Today, millions of Pakistanis all over the world are celebrating the 71st Independence Day of Pakistan. This day marks the culmination of a long and arduous democratic struggle by millions of Muslims of the subcontinent for the exercise of their right to self-determination.
Rising from the ashes of the colonial rule on 14 August 1947, the nascent State of Pakistan was confronted with numerous challenges at its inception.
A century-long colonial rule had taken a massive toll on the social, economic and political fabric of the entire South Asian region – reducing one of the richest lands in the world to a state of abject impoverishment. The region now constituting Pakistan, unfortunately, lagged well-behind the rest of South Asia in terms of industrialization, economic opportunities and literacy owing to a deliberate policy of marginalization stemming from colonial paranoia against a certain faith.
These structural and historical challenges were exacerbated in 1947 with the influx of millions of refugees needing immediate shelter, sustenance and support. Hundreds of thousands never made it to the land of their dreams – falling prey to intercommunal violence. State structure and institutions, as well as administrative resources, were nonexistent.
Yet, the resolve of people of the independent Pakistan against all these odds was indomitable. The Mauhajereen (refugees) found Insars (hosts); those who had lost their loved ones, found new families in their adopted cities, and neighborhoods; and state structures were virtually established from scratch.
Today, Pakistan is a thriving nation of over 210 million people and an important member of the international community.
The South Asian region occupies a central role in the international geopolitical arena. Sadly, the people of the region could have achieved much more had some of the long-standing regional disputes been resolved in accordance with international law, and the just aspirations of the people.
The founding father of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader), Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his foresight and wisdom, knew fully well that the daunting challenges being faced by the newly independent state could not be overcome unless there was peace in the broader region.
Speaking on 15 August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam called for "Peace within and peace without," an ideal that resonates with the vision of another great statesman and visionary of the 20th century, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who believed in "Peace at home, peace in the world."
Offering a hand of friendship and goodwill to all, Quaid-e-Azam declared:
"We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large."
Alas, this vision for a peaceful and prosperous region became victim of yet another colonial hubris in 1947 with the occupation of the Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir by India. The occupation of a land and people enjoying common religious, social, cultural and economic bonds with Pakistan for centuries was not only a fundamental blow to the inalienable right to self-determination of the Kashmiris, but also formed the basis of a dispute that continues to cast its shadow over millions of people in South Asia.
In face of local resistance, when India itself took the matter to the United Nations in 1948, the United Nations Security Council through its successive resolutions declared that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir would be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.
Sadly, the Indian response was to turn a deaf ear to all norms of international law and instead drag the entire region to the precipice of conflict and instability. The story of the past seven decades of Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir could be related in a bloodied anthology of unending curfews, house arrests, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and sexual assault, collective punishments, use of pellet guns and mass graves, that continue to this day.
Today, Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most militarized regions in the world – emblematic of the paranoia of the occupying power that erroneously believes that nothing but sheer force can keep the just struggle of the Kashmiri people in check.
While there are countless records of gross violations of human rights and rampant impunity in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published on 14 June 2018 gives a clear glimpse into the lives of the Kashmiris under Indian occupation. Merely covering the tip of the iceberg, the report gives harrowing details of the atrocities being committed against Kashmiris on a daily basis. Above all, the report calls for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry for independent investigation into these human rights violations.
The U.N. report's findings and recommendations are consistent with the report of the Fact-finding Mission of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC).
This month of August, in which freedom and equality was promised to millions of people in South Asia seven decades ago, should be a moment for reflection and introspection. The legacy of colonialism has no place in today's world. The atrocities in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir must end forthwith. And consistent with the relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions, the final disposition of Jammu and Kashmir must be carried out in accordance with the will of the Kashmiri people, by allowing them right to self-determination – thereby ending one of the longest global disputes on the agenda of the U.N.
This would not only be fulfillment of the moral and ethical responsibility towards the Kashmiris but would also lay the foundations for lasting peace and prosperity in South Asia.
*Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Turkey