GVS News Desk |
Lord Nazir Ahmed is a member of the British House of Lords and a prominent member of the British Friends of Kashmir. He was born in Pakistan Administered Kashmir on 24th April 1957.
GVS: Why are you organizing a protest rally on Kashmir in London this 26th October?
Lord Nazir: Kashmiris around the world protest on that particular day because the accession treaty, allegedly signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, broke all the norms and rules of the independence of India and Pakistan. It was already decided by the powers of the time, that it was majorities of the population that would get to choose whether they wanted to live in India or Pakistan, and that their choices would be respected. In this particular case, Maharaja decided that he wanted independence; on the 14th/15th of August, most of the Muslims were rooting for Pakistan and the Hindus for India.
So, he cleverly decided not to go for either country and it wasn’t until the 26th October, as it was alleged, that the tribesmen of Kashmir and the now Gilgit-Baltistan decided to fight with Maharaja’s police. Chaudhry Yusuf, elected member of the Kashmir Assembly from Mirpur who is also my uncle, was approached by the Deputy Commissioner of Mirpur, who was the brother-in-law of Maharaja Hari Singh, he advised Chaudhry Sahib to take his family away from the area because reports were coming in that the liberation movement was about to start, which would lead to a lot of bloodshed.
You can get a lot of real-time stories from families who were present at that time. I used to ask my mother, who lived to 94 years of age, a lot about these things, to get to know my uncle and aunt. So, the movement actually started in what is now Azad Kashmir, to liberate the state and drive out Maharaja Hari Singh, who had been a ruler of Kashmir. The point I am trying to make is, firstly, according to the rules of the independence of India and Pakistan people of Kashmir were to be given a right to choose where they wanted to live.
Secondly, I would say that when the independence movement or rebellion started, the Kashmiri tribesmen were moving fast towards Srinagar, and as Alastair Lamb, an esteemed historian in his book ‘Birth of a tragedy, Kashmir 1947’ gave evidence that Maharaja Hari Singh was travelling between Srinagar and Jammu to run away, upon hearing that tribesmen were heading towards him. Now, travelling via roads at that time took a long time, so on the 26th of October when the Maharaja has been reported to have signed the accession treaty cannot be true. Therefore, it is a forged document. Lord Mountbatten was informed of the situation and troops landed to defend Srinagar.
The Indians had realized that the Azad Kashmiri leadership was moving towards Srinagar, and the Indian armed forces had entered to control the state. For many decades, historians challenged India to produce this treaty; and the treaty did not emerge for a long time. However, afterward, India came up with this document and presented it as a signed copy. But it’s not authentic. The instrument of accession could not have been signed in time before the invasion by the Indian government. Prime Minister of India at the time promised the UN that a fair and impartial plebiscite would be given to the Kashmiri people, as soon as the situation normalizes.
I spoke to Alastair Lamb, some fifteen years ago and invited him for lunch at the House of Lords and discussed all the aforementioned points with him. He confirmed this through investigations in his book. That’s my legal basis and the reason why Kashmiris around the world protest against illegal occupation by Indian troops. The first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru, said “Kashmiris are not a commodity, they will be given the right of self-determination and that they will decide their future themselves”. Such empty promises were often made at the UN and yet never happened.
GVS: Why is a member of the British House of Lords like you, so passionate about the Kashmir cause?
Lord Nazir: Mostly because I was born in Kashmir and I know many families, but you know when I was a counselor, I saw the uprising in Indian-occupied Kashmir, and the rape and the torture of Kashmiri people. Back in 1987, state elections were being posed to replace the plebiscite; I argue that elections cannot replace a referendum or a plebiscite anywhere in the world. In countries like Ireland and Scotland, elections have been held for centuries, yet they were given a referendum to be able to decide on their issues. We have had elections in the UK every 4 years, whether local or others, yet on our membership of the E.U., we had to have a referendum.
And on Kashmir, the UN resolutions are very clear in terms of free, fair and impartial plebiscite which was promised in terms of legality. The 1987 state elections in IOK were rigged, because there’s never been more than 6-7% turnout of any elections held in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Every time families from places like Delhi, etc. go to IOK to vote because the local people don’t turn out; in this way they arrange for people to vote, just to show the world that people are queuing up and taking part.
The Kashmiri leadership did not participate in those elections and the results were manipulated. In fact, Vajpayee himself admitted at some later stage, that the elections were forged and the Kashmiris, would be given another right to vote. Kashmiri youth started protests and Hurriyat leadership carried out demonstrations. The Indian soldiers then decided to subdue the leadership and protestors which gave rise to a cycle of violence: people protested, they were killed and that led to more riots.
This is not propaganda from Kashmir or Pakistan; this is all reported in Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, Asia Watch – All the international journals. In the late 1980s throughout 1990s, over 110,000 to 120,000 people were murdered, extra-judicial killings happened on a regular basis, and 125,000 to 130,000 women were raped -because rape was used as an instrument of war to humiliate the Kashmiris.
GVS: Do you think the international community in London, understands the gravity and nature of the systematic abuse of authority for human right violations by India through the process of incarceration, abuse, pellets, mysterious abductions, thousands of dead bodies in massacres and media shutdowns?
Lord Nazir: The international community is not aware of it; only limited people have access to international news and that is for a number of reasons. One is that the international media has not been allowed to go visit IOK, several international Human Rights organizations, such as the UN Commissioner for Human Rights have been excluded and the Secretary-General has not been allowed to visit Kashmir. So, all the parliaments and International observers who have asked for permission to visit the Indian-occupied Kashmir have not been allowed.
As you probably know, UNMOGIP (The UN monitors which were placed in 1948 on both sides of the line of Kashmir) has full access on the Pakistan side all the way to the Line of Control, and they have reported over 2,000 Indian violations of the ceasefire in the last several of years. On the Indian side, they are not allowed to leave the city and go up to the Line of Control, so the Indian Army can do whatever it likes.
Secondly, the international community is too busy with other things; the invasion of Soviet Union into Afghanistan (the war that lasted for a decade), then 9/11 happened and the world’s focus was on Iraq and Afghanistan, now its Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and all the other areas with greater oil reserves and resources are important to the West. Kashmiris don’t have oil or gold, they are up in the mountains so no interest is shown by the International community other than China. Therefore, the world hasn’t been interested in the Kashmiri cause or what has happened to the Kashmiris. Sadly, there are a lot of other areas too, like in Africa and in the far east, where slaughtering has been taking place, but the international community has shied away.
GVS: Why has the international community been silent over the barbaric acts committed by the Indian forces in the India-held Kashmir (IHK)? Is it because India is too strong or Pakistan too weak?
Lord Nazir: India has only emerged as a strong lobbyist in the last decade or so, since it has financially and economically become more strong and powerful. Pakistan, being the frontline state on the War on Terror, has been a victim of terrorism; hence, it has not been able to advocate the true narrative of the state internationally. Secondly, the Pakistani leadership has been about the two big families, the Zardari family, and the Sharif family; they hired a lobbyist for their personal family matters but not for the country.
I want to be very clear, this Kashmiri cause is not only supporting the Kashmiri people, which is a good thing that Pakistanis do, and we are very grateful, but is totally about the survival of Pakistan. Because all the scientific evidence shows that if all the water coming from Kashmiri Rivers is diverted to India, Pakistan will be left barren with deserts, and without enough drinking water.
India has very cleverly diverted these rivers; Neelam is drying up, Ravi has dried up. Indians have diverted a lot of their rivers coming from Kashmir towards India. I would argue that fighting the Kashmir cause is a fundamental need for Pakistan. Thirdly, nowhere in Pakistani politics, in their political agenda, does Kashmir feature on the top where it should be – given it is a national interest for the survival of Pakistan. Kashmir was the only state which was left without a final decision in the 1947 partition.
Of course, there are two more, Hyderabad and Junagarh, which had decided to take the Pakistani side but were not allowed to. So there are moral, political and other arguments, why Pakistan should support Kashmir; but if for nothing else, it should do so for its own survival. Neither Nawaz Sharif nor Imran Khan made Kashmir a priority during the elections; in fact, Imran Khan in his 12 visits to Azad Kashmir did not mention Kashmir at all. The only person that actually mentioned Kashmir was Bilawal Bhutto when he went to Geneva.
So, I am thankful to Bilawal Bhutto, but not enough has been done. Kashmir needs to feature on top of the agenda of every political party. Of course, the biggest disaster was to appoint Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman as the Chairman for the Kashmir Committee for 12 years; he used the committee for his expenses, for his lavish lifestyle in his ministerial enclave and enjoyed the salaries that he got. But he did not benefit the Kashmir cause.
GVS: How can the membership, processes and working of the Kashmir Committee be enhanced to become more effective to address the Kashmir cause?
Lord Nazir: We have Professor Sajid Mir as the Chairman of the Kashmir Committee, who is a member of the senate. This national committee should be open to all national leadership as opposed to parliamentarians because there it is used as a patronage a sweetener for politicians, so that they can have a federal status and claim expenses. For the last 12 years, it has not benefitted the cause itself. I call upon the Government of Pakistan and Imran Khan, in particular, as well as all leadership to make sure that the national committee is actually a national committee instead of a parliamentarian’s committee.
Secondly, we need to make sure that we have members from the Kashmiri people as members of the Kashmir Committee. I know what is happening at the Line of Control, I know what is happening to my sisters in Kashmir, I know, I am aware because I check news three times a day, I tweet, I research, and I speak about it. Whereas, for Pakistani politicians, it is a spare time thing that they talk about when informed.
If you remember, Nawaz Sharif sent delegations to various countries in the world during the last days of his government – some of them didn’t even know what the Kashmir cause is, they didn’t even know where the Chirri Kot or Rawalakot is. That’s why there should be people that have passion, have an understanding of the region and the cause and who know what it feels when their sisters are raped in Kashmir rather than just shrugging their shoulders, saying that it does happen and we can’t do anything about it.
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GVS: What does Pakistan need to do to support the Kashmiri cause? What role can the Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently play?
Lord Nazir: The Pakistan government and foreign office can prioritize the Kashmir issue. I am not expecting them to fight Kashmir’s war with India, I want them to support those legitimate people who are struggling and campaigning for Kashmir, give us political and moral support. You see I think sometimes Pakistan strangles real voices of Kashmiri people; they want people they can control so that they can silence them when they want to and make them speak what they want to hear and when they want to hear. There are people in the government who have limitations and can’t criticize people openly.
You have a prime example in me, I am a member of the House of Lords, Alhamdullilah and I say whatever I want, I criticize Pakistan as well as India; of course, India more because of their abuses of human rights. Pakistani leadership, for instance, Kasuri and Pervez Musharraf, were the first people who used the words terrorism for Kashmiris – I don’t believe that there is terrorism in Kashmir, there is state terrorism but not terrorism.
UN charter’s article 51 allows anyone to fight back invasion, if people believe that their country has been invaded or that their rights have been abused, they have the right to fight back. Everything I say in my arguments is based on laws. As far as illegal occupation is concerned you have the UN resolution, they are still valid, and they are still on the statute, so people have the right to resist. They are freedom fighters, not terrorists. They are only resisting people who are raping their daughters and killing young people.
GVS: What do you think of Modi’s move to cancel the bilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan? Why is India avoiding dialogue & engagement?
Lord Nazir: India is a loser; it knows that on the international level, it cannot avoid dialogue. It does not have the legal right to avoid dialogue. Modi has his own problems: the economy is not doing so well, he isn’t the same leader he was 3years ago. His base support comes from Hindu fascist such as Hindutva activists, RSS, BJP, Shiv Sena, I call them the ‘cow brigade’. The way these fascists gain their popularity is by beating up Pakistan and Kashmir.
The forceful conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism are another one of their tactics. At the same time, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are not in a position to stand up to India. There is only one country that can stand against India, and that is Pakistan. Pakistan’s size is only one-third of India, and yet it is a challenger. The country does not let India bully its neighbours, and so India creates the drama about surgical strikes, etc. to gain the Hindu extremist support in the forthcoming elections.
GVS: What’s your take on the Indian military suggestion for using ‘drones’ to curb the rising agitation in Jammu Kashmir?
Lord Nazir: I think they will use it. You only use drones in a foreign country. So for example, the Americans use drones in Afghanistan. The Americans and Russian use drones in Syria. The use of drones happens, when you fear the enemy of another country. First to spy on, and then with weapons.
So firstly, this is an admission that India considers Kashmir as occupied land, secondly, this means that their army on the ground cannot win. I’m also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones in British Parliament. Looking at the legality of use of drones, India on ground breaks international law on a regular basis. With drones they can get away with murder. Complete abuse of technology and they will be committing war crimes at a greater scale.
GVS: Is Pakistan’s media have the capacity to address the Kashmir cause? What role can the media play in widely highlighting the Kashmir issue regionally & internationally?
Lord Nazir: The sad thing about the Pakistani media is that there are many storytellers, who know how to tell stories, but do not know how to state facts. Pakistan does not have media specialists in terms of defense, science & technology. It lacks reporters who can understand the environment and report on it. No specialist in education. There are no specialists on Kashmir or South Asia.
Britain only has two TV channels: Sky and BBC, but they have correspondents who deal with defense, security, education and science individually. Pakistan has repetitive and often trivial breaking news, with no specialization. There is very low depth of knowledge, they just watch each other and whatever goes in the morning for breakfast then goes round and round. And Pakistani Urdu newspapers live on another planet, they just report on matters that are local, outdated and repetitive.
GVS: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in an interview recently said ‘Kashmir is a human tragedy, an outcome of deception and betrayal by successive governments in India’, do you think that the world understands that?
Lord Nazir: No I don’t think the world understands this, and even if it did, it would ignore it. The world has its own economic crisis. Since the last banking crisis in 2008, the world is looking for bigger economies and populations. India may not be a big economy, but it is a big market. In a few years time, India will become the most populated country in the world: a big market for European and western economies. They know that Indian extremists will buy products, and establish relations that will support India’s aggression against its neighbouring countries, like Pakistan.
So every time the Western or European leadership visits India, they have to start off by saying ‘India is our friend, and we will help it become a member of the United Nations Security Council’. Utter nonsense. How can you become a UNSC member if you defy the UN Human Rights Council on a regular basis? You do not allow the UN to investigate. Indian support is needed by them to say ‘wow now we can become a superpower’.
GVS: What needs to change at the UN for it to play a more effective role in addressing intractable issues such as Palestine or Kashmir?
Lord Nazir: We need to have an influence. OIC and Arab countries have just become talking shops and a lot of it has been just for domestic consumption. People need to understand, I think the Israeli lobby in the United States of America and Europe has been very cleverly instrumental in President Donald Trump’s administration in dividing the Arab strength. So, you have Saudi Arabia, UAE, and then you have Egypt and Bahrain on one side opposing Palestinians and supporting Israel because of Iran. On the other hand, there is only Pakistan supporting Kashmir.
I am not looking at reasons why Saudi Arabia and UAE are investing in India, whilst, Nawaz Sharif was boasting about his relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE “our brothers and our sisters; we use the same perfumes and coffee in the morning’-all that rubbish. This man has done more damage to Pakistan’s relations because he was working on his personal relations. Now, Saudi Arabia is investing $40 billion in their oil refinery. But also, I did not realize that UAE’s citizens go to India and do whatever they want, invest, dream and educate; however, if they visit Pakistan, the company will block your promotion because you are deemed as an extremist, suspicion of why you went to Pakistan.
This is how far we have gone down. So, we need to do some homework and strengthen our stance at the UN. Pakistan has been offering political support and military support to these Arabs, but Pakistan needs to put Pakistan first. General Raheel Sharif might be in Saudi Arabia, but he hasn’t done much for Pakistan and he is getting dollars for himself. General Pasha might be in UAE doing well for himself but not for Pakistan. Like Nawaz Sharif and Maulana Fazal ur Rahman who have been getting their own kickbacks but nothing for Pakistan or Kashmir.
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GVS: Black laws such as the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and PSA (Public Safety Act) have given immunity to Indian security forces, how can the international community work to roll back such draconic laws?
Lord Nazir: These draconian laws have been mentioned by the All Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group on a number of occasions. They have been used and abused against Kashmiri people. You know, when we say, ‘international community’, who do we mean? Is it ordinary people, do we mean students in universities, or is it state union movements? We need to specify. The leaders from Azad Kashmir or Pakistan who come and address our own people are mostly those who don’t engage with the white indigenous communities and are the ones who have never been to university and never got involved with the youth.
Our own students in the UK do not attend meetings on Kashmir because they get bored with ‘buddas’ (old people) who do the same old speeches they have been doing for the last 20 years. We need to generate new interest within the youth and to go to universities, trade union movements, write articles in local newspapers and make it a massive movement which I alone cannot. We all have to do it together.
GVS: India has gradually changed the status of Kashmir to incorporate it into its own territory. Is there any possibility left for self-determination for Kashmiris?
Lord Nazir: Absolutely. I have mentioned legal ways, UN resolutions are still valid and on the statute. Everybody knows that it is an illegal occupation; they use drones, they use their Army, 700,000 soldiers, hence the resistance from civilians and the involvement of Kashmiri’s new generation. Yesterday, a report stated that the Indian Army soldiers were trying to show their friendship with the children in Kashmir and one child drew some trees and a wall that said, ‘freedom for Kashmir’. So, every child knows about this. Even the Nazis couldn’t last with their oppression, and InShaAllah the Indian troops won’t last in Kashmir as well.
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GVS: How do you think the new Government of PTI will be addressing the Kashmir Issue in times to come? Are you satisfied with Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s speech at the UN General Assembly?
Lord Nazir: I am happy with Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s speech at the UN, I think it is great progress and I want to thank him and his staff for mentioning Kashmir. But it should not only be a one-off speech because India has refused to meet with him and because the Indian Foreign Minister behaved like a silly little 9-year-old girl by walking away and not looking into his eyes. I think that the PTI government needs to do a lot more, they need to consult with Kashmiris, they need to understand, they should not play politics with Kashmir, they should appoint people who feel passionate about Kashmiri’s right of self-determination and also look at the future of Pakistan in that light as well.