UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council and Kashmir

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Dr Syed Nazir Gilani

It was the duty of the Government of Azad Kashmir to seek action on recommendations made to the Human Rights Council, the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan

The world community is meeting at the two most important platforms in Geneva and New York. UN Human Rights Council is conducting its regular 51st session from September 12 till October 7, 2022. On September 8, United Nations General Assembly approved the appointment of Under-Secretary-General Volker Türk as the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. India and Pakistan are attending as members of the HRC. Nada Al- Nashif, UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave a Global Update on human rights to the Council on September 12, 2022.
World leaders are meeting in person at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly for the first time on September 20, 2022. The covid-19 pandemic led to most addresses being delivered by video. There is a concern in the media and various circles that the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, did not make any reference to the Human Rights situation in Kashmir in her update. Rightly so. But the concern is ill-placed.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has produced two exhaustive reports on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir in June 2018 and in July 2019. The 49 pages June 2018 report has made an important recommendation to the UN Human Rights Council, 17 recommendations to the Government of India and 7 recommendations to the Government of Pakistan. Similarly, the follow-up report by the OHCHR in July 2019 has made one recommendation to the Human Rights Council, 19 recommendations to the Government of India and 10 recommendations to the Government of Pakistan. In the absence of access on either side of the Line of Control (aka Ceasefire Line), these two reports used the “remote monitoring” provision as provided by UN GA resolution 48/141 for such situations. The two reports are based on information available in the public domain and the official documents and statements, such as Parliamentary questions, court orders, police reports and work of NGOs. Therefore, the Government of India could not challenge the merits of this evidence. The two reports have used a “reasonable grounds” standard of proof.
It was the duty of the Government of Azad Kashmir to follow up on these two very important reports and seek action on these recommendations, made to the Human Rights Council, the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan. Unfortunately, these reports were not discussed in the AJK Assembly, AJK Cabinet, schools, colleges and universities of Azad Kashmir or in the Press of AJK and the very vocal press of Pakistan. The government of Azad Kashmir has not been able to develop an independent and reliable institutional framework, as provided in the Karachi Agreement of April 1949, Act 1970 and Act 1974. It remains at a distance from its duties and obligations under the UN template on Kashmir as a de facto local authority.
The government of Azad Kashmir unjustifiably blames the Government of Pakistan and its institutions for overall control of advocacy on Kashmir. The government of Pakistan and its intra-disciplinary control of Kashmir has its share of the blame but it could not be blamed for “full” neglect. There is no bar on any Kashmiri Government, leader or civil society institution to advance work on the UN template on Kashmir.
The government of Pakistan at one point appointed Sardar Muhammad Abdul Qayyum as chairman of the National Kashmir Committee until his resignation in November 2002. Unfortunately, Governments in Azad Kashmir have never acted in the manner as required under the UN template as a de facto local authority and tried to nudge the Government at Srinagar designated as a de jure Government under the UN template and enquire from the Government of Pakistan on the progress made or work done on the share of duties accepted by the latter under the terms of Karachi Agreement of April 1949 and the UN template. Even after the Indian action of 5 August 2019, the Government of Azad Kashmir as a de facto local authority has not engaged with the people on the Indian side of the cease-fire line and has offered them no support so far. The people and the leaders on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir have challenged the Indian action of 5 August in the Supreme Court of India. There are around two dozen petitions. Even Retired Air vice Marshal Kapil Kak a Kashmiri Pandit has challenged the Indian actions in the Supreme Court.
The government of Azad Kashmir has resources and the freedom to access the world community. It is in a shared agreement with the Government of Pakistan to take the UN template to its local conclusion. United Nations, UN Human Rights Council, Commonwealth, European Union, OIC, African Union and the rest of the world could have been accessed, provided the Government of Azad Kashmir, had developed an institutional framework and linked itself with the UN template on Kashmir.
There is a difference between local self-serving optics and political tourism on Kashmir and serious work on the jurisprudence of UN Resolutions, that is, the UN template on Kashmir. There has been the death of a generation and the Hurriyat failed to connect its Constitution with the UN template on Kashmir. We have hurt the people, and the habitat and have turned away from those who are currently oppressed by around 900000 Indian security forces.
We have an opportunity to raise the voice of Kashmir at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. Pakistan is speaking at the 77th UN GA Session on the morning of 23 September and India on the morning of 24 September. We hope that Pakistan’s statement on Kashmir would not be a recycled routine reference until the next 78th session in 2023.
The presence of the Indian army and its violation of human rights is documented in the two OHCHR reports. It is time to tell the UN GA that the number has doubled since then and it stands at 900000 since August 5, 2019. Pakistan should rave courage and summon wisdom to speak exhaustively on the UN template on Kashmir. There should be a credible Kashmiri attendance at and on the sidelines of the 77th session.
The UN’s 193-member states will be provided with a platform and 15 to 20 minutes to address the international community. Pakistan could go for an exception to discuss Kashmir in full detail. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi famously addressed the UN GA for more than 90 minutes in 2009. I would propose that Pakistan keeps to the UN template on Kashmir and demands that India returns to her offer of keeping 21000 (twenty-one thousand) forces and that “this force will have no supporting arms such as armour or artillery”. The precedent condition of “disbandment and disarmament of the Azad Kashmir forces” has already been met. In addition, Pakistan should demand that the Indian security forces discipline themselves as provided in para 2 (c) of UN SC Resolution 47 of 21 April 1948.
The government of Pakistan should liaise with France and remind her of her proposal made at the UN SC the “Resolutions of 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949, to which we must always return because they won the express agreement of both India and Pakistan. If the parties are unable to reach agreement on the plan submitted to them, provision is made for arbitration, and, to make assurance doubly sure, arbitration is to be carried out by an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators appointed not by a political body but by the President of International Court of Justice.” Canadian proposal “to afford security to the people of Jammu and Kashmir” needs to be looked at. The present PDM Government is represented by almost all political parties. There has to be no excuse or blame game.