indian Secretary of the Ministry of States V.P Memon, who claimed to have been present during the signing of the ‘instrument’, was actually seen in Delhi that day by many observers. Dr. Karan Singh, the son of the Maharajah, while speaking at the Indian Parliament on August 27, 2017, said that the instrument was signed on October 27, 1947 (the day India invaded Kashmir). What Lamb establishes is that India invaded India on the legal pretext of an instrument that may never have been signed.

Andrew Whitehead, another British writer has argued that the instrument was probably signed on October 27, but hours after the Indian military airlift to Srinagar had started. Renowned British writer Victoria Schofield cites recent research which reveals that the Maharajah did not reach “Jammu until the evening of 26 October and that, due to poor flying conditions, V P Menon was unable to get to Jammu until the morning of 27 October, by which time Indian troops were already arriving in Srinagar”. She too adds: “To date, no authentic original document has been made available”.

Read more: Will Turkey become a Peacemaker between Pakistan and India over Kashmir?

By all accounts, Pakistan rejected this so-called instrument accession. The Quaid-i-Azam, in his meeting with Lord Mountbatten on November 1, 1948, said that the ‘accession’ was based on violence. Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, a few days later, called Kashmir’s accession to India a “fraud”. For Pakistan, that position remains unchanged to this day.

GVS: How do you see Azad Kashmir versus the Indian controlled Kashmir? What’s the difference? 

Masood Khan: Azad Kashmir is free; while the Indian Occupied Kashmir is in captivity. That is not all. In IOK, Kashmiris are being massacred, maimed, and tortured. Women have been raped in IOK by troops and sexual violence is used as an instrument of war for reprisals and revenge. Hundreds have been blinded by the use of the lethal pellet guns.  Mass graves of Kashmiris have been discovered. The occupation troops kill with impunity. Enforced disappearances and fake encounters are rampant.

By contrast, Azad Kashmir is a peaceful place with the lowest crime rate and the highest literacy rate in the whole of Pakistan. We promote and protect human rights. There are no arbitrary arrests and incarcerations in Azad Kashmir. We are focused on the rule of law, good governance, and economic development. I am not saying that we have created a utopia. We have problems, serious problems, but we are trying to resolve them. And we have the most precious things on earth – freedom, and liberty – which we cherish from the core of our hearts.

GVS: Modi government has invented the concept of so-called, “surgical strikes” on the excuse that militants continue to enter Indian controlled Kashmir from Azad Kashmir; what’s your response to this allegation?

Masood Khan: India’s threats of the so-called surgical strikes are based on a story they weave to win over their constituents to show that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is muscular. By its very definition, a surgical strike is launched to engage and destroy a military target while avoiding collateral damage to civilian structures or personnel. India’s claims of the so-called surgical strikes in September 2016 were widely mocked not only worldwide but also within India by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. By all accounts, it was a false and botched operation.

The ruling party had claimed that their armed forces had destroyed ‘launching pad’ in Leepa in Azad Kashmir, a launching pad that never even existed. Now once again Indian warmongers are imagining that 250 (exactly 250, no less, no more) terrorists from 27 different locations are waiting to cross over to the Indian Occupied Kashmir from Azad Kashmir. Come on, they know that the biggest threat to India in IOK are millions of peaceful, unarmed Kashmiris who have rejected India’s illegitimate rule in Kashmir.

Their own security officials claim  that the number of indigenous ‘militants’ is not more than 250, who are ill-equipped and poorly trained and nobody from across the Line of Control is allowed to infiltrate because of the strong fencing of the greater length of the LOC, fortified by landmines, thermal imaging, remote sensing, and 24/7 electronic surveillance. There are no infiltrations from Azad Kashmir; the problem is inside the IOK where the Kashmiri people have thrown away the yoke of Indian repression. They are no more afraid of Indian terror, and that is what scares Indian imperial forces.

GVS: Do you believe making the Line of Control (LOC) an international border– as Indian government will like – is a reasonable and fair solution to the Kashmir conflict?

Masood Khan: That – making the LOC an international border – will be a betrayal with the Kashmiris who have been giving sacrifices for the past seven decades for their right to self-determination. Kashmiris are giving blood every day to get their freedom from Indian occupation. Moreover, recently there has been a visible surge in solidarity with Pakistan in IOK. When tens of thousands of people surround the funeral pyres of their fallen heroes or young martyrs mowed down in fake encounters, they chant the slogans “Hum Pakistani Hain; Pakistan Humara Hey” (We are Pakistani; Pakistan is ours).

Read more: Shootout in Indian Occupied Kashmir leaves four dead

This sends a strong signal to the people of Pakistan and enhances their obligations for a robust military and diplomatic campaign. Making the LOC a permanent border would just sweep the problem under the carpet. Self-determination is Kashmiris’ inalienable right and they have vowed to attain it. They have proven this by giving their blood for the past seventy-one years. Legally and politically, it would be prudent to make no unilateral concessions until a serious engagement on the resolution of the Kashmir dispute starts.

GVS: What was Gen. Musharraf trying to achieve through his famous “Four Point Formula”; how was it different from the acceptance of LOC as international border?

Masood Khan: Probably it was a formula to maintain the geopolitical status quo in and around Jammu and Kashmir, while trying to build trust between Pakistan, India, and the Kashmiris. Behind closed doors and in the backdoor corridors, the recipe prepared by emissaries and principals may have sounded practicable, but it had yet to pass the test of public endorsement of all sides – Pakistan, India, and Kashmiris. Do you think that a phased withdrawal of troops from Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and IOK been possible? Secondly, ‘no change of borders’ and ‘free movement across the LOC’ would have been a palliative and stand-by arrangement and not a lasting solution for the Kashmiris.

Thirdly, ‘self-governance without independence’ and a ‘joint supervision mechanism comprising’– by India, Pakistan, and Kashmiris– would have been too complex and difficult a feat to achieve or manage for the three parties. In this process, while some segments of Pakistani and Kashmiri political spectrum were consulted, the majority of the stakeholders were not on board and this would have posed a problem, had the formula been unveiled fully. Most of the conversations about this formula are speculative and based on many hypotheticals and variables. Besides, the setting and interlocutors in the two countries have changed. For a lasting solution, one needs to go back to the drawing board.

GVS: Pundit Nehru justified India’s control on Kashmir through Article 370 and Art. 35-A, now BJP-linked-RSS demands their end and experts on Pakistani media defend Article 370; what’s happening here? Where have we reached? 

Masood Khan: Very few people in Pakistan realize that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution has already been reduced to an empty shell because of scores of Presidential orders which have extended India’s jurisdiction over the state, with the connivance and acquiescence of the Srinagar governments installed by Delhi  and thus increasingly deprived Kashmir of its projected ‘autonomy’. Most of the distinct rights given to the state under Article 370 have either been eroded or taken back. The value of Article 370 is now symbolic (that gives a separate political persona to the state compared to the provinces of India) and not substantive.

Article 35-A is different. It recognizes Kashmiris’ right to permanent residence (and denies it to non-Kashmiris) and confers on their rights and privileges in regard to state employment, acquisition of property, settlement, scholarships, and educational assistance. By revoking this article, especially the latter, India could swamp the occupied territory with non-Kashmiris Hindus from India and thus change the demographic composition of the state in India’s favor.

Read more: The new Indian Attack on the people of Kashmir

The Joint Resistance Leadership – led by Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, and Yasin Malik – has opposed any moves to alter the state’s unique demographic signature and identity. The leaders and analysts in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir support their stance.  I think there is no harm in doing that while maintaining the original principled position on India’s vacation of the occupied territory and holding of a plebiscite.

GVS: Two generations of Kashmiris remained passive for 42 years against Indian control till 1989; what changed in 1989 and how a guerilla resistance has turned into a popular mass movement? What are the dynamics? 

Masood Khan: It would be unfair to say that the people of IOK remained passive from 1947 to 1989. During that period too they continued to be persecuted, killed, and detained arbitrarily; they continued to give sacrifices, and they continued to nurture their aspirations for freedom and self-determination. During that period, it is true, India off-and-on manipulatively enlisted the support of popular Kashmiri Sheikh Abdullah to obfuscate Kashmiris’ will to gain freedom from India.

The year 1989 was a turning point. All elections till then had been rigged, farcical and forced, fundamental freedoms were crushed, and Kashmiris were being hounded as criminals in their own homeland. To win global sympathy and to perpetuate its occupation of the IOK, India tarnished Kashmiris’ resistance as terrorism, without explaining to the world why it was using state terror to brutalize Kashmiris.

The Kashmiris were cordoned off en masse and literally encaged. As a reaction to these atrocities and crimes, the flame of freedom has now lit every heart and home and Kashmiris’ express their demands in mass demonstrations and whatever outlets they find in the traditional or new media. Almost all ‘people’, as defined in the UN Charter, have secured their right to self-determination. Kashmiris should not be an exception. They too deserve justice and dignity and freedom from unending repression. The Kashmiri youth, like the youth of the earlier generations, are leading this movement.

GVS: Given the insensitivity of international community and west’s need of India as a counterweight against China, will India not ultimately succeed in brutally crushing the ‘Kashmiri Intifada’ the way Israel has dealt with Palestinians through “settlements” and controlling “international media”?

Masood Khan: That risk is there. That’s why it is imperative to intensify diplomatic, political and communication campaigns to end India’s oppression in IOK and to safeguard Kashmiris’ rights. The West values India as a counterweight to China and this– along with India’s attraction as a profitable market for Western investors– blurs Western leaders’ vision in regard to Kashmir. In fact, they choose to either not look at Kashmir at all or look at it through India’s prism. India is not only learning from Israeli experience, but it is also being assisted by Israel in dealing with the popular uprising in Kashmir.

Read more: Azad Jammu and Kashmir vs. Indian Occupied Kashmir: The difference

India does not control international media, but it influences it by inundating it with a barrage of disinformation. Some media portals and think tanks buy India’s garbled version hook, line, and sinker. An even more malicious phenomenon is the writings of the first and second generation Indian expatriates who recycle the Indian establishment’s well-concocted story about the Kashmir. It would be only fair to point out that there is dissent in India on Kashmir but independent voices are marginalized and their proponents are demonized as traitors.

Despite Indian attempts to impose a ‘gag order’ on international media, independent newspapers and networks speak up, —though the extent of their coverage on Kashmir remains limited. Outreach with professional skills is a must to challenge and correct the Indian-led-and-Indian-fed one-sided story.  We remain confident that Kashmiris will win their freedom and that India will not be able to snuff out the flame of liberty in Kashmir.

GVS: How do you think Pakistan can help resist the ongoing BJP and Modi government policy of using Hindu and Sikh settlements in Jammu and Kashmir to change its demography?

Masood Khan: Pakistan is a key party to the Kashmir dispute that is on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Pakistan can help the people of the Indian Occupied Kashmir by reporting the illegal steps being taken by India to alter the demography of IOK, including by building settlements. The Kashmiri human rights defenders need to report such violations to the special procedures of the Human Right Council based in Geneva, and then Pakistan can mobilize the Council to take action on them.

This is especially important because the violations do not pertain only to the planned Pandit settlements and Sainik (former armed servicemen) colonies but include a series of steps India is taking to reduce the overall percentage of Muslim population in the state. The so-called West Pakistan Kashmiris are being given a permanent residence, India’s Statistics Act 2008 is being used manipulatively to alter boundaries; its SARFAESI Act 2002 is being applied to Kashmir to give Kashmiris lands to non-Kashmiri Hindus, and Hindu businesses are being given long terms leases to start businesses in the occupied territory. These measures are a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I. The Statute of International Criminal Court would term them as war crimes

GVS: What is your opinion of the operative international system acting like a “regulated anarchy” practicing deliberate ignorance in terms of the Kashmir issue?

Masood Khan: I like the term “regulated anarchy” you’ve used. The rule of law has not been mainstreamed in international politics and global governance. That’s why you see glaring instances like Kashmir, whose plight is literally banished from official international discourse, despite the irrefutable and mounting evidence of Indian crimes against humanity committed in IOK which has been collected by independent forums and organizations.

The evidence of massive, gross, and consistent violations is there but the UN Security Council does not take cognizance and official Washington and official Brussels (headquarters of the European Union) are mum on Kashmir, even as they, every now and then, wax rhapsodic about the global rule of law and universal human rights. This “deliberate ignorance” is dictated by realpolitik and the lure of the Indian market. The risk is that acceptance of anarchy in one part of the world can spread to other parts of the world and weaken the world order; and such appeasement of India– reminiscent of similar appeasement last century during the interwar period– leads to pogroms, wars, and holocausts.

GVS: Do you think that the recent OHCHR report has generated a certain amount of pressure on the Indian Government in terms of India’s military strategy in Kashmir? 

Masood Khan: As expected, India rejected the report angrily. But the report is seminal; it is revealing and it is a damning indictment of India’s abhorrent brutalities in the IOK. What it reveals is just the tip of the iceberg. The report breaks the long and inexplicable silence of the UN on egregious human rights violations in IOK, which have been reported by independent human rights organizations since 1990.

Read more: Government draft on Kashmir conflict resolution and its merits

The report has also broken the taboo of India being treated as a ‘holy cow’ despite its heinous crimes in Kashmir. Thus, it definitely puts pressure on India though it is confident that it will get off scot free once again. So the pressure is there but has not reached a critical point and it can be buried under piles of India’s false narratives. More work needs to be done. The report has categorically called on India to respect the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people that are protected under international law.

It also called for the repeal of the two draconian laws – the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act – that empower the occupation forces to commit human rights violations with impunity; and constitution of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate atrocities in Kashmir. To maintain and build pressure, these recommendations must be implemented.

GVS: How do you assess India’s current – perhaps 18-year-old – non-negotiation strategy towards Pakistan?

Masood Khan: You have rightly called it a ‘non-negotiation strategy’. It is also a ‘non-engagement strategy’. The initiative for bilateral talks seldom comes from India. Pakistan is always keen to start such a process. India’s reluctance stems from its opposition to any discussion on Kashmir; whereas it is ready to discuss any other issue with Pakistan. It signed the Simla Agreement to bilateralize the Kashmir dispute and then to bury it; not to resolve it. India’s purpose was to keep the international community, especially the UN, out of Kashmir because it had realized that Nehru had made a mistake by taking it to the Security Council. Before 1972, Kashmir used to be the core issue between India and Pakistan and on the active agenda of the UN.

Over the years, though bilateral processes, India has managed to reduce it to be one-tenth of the agenda where it is equivalent, let’s say, to the item on ‘religious tourism”. In the past, even a round of talks under such a restrictive agenda took place, India invariably said that there was nothing to talk about Jammu and Kashmir, because it was an integral part of India, according to the Indian Constitution. Finally, if bilateral talks are ever scheduled after much diplomatic effort, India impetuously called them off on one pretext or the other. In fact, India is forcing Pakistan to go back to the international community, something which is in Pakistan’s own interest, and a course Pakistan should have continued to follow with full vigor, without interruption.

GVS: Will you agree that Pakistani governments, Foreign Office, and institutions like “Kashmir Committee” have failed to bring international focus on the growing human tragedy in Kashmir?

Masood Khan: Let’s banish the word “failure” from our lexicon and try to put success on the table and achieve it. After all, it is the successive governments, Foreign Office and other state institutions, despite enormous military, diplomatic and economic pressure, have kept the Kashmir dispute alive. India took away East Pakistan from Pakistan, opened a subversive front in Baluchistan to punish Pakistan for Kashmir and established a spy network in Pakistan to destabilize it, but Pakistan has remained steadfast on Kashmir. And 71 years on, Kashmiris have not stopped giving blood or given up their peaceful struggle for their right to self-determination. This resilience baffles and perplexes India. There is no reason to lose hope. We will persevere. That said we need to do much, much more, both in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, on the political and diplomatic fronts.

GVS: What prompt measures do you think the new Pakistani government, led by PM Imran Khan, needs to take to move towards normalization in Kashmir?

Masood Khan: The new government’s declarations and pronouncements on Kashmir have been well-received by the people in Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan Foreign Minister’s statement at the UN was hailed by all. And Pakistan demonstrated political prudence and diplomatic finesse by offering India to hold a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September this year. India first concurred; and then resiled. Typical. That closed a door for initiation of conversations on Kashmir and other issues.

Read more: India’s muscular Kashmir policy will reap no harvest – Murtaza Shibli

In these circumstances, there is little space available to Pakistan to take diplomatic initiatives. As far as ‘normalization’ of the situation in Kashmir is concerned, it is squarely India’s responsibility which is committing crimes there and smothering dialogue. Pakistan, I believe, should continue to raise the issue of Kashmir at the international fora and ask India’s friends to force it to end its repression in Kashmir and open doors for political talks with Kashmiris and Pakistan, despite the limitations of such a process. The message should be: killings must end, and killings and dialogue cannot go together.

GVS: Do you think the issue of Kashmir can be bilaterally resolved between India & Pakistan (without the international mediation –as India demands)? What that solution can be? 

Masood Khan:I don’t think the Kashmir issue will ever be resolved bilaterally. That’s an illusion. International intercession in one form or the other is a must. Since one party – India – is totally opposed to international involvement, Pakistan and the Kashmiris will have to work harder to get international attention and intercession on Kashmir. The UN and other international forums do have a legitimate remit and interest in the Occupied Kashmir because of the unsettled dispute and a raging human rights crisis there. The solution is already there given by the UN – to ascertain the wishes of the Kashmiri people about their political future.

Read more: Calling Kashmir issue a territorial dispute is in itself dehumanizing?

That decision needs to put on the table for implementation. If that is not practical because of India’s continued opposition, Pakistan should invoke Chapter VI of the UN Charter to persuade the UN to initiate other processes of negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, and resort to regional agencies or arrangements (Article 33). Pakistan should not take ‘No’ for an answer. And outreach to world’s parliaments and civil society must continue. The Kashmir dispute is not going to go away and Kashmiris will not give up; nor would Pakistan. It is, therefore, necessary to exhaust all diplomatic channels for a lasting solution.


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