The recent ruthless killing of Burhan Wani, a separatist leader in Indian held Kashmir, has unleashed an indigenous uprising in Kashmir, led by Kashmiri youth. India’s attempt to gag Kashmiris’ slogans for independence through pellets instead of talks with Kashmiris’ leadership has brought Kashmir into the limelight in a more emphatic manner, and has uncovered the real face of India under the veneer of biggest democracy. In the face of the current uprising in Kashmir, like past, the arch rivals in subcontinent, Pakistan and India, have started hurling allegations at each other for what has been going on in Indian held Kashmir. India claims that Kashmir is its integral part and Pakistan has been backing the uprising in Kashmir through proxy groups, which have been declared internationally terrorist organizations, without going for a soul searching with respect to its so far controlling of Kashmir through hawkish means. Pakistan, on the other hand, like past, tries to convince the world that Kashmir is a disputed territory and world should heed into the promise made to Kashmiris of conducting plebiscite in Kashmir by India in the face of gross human rights violations taking place in Kashmir.
Each time, if there is a discord over an issue, instead of listening to each other and failing to isolate each other diplomatically because of geopolitical significance, both neighbors start meaningless war mongering. While being nuclear states, they cannot wage war which is crystal clear to both, so they have now started to weaken each other through non-military means like India’s refusal of attending The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and threatening to revoke Indus Water treaty. In this regard, India is leading. The current spat is though déjà vu, but Pakistan needs to capitalize on it through revamping its narrative vis-à-vis Kashmir so that it can sell the narrative to the world at large and can help Kashmiris in real terms to get them their right of self-determination. The revamped narrative does not need to be dictated by media buzzing or jingoism being resonated in civilian and military corridors at present rather the narrative needs to be formulated in the universities by conducting conferences on its various facets before the informed lot in academia.
In this regard, credit goes to Department of Political Science in University of the Punjab which organized a national conference entitled “Indian atrocities in Kashmir: Global and Regional implications” last week. In the conference, all those in academia, who had researched Kashmir issue from different angles, read their papers before the students and teachers of various universities, and suggested various solutions through which Pakistan and India can sort out Kashmir issue. They highlighted regional and political implications of Kashmir conflict and Indian atrocities from various aspects in Kashmir. They also highlighted legal and political means through which Pakistan can advocate for Kashmir internationally. The conference had the likes of Professor Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Director School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Dr. Rasul Bukhsh Rais, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Professor Dr. A.Z.Halali, Chairman Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, Professor Dr. Umbreen Javaid, Chairperson Department of Political Science, University of the Punjab, Lahore and Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi, Professor Emeritus, University of the Punjab, Lahore. Besides, there were many others from different universities who contributed to the conference through their researched papers and insightful lectures.
What was fascinating about the conference was that Kashmir issue was being highlighted through an inclusive picture. There were some panelists from army who tried to paint the issue with jingoism, but then there were some sessions in the conference where all the flawed policies on the part of Pakistan were discussed quite critically and ways were suggested to Pakistan for how to deal with the issue at hand. The conference had some participants from Indian held Kashmir, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Balthistan, which also constitutes Kashmir, and thus a holistic image was constructed in almost everybody’s mind about what was happening in Kashmir. The whole discourse dispensed at the conference was rational and was devoid of rhetoric and jingoism which is normally evident in the dissemination of information with respect to the issue in media. Moreover, students’ participation in the conference from almost all over Pakistan, as the university is home to students from every nook and corner of Pakistan, with their thought provoking questions added a new flair to conference and made it quite enriching experience for all attendees.
The conference would have been all encompassing, had those at Kashmir Committee led by Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman attended it. According to the conference organizers, personal secretary to the JUI-F was constantly contacted in this regard; however, all their requests were slapped with indifference which shows the utter nonchalance of the part of the part of those at the helm towards the issue at large and public exclusively.
In the face of growing belligerence on the part of India, thanks to Modi’s pandering to Hindutva, changing geo-political context in which India is the new darling of the West being adored to counter China and Pakistan being labeled as terrorism sponsoring state by world at large and India in particular, Pakistan needs to revamp its narrative over Kashmir that takes into consideration all those points that deals with how it needs to put its house in order first and then make a set of those points that it can pitch in its case against India at global level; case in point is getting rid of proxy groups in Kashmir so that the struggle there remains indigenous and invoking principles of human rights violations in United Nations human rights charter by outreaching to liberals globally. The best places to revamp Kashmir narrative are universities. The step taken by University of the Punjab is a step in the right direction and other universities should copy the suit.
The writer is an MPhil student at department of International Relations in University of the Punjab, Lahore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org