Minister says FO let down Kashmiris

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Saturday expressed her disappointment over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “letting down the Kashmiris and (Prime Minister) Imran Khan” by not taking his nuanced narrative forward and merely resorting to traditional diplomacy.

The rare criticism of the Foreign Office (FO) came from the minister while speaking as chief guest at a paintings exhibition titled “Kashmir Through Art” organised by Islamabad Youth Forum for Kashmir to highlight the plight of people in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during lockdown through creative and high-quality artwork.

Holding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for the country’s failure so far in internationalising the Kashmir issue in an effective manner, Dr Mazari regretted that the FO was still following ‘obsolete and uni-dimensional’ approach towards the Kashmir issue that according to her would not work in the present age of modern technology and social media.

She, however, lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts for putting the Kashmir cause on the global platform and for changing the narrative on Kashmir, “which was appreciated worldwide and (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s shameless tactics against human rights were also highlighted”.

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

Ms Mazari emphasised that Pakistan needed to take this narrative forward to help the Kashmiris reach their goal of self-determination but for this, she noted, Pakistan needed to go beyond traditional diplomatic tacts and highlight the Kashmir cause globally through culture, music and poetry.

According to her, in this age of modern technology and social media platforms, merely making a speech once in a while was not enough.

Read: Only common sense and a recognition of reality can help break the Pak-India deadlock

“We need an agenda and policy at multidimensional levels to underscore the misery of the Kashmiris,” she said.

Ms Mazari quoted the example of mass rapes by the Indian army in 1991 in two villages in Kashmir and asked “how many diplomats since 1991 have highlighted this incident to show the atrocities committed by the Indian army on the besieged Kashmiris?”

“Why did the Foreign Office not approach other international organisations and women’s rights organisations fighting for women’s rights to unveil these brutalities,” she regretted.

She disclosed that her ministry had sent letters to 18 special rapporteurs highlighting the brutalities of the Indian army in IOK, “but there was no follow-up by the Foreign Office”.

She said her ministry had also written a letter to the UN special rapporteur, seeking establishing of a humanitarian corridor for supply of food and medicines along the lines of Syria. The minister said she had requested Pakistan’s ambassador at the United Nations to follow up, “but this did not happen. Our diplomats just make speeches at different forums and there is no sense of urgency while Kashmiris are dying every day”, the federal minister observed.

“We repeatedly see a statement that we support the Kashmiris politically, morally and diplomatically and that’s all,” she said. She was of the opinion that the diplomats needed to focus on civil society and other organisations to highlight the Kashmir issue.

She said the Kashmir issue had not got attention like the Palestine issue because of the lack of focus on civil society organisations.

Read: Widening the Kashmir debate

She highlighted the need to introduce diversity and richness of culture into Kashmiri activism as an intrinsic part of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

She said there was a need to promote “culture of resistance” to highlight the Kashmir issue at international level, adding “We need to identify new tools of diplomacy and get rid of old and traditional means”.

She said the prime minister had single-handedly highlighted the Kashmir issue. “Had our FO and those institutions who make policies on Kashmir taken it up further, today situation would have changed. The world has taken notice until now,” she said.

“We are so much afraid that we are not pressing for investigations into human rights violations at the UN Human Rights Commission,” she regretted.

The minister said once Benazir Bhutto attempted to bring a resolution on Kashmir in the UN HR council but the efforts failed. Since then, she said, “our diplomats are so much psychologically under pressure that they are not even making an attempt to do it”.

Even Burkina Faso succeeded in bringing a resolution against the US. “Has Burkina Faso got more diplomatic clout than Pakistan?”

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2020