First of all, let me express deep appreciation to the Pakistan Business Forum, Azad Kashmir for inviting the leadership of the Kashmiri Diaspora of the Washington metropolitan area to speak on the subject, “Kashmir Dispute and the Role of Diaspora.” A lot has happened in the corridors of power in Washington, DC and it would not have been possible without the deep involvement, selfless efforts, and constant struggle of your guests: Sardar Zulfiqar Khan, Sardar Zarif Khan, Sardar Zubair Khan, and Irfan Tasaduq Sahib. These brothers may belong to different political parties of Azad Kashmir but in Washington, they represent no one except the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir. The nation of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir remains thankful for the sincerity and understanding of the diaspora of Azad Kashmir origin, be they in America, Europe, the Middle East, or elsewhere.
It is a fact that the situation in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir has dramatically changed, particularly since August 5, 2019, and it will not be an exaggeration to say that the people of occupied land are facing an existential threat. Indian colonialist rulers have put their machinery in motion which is fast moving to accelerate the process of genocide they have systematically put in place through their proxies since October 27, 1947.
It will be grossly unfair to forget that, over the years, the All Parties Hurriyet Conference has shown formidable leadership in representing the people of Kashmir. Now, Syed Ali Geelani, the most towering personality is no more. Yasin Malik is facing a situation of life and death. Shabir Ahmed Shah has been incarcerated for more than half of his life. Masarat Alam has been booked 37 times under Public Safety Act. Aasia Andrabi has been charged under UAPA. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been under house arrest for the last three years. They all, however, remain undeterred and clear in their thought processes that the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir have only one option which is total freedom from the colonial clutches of India.
And the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, despite all the odds, have never lost hope in the right to self-determination. The Kashmiri diaspora does not need to remind them of that. The Kashmiri diaspora needs to simply take the reins, open the doors, pave the road, and take advantage of those opportunities that become available to express that will. The role of our global Kashmiri diaspora becomes much more pertinent and important after the developments since August 5, 2019, and because of the changes occurring at a global level. Kashmiri diaspora knows it well that a coordinated effort on every level to counter India’s disinformation campaign should be the top priority.
The Kashmiri diaspora understands that multiplicity of Kashmiri organisations in any important world capital is not only unnecessary but counterproductive to Kashmir’s right to self-determination. It’s time, for all the flowers to be a bouquet. It’s time that the diaspora gives all that flows from its heart because it is only then that the people will respond with theirs and demonstrate the power of their love for their country, Kashmir – that was once the paradise on earth.
It’s imperative at this stage in our history for the Kashmiri diaspora to recognise that real change is needed and cannot happen without a change in the way that we do business. Foremost, what is needed is a united front that will inspire the people as well. A united front will demonstrate that we are Kashmiris first and foremost, and not simply members of some political party or social group. Only a united people can bring about the change that will help us achieve our ultimate objective – the right to self-determination.
The leadership of all political parties in Azad Kashmir have exhibited strong sensitivity to the issue of IOK (Indian-occupied Kashmir) and have paid strong tributes to the sacrifices made by the leaders like the late Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik. However, the abominable plan of the Indian government to change the demographic character of Kashmir needs very serious strategic planning by the Azad Kashmir leadership to counter these evil designs.
Finally, let us also briefly present to you some of the activities that the Kashmiri diaspora has initiated since August 5, 2019, when India abrogated Articles 370 and 35 A. Kashmiri diaspora is conscious of the strength and extent of the Indian lobby in the US. Despite significant odds, we were able to do the following activities since August 5, 2019.
World Kashmir Awareness Forum (WKAF) has been doing all its activities in collaboration with Kashmir America Welfare Association (KAWA). The guest speakers today are the members of the board of KAWA.
Kashmiri diaspora is fully engaged in Washington as well as in New York to advocate for the political and human rights of the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
On the social media front, we use digital trucks, and billboards, both in Washington as well as in New York.
Since August 5, 2019, we have organised 5 rallies in front of the White House; 4 at the Indian Embassy, in Washington, DC; 6 at the United Nations; 4 at the Indian Mission in New York; at 6 Indian Consulates in New York.
Narendra Modi will be speaking at the United Nations on September 24, 2022. A plan of action has been prepared for a peaceful rally in front of the United Nations during his speech. It is important because Narendra Modi will not tell the United Nations that Kashmir is on the brink of genocide as mentioned by Genocide Watch; that Kashmir is the World’s Most Beautiful Prison as suggested by John Cushnahan, former MEP; and that Kashmir is the most militarised place on the earth as cited by Arundhati Roy
We aspire for Pakistan to immediately create a Kashmir Cell comprising retired and sitting diplomats, with expertise in India. This cell should also include members from all the political parties of Pakistan, as well as representatives from the civil society and Kashmiri diaspora.
We also aspire for Pakistan to work on sustaining the momentum of engaging major powers to pressurise India not only to lift the ongoing repressive measures, including crippling restrictions and communication blockade but more importantly to eventually engage with the Kashmiri leadership and Pakistan and work out a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
Pakistan’s current domestic politics is very worrisome for a common Kashmiri. They see their success only in a strong and viable Pakistan. The Pakistani government should create a constructive atmosphere where the top leadership of various political parties can be seen visibly and manifestly on the same page about the Kashmir issue. Any weakness in this area plays into the hands of India’s rabidly nationalist Media.
Lastly, there is also a serious discussion going on in many important capitals to pursue the Musharraf formula to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Except for one point, vis the withdrawal of troops (the demilitarisation of Kashmir leading to a settlement of the dispute), all other points are either pure fake or protective cover for the Indian position. Kashmiri diaspora wants to make it clear that the Musharraf formula is an absolute fallacy.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
The writer is the Chairman of the Washington-based World Forum for Peace & Justice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org