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Expressing Solidarity With The People Of Kashmir

13 March 2016

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

The Kashmir problem has remained insoluble for a long time. Several wars have been fought over the issue but they have only served to further aggravate the misery of the people of Kashmir. The United Nations as well as other international or regional organizations have not been able to find a solution to this problem despite the relentless efforts which have been made.

The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Several prominent leaders of the Pakistani community in Jeddah participated in the function. The speeches and poems recited at the event focused on the right of the Kashmiri people to the self-determination of their future in line with the agreements signed between the British authorities, the leaders of the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League at the time of partition of the subcontinent into two nations –India and Pakistan. The partition was based on the two-nation theory under which the Muslim majority regions would become part of the new nation of Pakistan while the Hindu-majority regions would remain part of India.

The princely states, which enjoyed autonomy, were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan after taking into account geographical and demographic considerations. Considering the fact that the majority of its people were Muslims, Kashmir was supposed to join Pakistan. However, the princely state was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu king. It was illogical and unjust for the king to exercise the right to take a decision on the fate of Kashmir without taking into consideration the will of the Kashmiri people. But he agreed to Kashmir's accession to India in contravention to the Independence Document and the Partition Plan, agreed by both sides as the basis for partition of the subcontinent.

This led to the first war between the two countries immediately after the partition, and subsequently there was intervention by the United Nations as a mediator to enforce a ceasefire and end the conflict. The United Nations passed a number of resolutions to hold a plebiscite so that the people of Kashmir could determine their own future but none of these resolutions have so far been implemented. The failure to hold a plebiscite has led to the further worsening of relations between the two countries, resulting in more wars. It was India, which suggested a plebiscite as a solution to end the crisis, but later it backtracked on this position.

India's main justification for not holding a plebiscite was the result of the elections held in Kashmir in which the National Conference, led by Sheikh Abdullah, who favored Kashmir's accession to India, was victorious. But this election, which foiled the UN-sponsored plebiscite, was not acceptable to the United Nations, Pakistan and the majority of the people in Kashmir. There will not be any stability in the region unless there is a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem in line with UN resolutions.

The speakers at the symposium called on the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other international bodies to redouble their efforts to find a solution to this problem in a way that guarantees the Kashmiri people their right to self-determination in line with international laws and UN resolutions.

The speakers at the symposium also dealt with the issue of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, who are languishing in squalid and overcrowded camps where they have been deprived of even the basic amenities of life for more than 44 years. These people are fighting against poverty, illiteracy and disease in their camps which are scattered all over the country. The stranded Pakistanis are living in extremely pathetic and destitute condition with the hope of being repatriated one day to Pakistan. However, the successive governments in Pakistan have failed to fulfill their promises with regard to their repatriation and rehabilitation in the country of their choice ever since the creation of Bangladesh. These people made great sacrifices to realize their dream of living in Pakistan, and later stood by the Pakistani army to safeguard the unity of Pakistan.

There were renewed hopes for them to be repatriated during the rule of President Zia-ul-Haq. The Zia government, in cooperation with the Makkah-based Muslim World League (Rabita), created the Rabita Endowment to solve this problem. Zia took over the presidency of the endowment, of which Prince Talal Bin Abdulaziz and other prominent Saudi and Pakistani figures were members. But the tragic death of Zia dashed all hopes of repatriation as successive governments showed no interest in the matter.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif exerted efforts to resolve this problem in his previous tenures as prime minister of Pakistan. He expressed his keenness and desire to enliven the endowment and took charge as its president. However, the coup staged by Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, resulted in halting the project. There have been renewed hopes of reactivating the MWL endowment for stranded Pakistanis with Sharif's return to power for the third time. It is hoped that Sharif will accomplish the mission that he embarked on earlier to find a permanent solution to the ordeal of more than a quarter of a million Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh.

It would be ideal if a proposal by PRC Convener Syed Ehsanul Haque was adopted. The proposal stipulates the repatriation and rehabilitation of the stranded Pakistanis under a self-financing scheme for the homes allotted to them. Leaving these people in such a pathetic condition is not only an injustice to them but it is also an affront to the very ideals upon which Pakistan was founded.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com

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