MUZAFFARABAD: Former AJK President Sardar Masood Khan has said Indian occupation forces and its hand-picked occupation authorities have been brutalizing the people of Jammu and Kashmir for decades that have left them the most traumatized people on earth.
In an interview with a foreign magazine, he said that since 1947 when India militarily occupied a large part of Muslim- majority region of Kashmir more than half a million people have been killed; roughly a million displaced; thousands of women raped; thousands blinded; and more than 14,000 rotting in prison houses and concentration camps.
Describing Indian obduracy as the biggest hurdle in the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute, Sardar Masood said that since 1947, the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Pakistan have been ready for a plebiscite for the determination of the will of the Kashmiri people in accordance with a dozen or so UN Security Council resolutions India has doggedly blocked the UN to arrange such a plebiscite.
“India first occupied part of the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, against the wishes of its people; and then it went in 1948 to the UN Security Council to get back the area liberated by Kashmiris, which now constitutes Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan”, he said.
The Kashmiri leader said when India failed to achieve its objective because the UN Security Council came up with a just formula of the referendum in Jammu and Kashmir under the supervision of the UN, India reneged on all its promises and began to scuttle the role of the UN under one pretext or the other and has been stalling a diplomatic process for the last seven decades.
When asked that Kashmir is divided not only between Pakistan and India, but also between China, why China is not mentioned in this conflict, ex AJK President said basically, there are three parties to the Kashmir dispute – Pakistan, India, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. And I would say that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the key party because they have to choose their political future.
He said that Aksai Chin, the part (of Kashmir) with China, is disputed by India because it maintains that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, including this part, is the Indian state. Kashmiris and Pakistan do not accept that stance, and China does not agree with India. A war was fought by India and China over this region in 1962, but the stalemate continues. There were clashes along the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) and a military standoff in 2020. This escalation was widely reported by the international media in the context of the Kashmir dispute.
Replying a question about the liberated part of Kashmir, and Gilgit Baltistan, which is now under the control of Pakistan, Mr. Khan said the area of Azad (Free) Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is 85,846 square kilometers, the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir nearly 101,338 km2 and Aksai Chin 38, 000 km2. The total area is slightly more than 225,000 km2. Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are not under the control of a “separate Pakistan army”, as you put it. Both regions have civilian governments headed by a president and a prime minister in Azad Kashmir; and a governor and a chief minister in Gilgit-Baltistan.
About the living standards, education, personal freedoms, economic and social development of the free Kashmir people, Masood said that in Azad Kashmir living standards are generally high, with high per capita income and the highest rate of literacy.
He said that there are five public sector universities imparting higher education in cutting-edge disciplines, including new technologies. In the recent past economic development has taken off with an emphasis on infrastructure development, hydropower generation, promotion of tourism, industrial growth, and innovation in the field of agriculture.
“At the same time, AJK is striving to improve human development indicators such universal health access, gender parity, and poverty alleviation. Civil liberties and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed. The media is free. Elections are held regularly to ensure continuity of the democratic process. Recently, free and fair elections were held which have ushered in a new government”, he maintained.
When asked to comment on the impression that there are certain international forces that are interested in keeping the problem unresolved, mainly India is responsible for the non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute. However, some powerful states in the Western bloc which consider India to be their strategic ally against China – are helping India maintain its occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. These very countries are vocal and active on human rights in Ukraine and other parts of the world but when their attention is drawn to the situation in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, they close their eyes and go silent.
“These are double standards haunting our global order. This duality in approach has not only emboldened Indian to maintain its control of a region that does not belong to it but to use brute force, with impunity, to silence the voices for freedom and self-determination,” Mr. Khan said