Islamabad: This is the age of ‘law-fare’ in which international law is used as a tool to meet your strategic objectives and promote national narratives while Pakistan lags behind in this field to fight the case of Kashmir and other disputed territories like Junagadh and Manawadar, said Ahmer Bilal Soofi, chairperson, United Nations Human Rights Expert Advisory Committee, and former federal law minister.
He was addressing a seminar titled “Developments in Kashmir: Dynamics and the Way Forward” at Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad, here on Tuesday.
The seminar, chaired by Ambassador (retd) Ayaz Wazir, was also addressed by Ghulam Muhammad Safi, convener, Tehreek-e-Huriyyat, Kashmir and representative of Syed Ali Geelani, Dr Muhammad Khan, professor of international relations, Khalid Rahman, director general, IPS, and Awais bin Wasi, Kashmir analyst.
The speakers urged the world community to take notice of the recent and continuous violations of international humanitarian law by Indian forces in Kashmir.
They underscored the need for increased meaningful advocacy efforts for the cause of Kashmir in the international arena and criticized India for misguiding the world, through what they described as ‘political fraud’, to believe that Kashmir was either an integral part of India or a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan.
Soofi, the main speaker, pointed out that under all definitions of international law India is an occupying force in Kashmir, which can neither make any demographic changes in the territory nor allow any third party to acquire land in it – referring to the Amarnath Trust land transfer dispute which triggered the revival of the freedom movement in Kashmir in the recent years. This aspect is also governed in the constitution of India, through its Article 370, which does not allow the Indian occupation to carry out such an action, due to the special status it gives to the state of Jammur & Kashmir, he said.
“It is the constitution and law of the adversary which makes your case”, he remarked.
Discussing the current situation in Kashmir and the arbitrary use of force against unarmed civilians, especially the use of pellet guns, he stated, “it is not just an issue of human rights violation, rather an issue of the violation of international humanitarian law as under the Fourth Geneva Convention the acts of Indian forces in Kashmir are tantamount to war crimes”.
Soofi urged the Kashmir leadership and the government of Pakistan to fight the case of Kashmir in the international forums on the basis of legal arguments. He was of the view that the space Pakistan achieved in the early years on this issue was due to the legal narrative presented in the UN by its foreign minister Sir Zafrullah Khan.
“For us, Kashmir is an emotional issue, but more than that it is essentially a legal issue,” he observed.
Elaborating his argument he further said that it was unique in the case of Kashmir that the movement for the right to self-determination was coinciding with a territorial dispute, which makes the legal case stronger.
He also lamented that in the international academic arena the legal research and narratives on Kashmir issue were influenced by Indian perspective and in the current scenario there was, what he called, a shocking omission of legal work on Kashmir on the part of Pakistan. He called upon the government to fund ‘chairs’ on Kashmir in leading international law schools.
The seminar was attended by a large number of researchers, members of the civil society, journalists, diplomats and students.