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EDITORIAL: The AJK chapter of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) recently held a meeting where, predictably, the participants condemned India’s relentless oppression in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and its attempts to change the demographic complexion of the disputed region, reiterating the Kashmiri people’s resolve to take the freedom movement to its logical conclusion. Urging the international community to take notice of the Kashmiri people’s suffering, they called on the UN to implement its resolutions that promise them the right to self-determination. But the meeting also had a word of caution for this country’s political leaders in asking them to take a united stand on the Kashmir issue.

As a matter of fact, if there is any one issue on which there exists a complete consensus among all political parties it is Kashmir. Unfortunately, however, it is also frequently used to put down one another. In the not too distant past, the PTI as well as the PPP criticized former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for adopting a soft line toward his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the expense of the Kashmiri people. Both parties heaped opprobrium on Sharif when during his visit to New Delhi for Modi’s first inauguration as prime minister, he skipped a customary meeting with Kashmiri leaders, and later for omitting any mention of Kashmir from the joint statement issued after his meeting with Modi in the Russian city Ufa on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. They were unwilling to give him the allowance that he might have thought these and some other goodwill gestures could help resume the stalled peace process. At one point, during a visit to Azad Kashmir in the run-up to the 2018 elections , PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari actually led chants of “jo Modi ka yar hai, ghaddar hai ghaddar hai” (the one who is friends with Modi is a traitor, is a traitor). Now that the situation has changed, both the PML-N and the PPP have repeatedly been accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan of doing nothing for the besieged Kashmiris, even of making a compromise with India over their just rights. There are enough other issues for the opposition parties to lambast the government performance; they must not play politics with such a serious issue as Kashmir.

To be fair, PM Khan has used every available opportunity to plead the Kashmir case internationally, risking at one juncture even the longstanding special relationship with a brotherly Muslim country for the Organisation of Islamic Conference’s (OIC’s) failure to highlight the issue. It is no mean achievement of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts that during the last one year the UN Security Council held three informal meetings to discuss the Kashmir issue, negating the Indian claims that Kashmir is its internal matter. Pakistan surely can and should do more to draw international attention to the human rights crisis in IIOJK. However, ultimately the decisive action has to come from the Kashmiri people themselves. It is, therefore, imperative for the opposition parties to make an exception in this case, and speak with one voice on the Kashmir question.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020