Indo-Pak Affairs Letters Opinion

An Open letter to Barack Obama

To the Honourable Mr President,
President Barack Hussein Obama.

We wish you are in the best of health and high-spirits.

Mr. President, we are writing to you as a group of concerned American, foreign, and Pakistani students who would like to bring your attention to the world’s longest-standing flashpoint. It is our belief that a watershed has been reached where some common-sense needs to prevail in South Asia with regards to India-Pakistan relations. We recognize and appreciate some of the statements that you have made with regards to that but we urge you to accept with utmost seriousness that the Kashmir Dispute has lingered on for far too long. We ask you to offer the best of your offices to facilitate and mediate a speedy resolution to the disputed conflict of Jammu and Kashmir.

For over 60 years, the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been a source of intense bitterness and discord between India and Pakistan.

In 1947, after the Partition of the British colony of India, Kashmir’s Maharajah ceded to the Indian Union. However, the principle enshrined in the Partition of British India was that ascension was to be based on the notion of Muslim-majority provinces & princely states be given to Pakistan while Hindu-majority territories forming India.

There was also the Princely State of Hyderabad, a state with a Muslim Nawab and a Hindu majority. India’s armed forces annexed the Princely State of Hyderabad through the illegal use of Indian Armed Forces on the logic that Hyderabad was Hindu-majority even though the Nawab had expressed his intentions of joining Pakistan. Similar, was the fate of the Princely State of Junagardh.

On hearing the news of the Maharajah of Kashmir joining the Indian Union without the consent of the Kashmiri masses – an undemocratic move indeed – the populace of the state and adjoining areas revolted against the Maharajah. This meant Pakistan and India were juxtaposed for their first war that neither side had wanted. While for India this was tantamount to land grab, for Pakistan this was an attempt to defend its very rationale for existence as a state.

Mr. President, Resolution 47 of the United Nations Security Council, passed in 1948, stands as a source of truth and justice to resolve this dispute between India and Pakistan. This is in line with the long standing principle that has held the international system together since Westphalia – the right to self-determination.

India claims to be the world’s largest democracy, then why, we ask does it not adhere to the words of its own co-founding father, Jawaharlal Nehru who affirmed his faith in a free and fair plebiscite to let the Kashmiris decide their fate? Why, we ask, has the international community and more importantly America been silent to this gross violation of the ‘self-determination’ principle of International Relations?

Mr President, just like the founding fathers of the United States of America made innumerable sacrifices by raising voice against the tyranny of the monarchy and for exercising their right to self-determination, do the people of Kashmir not deserve that same unalienable right to rid themselves of a tyrannical rule that they have never accepted?

Mr. President, Pakistanis and Kashmiris are only seeking what is just and fair. The Pakistani state and people have been long-standing allies of the United States and its peoples. We joined forces with your nation to defeat the threat of Communism in Afghanistan. What did we receive in return? That humiliating Pressler Amendment which crippled our defence needs based on arbitrary, unilateral and comatose efforts by lobbyists.

Mr. President, we consider this our duty to point out to you that Pakistan did not introduce nuclear weapons to South Asia – our neighbour to the east did. Now we watch in deep horror as America gifts our eastern neighbour with nuclear technology and next generation reactors even though India has not ratified either the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. This is a clear break from tradition when America believed in the power of treaty and customary laws.

Such provisions also challenge the America’s long standing position of being ‘fair’ to both nuclear states in the subcontinent. However, now Pakistan is being denied this fairness and just treatment while we carry the tag of a ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’.

Mr. President, coming to the War on Terror, how many Americans are aware that 8000 Pakistani civilians have lost their lives last year as a result of terrorist attacks? Do the think-tanks that churn out anti-Pakistan rhetoric not see the price being paid by Pakistan or are they oblivious to glaring hard realities?
Pakistan has become the frontline state in the War on Terror yet we receive a paltry amount of development aid and security aid that is not enough to tackle a hardened Taliban insurgency and growing economic crisis that the world financial crisis has triggered. Pakistan lacks duty-free access to American and European markets. Such provisions would allow for economic liberty to emerge with a new dynamic in our country and hence reduce the threat posed by extremism. We point these issues out to open some eyes in Washington to the dynamics which are plaguing South Asia and converging into a mega issue which can cause rapid destabilization of the region while spirally in to a major international crisis.

Respected Sir, you may not be aware, but India has defaulted on it’s pledge to the world community, to Pakistan, to the People of Kashmir, and to human conscience; for it has failed to carry the plebiscite which it had agreed to under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 47.

Sir, are you aware of what really is happening in Kashmir? Mr. President, 100,000 civilians have been killed in conflict which began in the early 1990’s as a result of a heavy Indian military presence and their brutal methods in the occupied state. The Indian mainland has actively engaged in attempts to alter the natural demographics of the Kashmir Valley. Over 50,000 Kashmiri Hindus have fled the valley, as a result of increased communal tensions due to India’s denial of a plebiscite – communal violence that plagues India proper as well. This is not of Pakistan’s doing, but India’s failure; for this adamant daughter of a once wise civilization denies Kashmir her democratic rights.

This past summer of 2008, Kashmiri separatists eschewed violence in favour for peaceful non-violent protests. Hundreds and thousands of Kashmiris, upwards of half a million poured out on to the streets to protest Indian rule. The result? Indian security forces gunned down 70 unarmed protestors in broad daylight. For the past 60 years, India’s Independence Day is marked as a ‘Black Day’ by Kashmiris as they hoist black flags in defiance to illegal Indian rule. One only needs look in to reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to discover the plethora of evidence of Indian atrocities, not to forget the discovery of thousands of unmarked mass graves in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

India also continues to plan and build mega-dam projects that are a blatant violation of the standards laid down by the Indus River Water Treaty between itself and Pakistan. This has resulted in Pakistan’s two most important rivers, The Chenab and the Ravi, being choked as India illegally tampers with the water topography of Kashmir. This has started to pose acute problems and threatens the very existence of Pakistan’s agriculture-based economy. It also threatens two of Pakistan’s provinces with acute water shortages, with adverse effects on crops and the Pakistani people. This also affects Pakistan’s hydroelectricity generation capacity – already plagued by acute energy crisis – further damaging our capacity to ensure economic liberty and the prospect of upward social mobility. Does the United States not see these violations?

Mr. President, we want the People of Pakistan and the People of Kashmir – whether the latter chooses independence or union with Pakistan – to have every right to exercise their aspirations whether that is to live with human dignity and/or the right to upward social mobility. The current conflict has taken a heavy toll on the Pakistani masses while also has resulted in unimaginable suffering for the Kashmiri masses. We can forgive those who have been afraid of dark in the past and have not embraced rationality, but we cannot forgive those who are afraid to accept the light. The light, Mr. President, is democracy. This has two loose ends that will have to be tied up. America has to give up its love affair with dictatorships in Pakistan and Kashmir has to be entitled to a democratic exercise to determine its own destiny. Freedom beckons for Kashmir as Kashmir bleeds under the yoke of a million-strong illegal Indian military occupation. You alluded to Iran unclenching its fist, but what about India unclenching not just its fist but unloading that shotgun it has placed on the heart of Kashmir?

We ask upon you to fix this historic injustice and to allow the people of Kashmir to exercise their unalienable right to self-determination and democratic exercise to choose their own destiny, whether it be with India, Pakistan, or as a free nation-state in the comity of Nations – such as Kosovo has done. Sir, you are in a position to act. Mr. President, prove to us the merit of playing by the rules and set a strong precedent that the international system can work for the weak as well and not just the strong. Because sooner or later, if the prospect is not shown to the masses that the international system supports justice and not just profits, then playing by the rules will seem distateful and paradoxical as we would have come to the realization that we are not considered part of the game.

P.S: Please see the thousands of signiatures and more profoundly a light we have lit for you on this website; www.plebiscitekashmir.com

Regards ,

Haroon S. Ellahi Shaikh and Saad Syed
Society For Plebiscite Agaisnt Occupation
________________________________________________________________

Editor’s Note:
Pakistan Times received this letter from Mr. Ellahi Haroon. Since an important issue has been highlighted in this letter by Ellahi Haroon and Saad Syed, Editor has published this letter because it is not only a valuable food for thought for the readers of Pakistan Times but Editor is hopeful that message reaches to right destination.

About the author

Ellahi Haroon

12 Comments

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  • Dear Sir,

    It says Haroon Ellahi published this post.

    I have not published it on this website. I did however send the article to one of your journalists. Please clarify as to whether the journalist published it or not.

    Regards,

    Haroon Ellahi

  • Haroon you have done a magnificent job with respect to this article. I am really keen on the reaction from media as well as the political parties to whom you have sent it. I hope we all succeed in what we intend to do.

    Regards,

    Shehryar.

  • Haroon,

    I don’t doubt your sincerety to the Kashmiri cause, and judging by the length of your letter, it does appear that you have spent a fair amount of time writing this. A few points though:

    1. The recent election in Kashmir saw a voter turnout of 62% (elections in Pakistan, by contrast, rarely see voter turnouts above 45%). If the people of Kashmir really wanted independence, they could have boycotted the elections, instead of taking part with such apparent vigor. Now, I’m not saying that the people of Kashmir are happy with Indian rule. But the idea that people would vote for independence in a heartbeat is a bit doubtful considering the high election turnout.

    2. Take a look around us. As I write this post, the Dawn website notes that another suicide bomb attack targeted a Shia mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan. Secretarian violence in Pakistan is rampant, the Taliban have taken over the Tribal Areas and Swat, and a low level insurgency is underway in Balochistan. Do we really believe that we can absorb another province when our country is barely struggling to hold itself together? This is a rhetorical question, but frankly speaking, I think it is appropriate given our current situation.

    3. The practical aspects of Kashmiri independence are also questionable. As I mentioned earlier, Pakistan itself is a very fragmented state. Outside of Punjab, NWFP (Pakhtunkhwa) is party under Taliban occupation, and more worryingly, Balochistan faces severe unrest. In the last election (2008), Balochistan had a voter turnout of below 20%. If anything, based on voter turnout, the UN and Barack Obama should suggest a plebsicte in Balochistan to see if they really want to remain in Pakistan. Again a rhetorical question, but I’d be interested to see your answer.

    Instead of worrying about Kashmir, we should turn out attention to the problems facing our own country. Talibanization, almost daily suicide bombings, the failure of the state to provide education to vast majorities of our people, the secession movement in Balochistan, and the lack of an independent judiciary to name just a few.

    I’ll leave you with an insightful column by Shakir Husain in yesterday’s edition of The News.
    http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=160823

  • Dear Hamza; Haroon & myself, when writing the Open Letter took all factors in to account. I disagree with your claims.

    1. Voter turnout in J&K’s recent election was ‘slightly above’ 50% as reported by BBC. You have not provided a credible source to back up your figure of 62%. Also, if you read BBC coverage from the elections as well as American media outlets like NYTimes, you will realize that they conducted interviews of Kashmiris to ask them why they were voting if they wanted independence from India; they said, they were only voting to make every-day life easier; voting did not mean they did not want independence. An avg Kashmiri wants to make sure he can pay his bills, buy groceries without hassle; that doesnt mean they dont want independence.

    2. Today’s sectarian violence in Pakistan is nothing compared to late ’80s and early ’90s – it is a WELL documented fact that most of it is instigated & perpetrated by Indian intelligence agency, RAW. Taliban only control SWAT to some extent; they do NOT control the ‘entire’ Tribal Areas as you claim, yet again, without evidence. Balochistan has been pacified & developmental projects are underway; democracy has helped. India is in far worse situation if you look at it. The ENTIRE Indian North-East is up in flames; Assam, Mizzoram, Manipur, Tripura, etc. These are areas where Indian police or army cannot even enter.

    3. Once again, you make NO effort to point out any ‘evidence’ for your errant claims. NWFP is NOT under Taliban control. Balochistan has not seen any of the violence after Feb 18th elections which it did under Musharraf dictatorship. Balochistan had a low voter turnout owing to many reasons. Your rhetorical questions are baseless & a waste of time.

    Its time you stop pretending to be a Pakistani. How about you save your ‘intelligent’ advice & suggestions for dear India where more than a dozen states are insurgency-ridden and where independence movements are alive & kicking. Wouldn’t India be better off withdrawing its 700,000 troops from J&K and trying to keep the Indian-mainland intact instead? Your constant fixation on Balochistan gives you away. India has tried since mid-70s to instigate the so-called ‘secessionist’ movement in Balochistan; a FACT proved time & again.

    The link you provide from The News is an opinion. Everyone has one. Every country has its share of apologists. You prove nothing by citing that op-ed article.

  • Sir Haroon,
    Its ur greatness!
    V hope for the best,May Allah bless us n Kashmir.
    By a famous Urdu poetry,
    Yarane Jahan kehtay hain,
    Kashmir hai jannat,
    Janat kafir ko na mili ha,
    Na milay ge

    t.
    It is said by neighbourhoods,
    Kashmir is Heaven,
    Heaven has never accepted a Kafir(Non-believer),
    And will never

  • I am an Indian and opnely support this letter and issue that muslim majority area should be annexed to pakistan and also the cause of plebescite in kashmir.
    my qeustion is..
    1)why doesn’t pak conduct a plebscite in balochistan.and give India an example of peoples decision.
    2) on muslim majority basis india has more muslims than pakistan….
    3)pakistan should its clear role in playing double game with west…
    ..
    kashmir is really for pakistan and not for kafirs like India…thats
    why pakistan is really heaven for playing double game,dawood ibrahim,osama dust bin..and u name the terrorist he is available in pakistan ..pakistans diamond(KASAB)
    on daily basis suicide attacks,,,lal masjid,,beheadings of daniel pearl..suppressing hindus in pakistan…killing ahmadis…
    regular military coups….dictator ships..
    what a excellent track reccord..
    pakistan paindabad….

  • Obama is largely powerless to stop it though; if he had said he opposed it, many in NYC, especially in Manhattan (the opposition is primarily in the outer boroughs) would have seen it as an unwanted intrusion into local issues.