SRINAGAR: “Our efforts should be to persuade the world community including the United States to urge both India and Pakistan to include the leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir in the negotiations to peacefully resolve the dispute over Kashmir. When we talk of Kashmir, we talk of the sentiments and enormous sacrifices made by the Kashmiri people during the past 67 years for a cause dear to all inhabitants, be they Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists. It is time that both India and Pakistan realize that until the Kashmiri leadership is included in the peace process, these negotiations between India and Pakistan may not lead them to any logical conclusion,” said Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai at a seminar held Friday at Holiday Inn Hotel and organized by Kashmir Forum, Washington, D.C.
According to a statement, Dr. Fai said, “I do not doubt for a minute that to regain much of what has been lost, the people of Kashmir are determined to present their peaceful objectives to the international community. Their objective is to seek a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict through dialogue, with the participation of all parties–government of India, government of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. Their view is one of inclusion. They believe that there is nothing to be gained by isolating groups with varying opinions.”
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Mir, the President of the World Kashmir Freedom Movement said that there exist apprehensions that, whether on account of its internal weakness or under external pressure, Pakistan will be forced to dilute its stand on Kashmir. If this happens, it will not end the dispute because Kashmiris will not consent to rule by a power that has visited death and destruction to brutalize them into submission from the very beginning when the first Indian soldier set afoot on the soil of Kashmir.
Peer Sahib Ali Raza Bukhari said that Kashmir is sacred cause because its legality has been recognized by the United Nations. He reiterated that India and Pakistan both being nuclear-weapon states are directly confronting each other, which makes the Kashmir dispute potentially the most dangerous in the world. It should, therefore, be a major interest of the U.S. to prevent this dispute from exploding into a conflict which can be catastrophic for a large proportion of the human race.
Sardar Sawar Khan, former Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) said, “I firmly believe that far too long has the world viewed Jammu & Kashmir dispute from the perspective of India and Pakistan and never from the perspective of the people of Kashmir that are directly affected by the problem day after day on the ground. And I believe that to ignore the Kashmiri viewpoint is a big mistake. The international community must take into account the Kashmiri perspective which I believe is more important than the perspective of India or Pakistan and for that matter more important than the perspective of the international community.”
Lars Rise, Norwegian parliamentarian said, “I have visited Kashmir and met with the leadership of Hurriyat Conference. I have come to Washington and attended the International Peace Conferences organized by Dr. Fai at the Capitol Hill. I am sure that given a chance, the people of Kashmir will be instrumental in building a bridge between India and Pakistan to settle the long-standing dispute over Kashmir through peaceful negotiations. Kashmiris have a long tradition of peace and religious tolerance.”
Dr. Imtiaz Khan, Vice President of the Kashmiri American Council demanded that the government of India must release all political prisoners; repeal all black laws, particularly Public Safety Act, & Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, etc.; dismantle bunkers from villages and towns; and give freedom of expression and freedom of speech to Kashmiris. A suppression of the freedom of opinion and assembly means empowering terroristic elements. This in turn paves the way for destabilizing Pakistan–something that is certainly not in India’s own interest, nor in the interest of the United States.
Sardar Tahir Iqbal, the President of Kashmir Forum said that the people of Kashmir have the birthright to express their sentiments and their opinions and they should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully to demand their right of self-determination. The United States should definitely recommend improving the atmosphere in Kashmir by a full restoration of civil liberties, including the liberty to express themselves peacefully on the question of their own future.
Dr. Zulfiqar Kazmi said that Pakistan as a party to the dispute must have a consist policy on Kashmir. He emphasized that the Kashmir dispute primarily involves the life and future of the people of the land. Because of its impact on relations between India and Pakistan, however, it directly affects the peace and stability of more than 1.2 billion people of the South-Asian subcontinent.
Dr. Zahid Bukhari, former President of ICNA suggested that friends of Kashmir must educate the American policy makers about the ground realities in Kashmir. We need to seek the understanding of the American policy making agencies to help resolve the dispute according to the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Dr. Bukhari called on world powers to persuade both India and Pakistan to accede to international law in Kashmir, to cooperate in holding a referendum administered by a neutral agency, and to welcome third party intervention or mediation to solve any prickly details.
Sardar Gulfaraz Khan said that nothing better could be said about human rights in Kashmir. Every human rights group that has examined the convulsed scene in Kashmir has reported harrowing human rights violations, including tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, plunder, arbitrary arrests, and ruthless suppression of free speech and press. The United States State Department annual human rights report invariably paints an ugly human rights dispensation in Kashmir.
Sardar Zubair Khan said that a promising first step towards a just and peaceful denouement of the Kashmir tragedy would be the recognition by the United States, Pakistan and India of Hurriyat Conference as the genuine voice of the Kashmiri people.
Sardar Zarif Khan said that today the consensus is that Kashmir conflict remains the underlying cause of the nuclear confrontation between the two neighboring countries. Without a just and lasting peace in Kashmir that vindicates self-determination, trying to reduce missile and nuclear arsenals in South Asia will be an exercise in futility.
Mian Wasim elaborated that the issue of Kashmir is by no definition a border dispute between India and Pakistan. The issue of Kashmir is a problem resolving around the lives of 18 million people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmiri leadership must be the part and parcel of any peace negotiations.
Asad Choudhary, PMLN said, “We feel honored to help our brethren in Jammu & Kashmir. We believe that it is only fair that the Kashmir dispute must be decided in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. We must accept whatever the people of Kashmir decide.”
Mazhar Chugtai, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf suggested taking an initiative to educate the U.S. Administration about the situation in Kashmir. He said that the Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest issues pending on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. The Kashmiri people have suffered since the issue was first debated at the United Nations in 1948. The wishes of the Kashmiri people must be taken into consideration in seeking any settlement of the dispute.
Sardar Mohammad Zahid of New York urged the world community to put an end to the human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. He said that “millions of people on the streets of Srinagar demand nothing short of azadi. We must not let them down.”
A 10-year-old student Hashim Khan of Maryland said that the people of Jammu & Kashmir want azaadi (freedom). “Our message to the people of Kashmir is: Continue your peaceful struggle; freedom is ours; and don’t compromise on your basic principle of self-determination.”
Sardar Zulfiqar Khan, while moderating the seminar said that the situation in Kashmir demand that the world powers must strengthen the non-violent and indigenous movement in Kashmir.
Others who spoke at the seminar included Raja Liaqat Kayani; Sardar Zahoor Khan; Aurang Zeb Khan, MQM; Sardar Ishaq Sharif, JKLF; Zahid Hamidi; Arifullah; Sardar Ali; Asad Kamal.
The event was co-sponsored by Kashmiri American Council; Peoples Party of Pakistan, PaK; Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conferences; Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front; Jammu Kashmir Muslim League; Jama’at-e-Islami, PaK; and Jammu Kashmir Liberation League.