Is there a way out of this freeze?

A consensus has to be developed in the two countries to engage in negotiations

Talat Masood May 10, 2023
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary. He has also served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board


It is indeed unfortunate that Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — a forum initially created by China and Russia and later expanded to eight member states, four observer states and six dialogue partners to enhance economic cooperation among member states — has been shamefully used by India to target Pakistan. The irony is that it accuses Pakistan of raising the issue of human rights violations in Kashmir and breach of international and bilateral agreements on the occupied region.

India has, since the very beginning, used the false narrative of accusing Pakistan’s support for the just cause of Kashmiris right to determine their future as though it is promoting terrorism. Whereas, the reality is just the opposite, as India is consistently not only defying the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir but using harsh and brutal tactics bordering on genocide to subdue the genuine grassroots freedom struggle of Kashmiris.

Global powers, especially the US and major Western countries that supposedly champion universal human rights and freedom struggle, have brazenly looked the other way on India’s gross transgressions. The contrast of the US and West to China’s policy towards Uyghurs that are mainly Muslims and other minorities to India’s treatment of Muslims and other minorities is muted. It is apparent that expediency overrides principles. It is, however, important to recognise that Chinese leadership has invested heavily in the uplift of Uyghurs in terms of promoting education and building infrastructure. This should go a long way in removing disparities and opening up new horizons for Uyghurs. In sharp contrast, every effort is being made by the BJP government to deny the Muslims equal rights.

Clearly, the BJP government’s policy toward Muslims is highly discriminatory despite the fact they are the largest minority in India. According to latest census they are 17.22 crores and constitute 14.23 % of the population. In fact, India is the third largest Muslim country with only Indonesia and Pakistan exceeding it in terms of population. It is unsurprising that the BJP government’s treatment of Christians and other minorities is also problematic and cases of mass persecution have been reported. Hundreds of incidents of violence against Christians occur in several Indian states, especially those that are governed by BJP. India’s Ministry of Internal Security and its National Commission for Minorities officially list more than a hundred religiously motivated attacks against Christians each year. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s own record of treatment of minorities remains blemished and should be a matter of serious concern for the leadership across the political spectrum. Apart from cases of serious violence against minorities occurring frequently, subsequent action against perpetrators of religious bigotry rarely gets the punishment they deserve. There is also a sense of deprivation and unease among minorities especially in tribal areas and remote parts of Balochistan. This has led to minorities migrating to other countries for a better and safer life.

The irony or sad aspect is that it was presumed that after the partition minorities will be safe in respective countries and enjoy equal privileges. The Quaid had repeatedly emphasised this point of view. His initial speeches before and after the creation of Pakistan unambiguously reflected this vision. It seems the leadership that followed the demise of the Quaid and Nehru failed to realise that the basic rationale of agreeing to the partition was to ensure peace and security of their citizens irrespective of colour, creed and religion in respective countries. The Congress party in India was relatively more conscious of the rights of minorities whereas, the BJP leadership by design wants to crush minorities and treats them as second-class citizens. The way BJP leadership has suppressed the genuine aspirations of the Kashmiri people and the reign of terror that it has imposed there is a living proof of the brutal mindset of the present ruling elite. The hypocrisy has no bounds as India claims to be a secular state, although of late this façade has been thrown aside. Pakistan has been raising its concern about India’s Kashmir policies at international forums but it has failed to make a significant difference. Major powers’ economic and strategic interests override principles.

Lately, a scathing and detailed report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Periodic Review process on November 10, 2022 was made public. “The recommendations cover a range of key concerns including the protection of minority communities and vulnerable groups----”. It is highly doubtful if it would stir the collective conscious of BJP leadership to make a difference in its conduct. The attitude of Muslim countries apart from a few exceptions of Turkey and Malaysia failed to raise their voice on India’s treatment of Muslims. We need to realise that when Pakistan acquires a certain level of stability, has its house in order and places its economy on a self-sustaining path, its voice will then carry more weight in asserting itself and defending the basic rights of Kashmiris. As regards the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), it has not proven to be an effective forum on contributing towards the cause of either Palestine or Kashmir.

It is equally critical for Pakistan’s leadership to ensure fair and just treatment to the minorities without any discrimination so that there is internal harmony and full potential of the nation could be actualised and its viewpoints carry greater weight internationally. Experience has shown that with the burden of our past history it is not easy to achieve it. Unfortunately, there have been no efforts to erase the bitterness the past and the wounds of the partition that continue to influence the psyche of leadership in both countries. Development of trade and commerce, promotion of tourism and serious efforts to find solutions to Kashmir and other disputes could have and can still change the paradigm of hostility to at least functional working relationship.

A consensus has to be developed in the two countries to engage in negotiations. Harping back on past and present grievances without moving towards finding a way out is a road to nowhere.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2023.

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