World Kashmir Awareness Forum (WKAF) organized a brainstorming session on Kashmir entitled “Kashmir: What next.” The session was designed to identify the areas which need to be of immediate focus for highlighting the human rights situation in Indian occupied Kashmir. The participants analyzed the situation in and resolved to mobilize the public opinion in Washington as well as at United Nations, both in New York and in Geneva. A committee was established to organize two events in nearest future: one on August 5 to commemorate the day when India abrogated Article 370 and 35A, and second to organize a peaceful rally in New York in September during the UN General Assembly.
The event began with the recitation of Al-Quran by Javaid Kousar, one of the prominent journalists of Washington metropolitan Pakistani community.
Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President, WKAF gave a brief introduction to the establishment, mission, and vision of the organization in the diaspora based in Washington DC. Emphasizing the role of diaspora in highlighting and bringing in focus the gross human rights abuse and denial of the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir.
Dr. Mir added that WKAF is in the process of gathering resources and momentum to confront the occupation and atrocities in Kashmir. We are in the process of organizing the diaspora to reach out to the US communities and our elected representatives. We will continue to build alliances and forge solidarity with like-minded groups and communities around the world until Kashmiris achieve their goal – right to self-determination.
Dr. Pir Syed Ali Raza Bukhari, a parliamentarian from Azad Kashmir and Chairman, International Sufi Peace Forum and the Chief Guest emphasized that the peaceful resolution of longstanding Kashmir dispute will guarantee durable peace and stability in the region of South Asia. It will also pave the way for economic development of these nuclear countries who are spending billions of dollars on defense. The people of India and Pakistan need healthcare, education, clean water which is only possible once you create an atmosphere of peace by giving the people of Jammu & Kashmir right to self-determination.
The issue of Kashmir is basic human rights issue, it is also the issue of right of self-determination which was pledged to the people of Kashmir by an agency no less important that the United Nations. Therefore, we must knock the doors of all world forums as well as the United Nations to urge them to fulfill their pledge and come out of their slumber, Dr. Pir Ali Bukhari added.
Abdul Shakoor, President, Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan & Assistant Secretary General, Istanbul-based, “Union of NGO’s of Islamic World (UNIW)” was the guest of honor. Al-Khidmat Foundation is dedicated to humanitarian services since 1990. Its workers and volunteers continue to work tirelessly for the relief of affected people not only in Pakistan but beyond. The services of Al-Khidamt include disaster management, health services, education, orphan care, clean water, Mawakhat (interest-free loan) and other community services. The UNIW as of today, with 354 members from 65 countries in 6 continents, is an NGO umbrella organization that continues to work towards the establishment of sustainable relations between NGOs in the Islamic geography.
Abdul Shakoor added that Kashmiri Americans are positioned at one of the most important capitals of the world – Washington, DC. The youth and students must be motivated to volunteer in various activities of WKAF, be it social media, organizing seminars, symposium, lectures on university campuses and elsewhere. The material published by WKAF needs to be translated in various language, including Arabic and French. Various NGO’s need to be approached to seek their understanding to allocate funds for the meritorious students of Indian occupied Kashmir.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General of WKAF said that the most important and poignant aspect of the situation in Kashmir is uncertainty, unpredictability, and anxiety of unknown. Thousands have been brutally killed or cling to life in hospitals, in jails, in secret torture cells. These Kashmiris are victims of a reign of terror by India’s 900,000 strong military and paramilitary forces. Yet, despite a faint murmur of protest in international circles and an occasional repot in the world press, India has felt no pressure whatsoever to desist from its semi-genocidal campaign.
Dr. Fai drew the attention of the audience to the statement made by President Biden on July 15, 2022, in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, “I said, very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” Biden continued. “I’ll always stand up for our values.” Does President Biden also means Kashmir, Fai asked.
Dr. Imtiaz Khan, Professor at George Washington Medical Center said: The atrocities committed by alien and occupation army in Indian occupied Kashmir are continuing in an unabated manner. Government of India is implementing their nefarious plan which encompasses, land grab, massacre of innocent civilians and deprivation of livelihood to the local population. With total impunity occupation forces enter homes and find flimsy excuses to target youth, demolish properties, confiscate valuables, and molest woman folk.
The fascist Indian regime will not dissuade from their iniquitous activities unless international community will hold them accountable. Verbal repudiation and cosmetic statements have failed to yield results in the past and will do no good in the future. Only severe sanctions like trade restrictions and economic blockade will be effective in persuading India to come to negotiating table so that this protracted problem which is endangering world peace can be resolved, Dr. Fai emphasized.
Imam Naeem Baig, Co-Chair, “National Muslim-Christian Initiative” said that “In the US we have got some interfaith groups that are taking very active role in social justice causes and are striving to end racial and economic discrimination. There are interfaith groups that care for human rights and religious freedom here in the US and also in the world. We must reach out to such interfaith groups and seek their support for the people of Kashmir who are prohibited from offering their prayers in the Mosques. This is a religious freedom issue.
Imam Naeem Baig added that there is a long history of human rights abuses in the Indian occupied Kashmir. When people are forced to stay in their homes and are not allowed to go to their businesses, schools, or places of worship by the occupying forces so what hope is left for them to live. The world has abandoned them. We must engage the American interfaith organizations and seek their support for human rights and religious freedom of the people of Kashmir”
Muhmmad Ijaz Noori, Chairman, Pakistan Council for Social Welfare & Human Rights (PCSW&HR) said that PCSW started off with the aim to work for the human rights, inter-religious harmony, justice, and sustainable peace in the Pakistani and beyond.
The Council visualizes, Noori said, a society with justice, equality durable peace, universal brotherhood, free of poverty, violence, equal opportunities for social and economic empowerment to all citizens. Protection of child rights, human rights, and Minority rights in Pakistan without any prejudice or bias to color, creed, religion or caste. He said that Council is accredited with Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and will be available at all international forums including the United Nations to provide platform for the cause of the people of Jammu Kashmir.
Syed Akram Shah Sahib, Former Secretary Law, AJK Government gave the brief account of the role of AJK government in mobilizing the global public opinion. He emphasized that Kashmir cause needs professionals and specialists with diplomatic expertise which is lacking in our approach. The people of Indian occupied Kashmir have given unprecedented sacrifices, and our responsibility is not to let them down.
Syed Akram Shah narrated the experience of his journey to the Valley of Kashmir when Srinagar-Muzaffarbad bus service was launched in 2005. The residents of Srinagar opened the doors of their house, and the shopkeepers never accepted money and gifted to me any item which I wanted to purchase. This was the genuine love and affection which was shown to me by my compatriots. I will never forget those golden moments, Akram Shah added.
Sardar Zarif Khan, main Emcee thanked the participants for their willingness to be the part of this important discussion on Kashmir. He urged everybody to be the part of August 5th event and the rally that will be organized in New York in September 2022.
Others who attend the event included: Raja Liaqat Kayani, Malik Hamid; Shafiq Shah, Arshad Choudhary; Farid Khan Sherwani; Arshad Bukhari, Quratul Ain Shafiq; Semab Shafiq; Mansoor Ahmed and others.