Washington, DC – With an eye towards the United States, where Joe Biden has officially taken over as the President, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan recently stated at a public function in Kotli, in ‘so-called’ Azad Jammu and Kashmir, that the people of Kashmir could decide to remain independent even after they had acceded to Pakistan in a UN-sponsored plebiscite.
At a public meeting organized by the PTI, Imran Khan reportedly said that Pakistan’s stance that Kashmir dispute can only be resolved by implementing the plebiscite guaranteed in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and said: “Once the plebiscite is implemented and Kashmiris join Pakistan, their relationship will be between Pakistan and Kashmiris”. As usual, wishful thinking by Pakistan and its Prime Minister, desperate to gain the attention of the new US President Biden and India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister embattled at home politically and surrounded by problems of all sorts, had the temerity to make the twin claims (both falsely) of offering independence to the people of Kashmir and claiming that the plebiscite promise of 1948 remained unfulfilled.
Speaking at Kotli, (February 5, 2021) Imran Khan said: “The purpose of my visit is to remind the world that you had made a pledge to the Kashmiris in 1948 that they will decide their future status of their own free accord. That pledge still remains unfulfilled, whereas during the same period, East Timor, an island of the Muslim state of Indonesia with Christian population in majority, was given the same right, leading to its freedom.”
In the same breath, Pakistan’s Prime Minister added: “Secondly, I want to tell the Kashmiris on both sides of the divide that after you will decide in favour of Pakistan (in a plebiscite), you will be given a right by Pakistan to choose whether you want to remain as a part of Pakistan or as an independent nation… This will be your right.”
Ironically, on both counts, Imran Khan is wrong and needs to get his facts straight. Recall, that when the UN resolved in 1948 to try and get both sides to settle the Kashmir issue, the first step proposed was for Pakistan to withdraw its regular and irregular forces from the territory of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which acceded to India on 26 October 1947. This precondition was never fulfilled and therefore, the aggression initiated by Pakistan continued to be in place, making the conduct of a plebiscite in Kashmir impossible.
The UNCIP Resolutions of August 13, 1948 is relevant in this context. Part I of that Resolution called on Pakistan to withdraw its troops entirely from Kashmir and “use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the state of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein.” This never happened and therefore, conditions for restoration of “peace and normalcy” could never be restored, making any talk of plebiscite irrelevant.
On the issue of granting independence to the people of Kashmir after a plebiscite, PM Imran Khan needs to be aware that he cannot and will not grant independence to any part of Kashmir. For a reality check, one has to only look at the condition of people living in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) or so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
There is little freedom in these areas and the dream of independence can only be an excuse for the inability of the Pakistani state for having done nothing worthwhile in PoK since 1947. One should ask PM Khan whether he is willing to grant independence to the people of PoK, with or without a plebiscite? It is unlikely that the Pakistan Army will ever allow such an enterprise to take place. If it does happen, then Imran Khan’s days as PM are surely numbered.
At the same time, the reference to East Timor by PM Imran Khan is mischievous and misplaced and is a throwback to the attempts by Shireen Mazari (2019) to draw an unrealistic comparison between the issue of Kashmir and other such matters brought to the attention of the United Nations.
UN Resolutions were enforced in East Timor in 1999 leading to its independence from Indonesia, through a UN-conducted plebiscite.
As far back as the sixties, the UNGA had added “Timor and Dependence” to the list of non-self-governing territories to which the provisions of Chapter XI of the UN Charter apply. The International Court of Justice (1995) in its case concerning East Timor (Portugal v. Australia) noted in its ‘non-statement’ that East Timor remained a ‘non-self-governing territory’. It was this basic premise that led the UN to adopt six Security Council Resolutions between May 7 and October 25, 1999, followed by three other Resolutions which led to a UN sponsored “popular consultation” of the people of East Timor.
In 1974, Portugal the colonial power which held East Timor acknowledged the applicability of the UN Charter and its provisions regarding non-self-governing territories and the right of colonial territories under its administration, including East Timor to self-determination. Pertinently, the State of Jammu and Kashmir fully and irrevocably acceded to India in October 1947 and is an integral part of India. Pakistan being the aggressor in Kashmir and illegal occupier of territory must in fact take the first step of returning the occupied parts to India, prior to even talking about a plebiscite.
The Pakistani narrative on Kashmir is driven by the Pakistan Army and recent statements by CoAS Gen Qamar Bajwa and Imran Khan only reflect their growing inability to gain traction with India and the US. That is why Pakistani Prime Minister, speaking at Kotli, also chose to extend the olive branch to India, but by putting several unrealistic pre-conditions to the offer of dialogue. For instance, Imran Khan set down a precondition that the government of India should restore the pre-August 5, 2019 status of Jammu and Kashmir, before any meaningful dialogue could take place.
Meaningless conditions are being laid down for a proposed conversation that is unlikely to lead to anything. On the contrary, meaningful dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir in reality, requires Pakistan to vacate the occupied areas and stop promoting cross-border terrorism against India.
The only unfulfilled promise historically is that Pakistan did not withdraw from its illegal occupation of the territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and continues to be an occupier.