Washington, DC: An impressive and jam-packed event of friends of Kashmir was held in Northern Virginia to express their solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, the Chairman of the event, said the resolution of the Kashmir dispute would guarantee peace and security in the region of South Asia. He quoted Jonathan Tipperman who had said, ‘The road to Kabul runs through Kashmir.”
Fai questioned the statement of India’s foreign ministry spokesman who said on February 7, 2015 that "the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is and will always remain an integral part of the Indian Union.” Fai said that the statement goes against the very foundation of the international agreements which were negotiated by the United Nations and accepted by both India and Pakistan. Under these resolutions, Kashmir is a disputed territory and does not belong to any member country of the United Nations. So, the claim that Kashmir was an integral part of India does not stand.
Fai appealed to Professor Christoff Heynes of South Africa, ‘the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions,’ to persuade the Government of India to return the mortal remains of Mohammad Maqbool Butt and Mohammad Afzal Guru to their respective families as it has been documented that the trial was not fair. Shashi kumar Velath, program director, Amnesty International India, said, "He (Guru) did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage. These concerns were not addressed."
Azad Kashmir Minister, Raja Faisal Rathore, gave a very emotional speech. He discounted any hope that the Kashmir dispute could be settled through bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. The leadership of the people of Kashmir is an essential element whose inclusion will pave the way for setting a stage for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Faisal further said that the United States has paved the way for freedom around the world and the United States can help the people of Kashmir achieve their dream – the right of self-determination.
Faisal emphasized that we must respect the sanctity of the Kashmir cause whose legality has been recognized by the United Nations. He reiterated that India and Pakistan both being nuclear-weapon states make the Kashmir dispute potentially the most dangerous in the world. It is therefore in the interest of the US to prevent this dispute from exploding into a conflict which can be catastrophic for a large proportion of the human race.
Faisal said that Pakistan as a party to the dispute has a greater responsibility to galvanize the support of the international community to help settle the Kashmir dispute. The international community should not ignore the Kashmiri perspective which is more important than the perspective of India or Pakistan, Faisal added. But unfortunately, the international community has maintained silence at the unending atrocities perpetrated on the innocent people of Kashmir. It is beyond any doubt that there would be no peace in Afghanistan until there is a solution of the Kashmir conflict. The road to peace in Afghanistan goes through Kashmir.
Mr Murtaza Durrani, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir and the special guest, said that the sacrifices of the people of Kashmir demand that the Government and people of Pakistan, irrespective of their political affiliations, must support the people of Kashmir at the diplomatic front. He said there is no doubt that the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir is a legitimate right which needs to be supported at all costs.
Durrani appealed to President Obama to remember what he said on October 30, 2008 that “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis.” He also urged the United States to respond to the plight of the Kashmiri people who have been suffering for the last 68 years. He said that Pakistani and Kashmiri American community could do better in seeking the understanding of the United States to help settle the Kashmir issue.
Durrani insisted that the Modi Administration should respond positively to Pakistan’s willingness for a peaceful settlement of all issues, including the Kashmir dispute. He added that Kashmiris are the real sufferers and unless they are taken on board no such process can make any headway. The trade between India and Pakistan will not bring peace to the region but the resolution of Kashmir will, Durrani added.
Senator Dr. Akbar Khawja said that the Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest issues pending on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. The United Nations resolutions need to be implemented and the people of Jammu & Kashmir should be associated with the peace process. He emphasized that no solution would be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir unless they are the part of the negotiations.
Mr Javid Rathore, leader of Kashmiri American community from Chicago, highlighted the contribution of Mohtarma Benazir Sahiba in internationalizing the cause of Kashmir. He said leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party should invest in materializing the dream of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – the freedom of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Javid demanded that the Government of India must release all political prisoners and repeal all black laws. A suppression of the freedom of opinion and assembly means empowering terroristic elements.
Sardar Zarif Khan said that there must be an early durable resolution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. He said that the people of Occupied Kashmir should never feel alone in their struggle. The people and leadership of Azad Kashmir stand by them.
Sardar Zubair Khan spoke about the huge sacrifices given by the people of Kashmir in seeking their birth right of self-determination. He stated that we must work to build awareness of the situation in Kashmir by redoubling our outreach to activists for human rights and human dignity. He said that the people of Kashmir should remember that their sacrifices will not go in vain.
Sardar Gulfaraz Inqilabi explained that the presence of 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces has made Kashmir the largest army concentration anywhere in the world. He said that the United States should use its moral authority to urge both India and Pakistan to initiate a peace process along with the Kashmiri leadership. He said that there is an urgency of American intervention because of the importance of South Asia to the future of the United States not only in light of the dangerous ongoing nuclear and missile proliferation in the area but also to guarantee peace and stability of the region after the withdrawal of the United States troops from Afghanistan.
Mr Hamid Malik said that it is our moral obligation to help our brethren in Jammu & Kashmir. He reiterated that it is only fair that the Kashmir dispute be decided in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. The world community must accept whatever the people of Kashmir decide.
Johnny Bgood suggested that we must educate the American policy makers about the ground realities in Kashmir. We need to seek the understanding of our Congressmen to help resolve the dispute according to the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Johnny suggested to take an initiative to educate the US Administration about the situation in Kashmir.
Dr Haroon of AAPNA said that Kashmir conflict remains the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Without resolving the Kashmir dispute, trying to reduce missile and nuclear arsenals in South Asia will be an exercise in futility.
Ms. Zouqia Aziz of Sangham group said that we look forward to continuing to work with the Kashmiri-American community. We know that the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri people is a genuine demand. We look forward to working with a broader coalition to support human rights in Kashmir, she added.
Imran Butt said that the United States should not abandon the cause of the people of Kashmir to the whims of India and Pakistan. The United States must intervene to facilitate any understanding between them to help resolve the Kashmir dispute.
Sardar Zulfiqar Khan, the MC of the event, said that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. Kashmir is a political issue and has to be resolved through political means. He further stated that talks must be held between India, Pakistan and leadership of the people of Kashmir;
Others who spoke included Mr Zahid Hamidi, Sardar Asghar Khan, Sardar Aftab Khan, Mr Anwar Iqbal, and others.
The event was jointly sponsored by Kashmiri American Council; Peoples Party of Pakistan, Azad Kashmir; Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conferences; Jammu Kashmir Peoples Party; Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front; Jammu Kashmir Muslim League; Jamaat-e-Islamic Azad Kashmir; Jammu Kashmir Liberation League; Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf; Pakistan Muslim League, N; Pakistan Peoples Party and Mutahid-a-Qaumi Movement of Pakistan.
Earlier the AJK delegation met with Congressman Tim Walberg and Congressman Robert Aderholt and apprised them of the situation in Kashmir. The delegation told the members of Congress that the people of Kashmir have high hopes that President Obama will impress upon both India and Pakistan to help settle the dispute. The members of Congress thanked the delegation for bringing the situation in Kashmir to their attention. They said that they were interested in getting updates about the situation there.