NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan will make a "policy statement" on Kashmir on Friday during his public address in Pakistan administered Kashmir’s capital Muzaffarabad.
Khan’s speech will be his second in the region in the space of a month. His first speech was to the Kashmir assembly on 14 August where he had vowed to become the voice of Kashmir and raise the issue at every global forum, including the United Nations, as he questioned the silence of the international community on the situation in the region.
Khan’s move is being seen as an effort to galvanise support internally and externally against India’s move last month to abrogate article 370 of the Indian constitution and integrate Jammu and Kashmir more closely with the rest of India. New Delhi also bifurcated the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. In doing so, India changed the framework of its dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute, with the Indian administered part of the disputed region now off the table for talks. The move was condemned by Pakistan and a livid Islamabad downgraded diplomatic ties with India and also cut off trade links.
Pakistan foreign office spokesman Mohammed Faisal on Thursday announced Khan’s visit to Muzzafarabad and added that Pakistan was ready for any third party mediation to resolve the Kashmir issue while claiming that the legality of the matter was based on international law.
The "Kashmir struggle is a process and not an event. We have taken some actions and more actions can follow," Faisal told reporters.
“Mediation offers (on Kashmir) are there but India is not ready. We are ready for it. Our considered view is that all problems can be solved through talks," he added.
In his address Khan is expected to reiterate his support for what Pakistan calls the “freedom struggle in Kashmir", but what India calls state sponsored terrorism.
Khan is also expected to highlight what Pakistan terms the “appalling" human rights situation in the region under so called “Indian occupation." Since the revocation of Article 370, Kashmir has been in a state of lockdown, with communication lines severed. According to government spokespeople, the restrictions are being gradually lifted with only 11 of the 199 police station areas currently under curbs. Electricity, water supply and essential commodities including medicines and medical facilities are readily available.
Khan on Friday can be expected to reiterate his pledge to raise the plight of Kashmiris at international for a, including the United Nations where he is expected to speak at the UN General Assembly session on 27 September.
Pakistan has already raised the matter at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week, with foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi having demanded a UN-mandated probe into the situation in Kashmir saying that “India’s draconian emergency laws cannot be allowed to stand."
He accused India of severing of communication links, putting the state under a lockdown, and arresting more than 6,000 political workers and activists without access to due processes of law.
“This barbarism is happening in the 21st century," Qureshi said, adding that it exposed the “true face of largest democracy in the world" which had aspirations of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
India had hit back saying, "Pakistan’s rhetoric will not distract international attention from Pakistan’s persecution and elimination of religious and ethnic minorities – be it the Christians, Sikhs, Shias, Ahmadiyas and Hindus. This is the reason that Pakistan no longer publishes official statistics about its minorities as India does."
On his return from the Geneva, Qureshi told reporters at Islamabad airport on Thursday that Pakistan would continue to raise the Kashmir issue at every international forum.
“The Kashmiri people are not alone in their just struggle for right to self-determination and Pakistan will continue to extend moral, political and diplomatic support to their Kashmiri brethren," he said.