By Our Special Correspondent
A Kashmiri delegation from Azad Kashmir and Indian-occupied Kashmir has kicked off a public diplomacy campaign at the United Nations on the longest running dispute on Security Council’s agenda.
The new push coincides with a fresh activity on the part of the two principal parties to the dispute, Pakistan and India.
“We see a new activity and a new international interest in Kashmir after a period of dormancy over the last four or five years,” said Mr. Altaf Hussain Wani, a senior leader of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, or APHC, an umbrella organization that represents all Kashmiri political parties.
While discussing Kashmir, UN’s Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Professor Alfred de Zsyas, has lent his personal support for the revitalization of the role of self-determination as a principal means of settling international disputes. And Pakistan’s permanent envoy to the UN in New York said in February that the right to self-determination was ‘sacred’ to Kashmiris and that Islamabad will continue supporting it until it is realized.
Wani attributed the fresh interest to the fact that the war in Afghanistan is coming to an end and the growing realization in the world community that progress in Kashmir is crucial to stabilizing the entire region.
The harassment and hate crimes against Kashmiri students at Indian universities for rooting for Pakistani sports teams has drawn wide international attention and helped refocus interest in the Kashmir dispute.
Wani is leading a delegation of senior freedom leaders and activists representing the APHC, the Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR) and the Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK).
During an intervention on the sidelines of the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, Wani’s detailed description of the plight of the students who were thrown out of Indian education institutions drew a lot of interest.
The senior APHC leaders held meetings with diplomats from several countries, with a meeting with UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on torture Mr. Juan Mendez, and with officials from the Permanent Mission of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Geneva.
Senior APHC leader Ishtiaq Hameed and Ahmed Quraishi, Executive Director of Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK), met with Dr. Abdul Hameed Dashti, a Kuwait Member of Parliament and President of the Geneva-based International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights (ICSFT). Mr. Dashti listened intently to a short briefing on the situation on the ground in Kashmir and was especially interested in the case of 67 Kashmiri students expelled from an Indian university for rooting for Pakistan over India in a sporting event. Mr. Dashti later attended a panel discussion at Palais des Nations that was presided over by senior APHC leader Syed Faiz Ali Naqshbandi. The discussion was titled, ‘Right to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Movement’.
In addition to the president of the session, prominent Kashmir activist Sardar Amjad Yousaf Khan, Executive Director of Kashmir Institute of International Affairs, was part of a distinguished panel of speakers that included Ms. Lyda Verstegen, the UN-Geneva, representative of International Alliance of Women, Ms. Kodra Alhir, Executive Director, European Center for Human Development in Sweden, and Aicha Duihi, President of the Association Sakia Al- Hamra for the Defense of Human Rights.
The event was attended by representatives of organizations interested in the situation in Kashmir, Iraq, Syria, and the Sahara.
Amjad Yousaf told the audience that “Kashmiris do not want to live with the Indian constitution.” He linked the Arab Spring to the peaceful freedom movement in Kashmir, saying up to three million Kashmiris protested peacefully at one point at the center of Srinagar in 2010. This peaceful gathering posed a challenge to one of the largest occupation armies in the world.
He said the expulsion of Kashmiri students from an Indian university and the sedition charges against them for rooting for Pakistan in a sporting event exposed serious flaws in Indian democracy.