23 July 2018 - 03:34 PM
Pakistan Elections: Kashmir Largely Ignored In Manifestos
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It's been over 70 years since the India-Pakistan division, but Kashmir has continued to suffer the brunt of the bloody legacy which displaced millions of people at the time of the partition. 

An Indian police officer stands guard as a girl looks from a window in downtown Srinagar April 2, 2018.

The region replete with beauteous landscapes, once famously described as "paradise" by the early 16th century plunderers and rulers, the Mughals, is now one of the most militarized zones in the world and is at the heart of bloodshed and mass graves. 

The Partition

Acclaimed Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal has called the Partition "the central historical event in twentieth-century South Asia." 

"A defining moment that is neither beginning nor end, partition continues to influence how the peoples and states of postcolonial South Asia envisage their past, present, and future," Jalal wrote.  

The historic division which led to the formation of Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.   
In February, the Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Geelani, called on India to take measures to resolve the long-standing dispute. 

"It is evident that their (Indian Government) intention is to put the issue under the carpet, and for this purpose, they are resorting to blame-game against Pakistan,” Geelani said in a statement, according to The International News. 

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"The need of the hour is that India should shun its denial tactics and accept the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir and start parleys for addressing the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. But it is very sad and disheartening that vitiating situation between the two countries is increasing with every passing day," Geelani added.

"It is ridiculous and unwise to add fuel to the already vitiated situation, and God forbid if a war between the two breaks out the subcontinent can’t be saved from destruction and devastation." 

"Kashmir being a home to a 70-year old conflict, during which India and Pakistan have actually fought three wars against each other, will always be at the paramount importance. 

"History is witness that Governments, both in India and Pakistan have always politicked Kashmir issue for their selfish agendas and have always silenced calls for greater autonomy. I do believe that there has never been a time in either of the two countries that leadership were actually willing to resolve this contentious issue," Zafar Iqbal, a social activist from Lolab Valley, Kashmir, told teleSUR. 

On June 14, 2018,  the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018." 

This is the first such report on Jammu and Kashmir by the United Nations. It covers both India- and Pakistan-controlled areas of the former princely state. The Government of India has rejected the OHCHR report as “fallacious." 

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India's Ministry of External Affairs dismissed the report as overtly "prejudiced" and that it seeks to "build a false narrative." Further pointing out that the report violates India's sovereignty and integrity.  

In response to the UN report, India also rejected the UN High Commission’s reference to “Pakistan Administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan” as a separate entity as it continues to proclaim the narrative that "the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India" and that Pakistan "remains in illegal occupation of a part of our territory."

"The two cannot and should not be equated," Tapan Bose, an independent documentary filmmaker, human rights and peace activist, wrote in Mainstream Weekly. 

As Bose pointed out, the Indian government's response to the OHCHR report is problematic.  

"Supporters of the ruling BJP and the rightwing Hindu nationalist organizations have vociferously endorsed the Indian Government’s rejection of the report," the activist wrote. 

While the role of whether both countries should let the U.N. intervene in the peace process is a controversial one, the outright denial of the other side's existence is also unacceptable. 

Iqbal further pointed out that it is now for "everyone to see that Kashmir is on the brink of" explosion owing to its fragile situation, and with "the rise of Hindu extremists spooking down Muslims and other minorities in mainland India under Narendra Modi," things are getting "even worse." 

"It is important that people in Pakistan give chance to those who have plan for a composite dialogue – comprehensive negotiations to resolve all contentious bilateral issues, including Kashmir, give chance to those  who are  willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) to engage Kashmiris in the process and take full advantage of opportunities to enhance cross-LOC cooperation by identifying the most appropriate Kashmir-specific confidence-building measures," he added. 

How Voting Works for 'Kashmiris' in Pakistan 

Under Pakistan's Legislative Assembly, Kashmiri people are divided into sub-groups for voting purposes. 

Though deemed a persecuted people, the Kashmiri refugees living in several provinces of Pakistan fall under the State Subject Law of April 20, 1927, and are "entitled to vote, not only for the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan. After the 13th amendment was passed, they also vote for 12 seats in now a 53-member Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir," Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, wrote in the Daily Times, Pakistan.  

Pakistanis of Kashmiri origin who "left the State during the famine of 1832 and the epidemic of 1867 and settled in various parts of British India," in parts of Lahore and Amritsar are entitled to vote in the supervised referendum. However, the group is not recognized in the electoral college of Azad Kashmir. 

According to news sources, Kashmir, which is probably one of the most contentious and enduring topics, has found little mention in most of the political parties' election manifestos. 

Prime ministerial candidate Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), for instance, pushed for the "UN resolutions" approach to the "conflict resolution and the security route to cooperation is the most viable," the PTI's manifesto states.

Pakistan Peoples Party, in its manifesto, has pushed for a consultancy-oriented approach using jargon like "recommendations" and "truth and reconciliation" committee for Karachi.

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