AJK president asks Canada to play role for Kashmir


HAMILTON: Azad Jammu Kashmir President Masood Khan has appealed to the Canadian lawmakers to develop a bipartisan approach for the promotion and protection of human rights of Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK).

He made this appeal to the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons while addressing a Kashmir conference here in Canada, organized by the Pakistan Business Association of Hamilton. The conference was also addressed by Scott Duvall, Ken Stone, Chris Macleod, and Friends of Kashmir Committee Chairman Dr Zafar Bangash.

A large number of Pakistanis, Kashmiris and Canadians, including politicians, businessmen, lawyers, academics, students and media-persons attended the conference. President Masood especially urged the human rights committees of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons to take note of the report on the human rights situation and recently released by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, discuss it and support its recommendations.

He highlighted two of the reports’ recommendations, namely, the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council to ascertain facts on the ground and repeal of two draconian laws – Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act. He said that the world must break the cycle of appeasement of India. While the world knew well that the Indian forces were on a murderous campaign in Kashmir and were committing crimes against humanity there, the majority of the western nations had chosen to be silent on the issue or look the other way.

“This encourages and rewards impunity in Kashmir and is tantamount to complicity in the Indian crimes,” he said. The support of the Canadian civil society and the human rights organisations would also develop a sharper focus on the horrible human rights situation in the Kashmiri territory.

He said that Canada had a long history of supporting a democratic solution of the Kashmir issue under the auspices of the UN Security Council General AGL McNaughton, in his capacity as the president of the Security Council in December 1949 had given a formula for a free and impartial plebiscite in Jammu Kashmir to determine the freely expressed will of its inhabitants.

Moreover, he said that Canada has held a plebiscite in Quebec and was not apprehensive of such a democratic process. Finally, he thanked Canada for its support for the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Scott Duvall said that he would take back President Masood’s suggestion for focus on Human Rights Council’s Kashmir report in the Human Rights Committee of the House of Commons.

Chris Macleod said that the recent report of the Human Rights Council raises concern over the rule of law and self-determination in the Kashmiri state. He endorsed the idea that more attention must be given to the human right’s situation and in this regard the human rights committees of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons should play a role.

Ken Stone said that the Kashmir conference has been convened to hear the cries of the Kashmiris struggling against denial of the right to self-determination. He said that in early 2017 he had visited Azad Kashmir and had found it to be truly free. In Azad Kashmir, unlike IHK, there was no presence of the army in cities and towns, no gun-toting soldiers, no barricades and no sign of the AJK people being repressed.

On the other hand, the situation in IHK was alarming because of massive human rights violations and brutal repression. He shared a long list of human rights violations occurring in IHK and warned the audience about the possibility of a war. He said that Kashmir was a long-festering sore between Pakistan and India, and if this Kashmir issue was not resolved, the situation could escalate and result in a devastating war which would render the entire globe uninhabitable as a consequence of a nuclear war which would know no borders.

He also expressed concern over frequent ceasefire violations across the Line of Control since January 2018. Stone said that the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Kashmir should be given close attention as it is a document of one of UN’s official organs and not a document prepared by human rights organisations or peace activists. He called for wide dissemination of this report and urged politicians and the media of Canada to follow up on the recommendations of the report.

He also suggested that human rights activists should hold meetings with the editorial boards of media organizations to highlight the content of this report; and urged members of the Canadian Parliament to pay attention to the recommendations of the report and stop pleasing India. Ken Stone said that there was no need to invent a new formula for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. The solution given by the UN Security Council mandating a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to determine their political future was the most viable, prudent and practicable dispensation. Stone said that occupation was a crime from Kashmir to Palestine.