Dr Shabir Choudhry
Pakistan has done it again. Once again they have stabbed Jammu and Kashmir dispute in the United Nations. This time culprit was Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, who in her reply to India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, “This is the face of Indian democracy”. In her enthusiasm to expose Indian human rights abuses in Kashmir, Maleeha Lodhi waved a photo and presented it as a victim of Indian brutalities.
The photo she waved out on the floor of the UN turned out to be a photo of a 17 years Gaza girl, Rawya abu Jom. The photo was taken by award-winning American photo journalist Heidi Levine in July 2014.
I know Maleeha Lodhi when she was Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Britain. No doubt she is very talented and matured diplomat who can get her message across eloquently. Question arises how can a diplomatic blunder like this take place in a place like the UN General Assembly.
Majority of people of Jammu and Kashmir believe it is a blunder. However, some think it was a mistake, the Pakistani diplomat was sincere in her efforts to expose India. Some others think it was a conspiracy; and debate goes on.
As usual foot soldiers of Pakistan are even defending this blunder. However, thinking people of Jammu and Kashmir are trying to find some kind of conspiracy in this matter. These people argue that there were tens of thousands of photos of Kashmiri children who became victims of pellet guns; and these photos were easily available on the internet. Then why on earth a photo of a Palestinian girl was selected whose face was known world over.
Critics believe this was an attempt on behalf of Pakistan to help India; and support the view presented by New Delhi that Kashmiri militants and other foot soldiers of Islamabad exaggerate and distort facts regarding human rights abuses. There could not be a better place than the floor of the UN General Assembly to leave this impression that human rights abuses in Kashmir are exaggerated and distorted.
Ershad Malik, a Kashmir lawyer from London said:
This is called Diplomacy. Apne saath doosroon ko be zaleel karna, meaning – Humiliate yourself and others. There are thousands of pictures of Kashmiri pellet gun victims; but it did not sit well with Pakistani diplomats to see the picture and read the caption of picture.
Disturbing facts is that the photo the Pakistani diplomats presented had a caption which clearly said when and where it was taken. In view of this, how can we say it was a genuine mistake?
Showkat Islam, a Kashmiri from Valley of Kashmir wrote in social media: There are approximately 20,000 victims of pellet guns in Kashmir; and most victims were hit on faces and chests. When there were thousands of photos available then why Pakistani diplomat had to present a fake photo? It is a conspiracy. Is this our attorney or our enemy?
Do our APHC leaders have guts to ask Pakistan about this?
Another citizen of Jammu and Kashmir Naeem Najmi said:
‘They have helped India by doing this. They are not that naive that they didn’t know what they were doing, and whose photo it was’.
Another critic, Muhammad Mehraj wrote:
‘People with vested interest glorify Pakistan’s role in such a manner as if they are our masters, these people should know that we are masters of our own land – from Gilgit Baltistan to Lakhanpur is on unit’.
Faiz Baloch wrote on twitter: Dear Maleeha Lodhi, ‘I have no objection on your red lipstick, but I do have objection on your white lies. The picture is from Palestine and not Kashmir’.
If for a moment we accept it was a genuine mistake on part of very talented Pakistani diplomat, then question arises what do we say about other big blunders made by other Pakistani governmnets in the past.
Was it not Pakistan which:
- Violated Standstill Agreement which they had with Jammu and Kashmir governmnet;
- Attacked Jammu and Kashmir with intention to occupy it on 22 October 1947?
- Killed innocent and unarmed Kashmiri men and women; kidnapped Kashmir women, and sold them in towns of Pakistan;
- Looted and plundered our motherland; and established a puppet government in its occupied area to advance its agenda;
- Created a situation which forced the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir to seek help from India, and subsequent provisional accession;
- Ensured that Kashmiris cannot represent their case in the UN or in any other international forum;
- Requested a change in the UN resolution on Kashmir that people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot become independent, and all they have is a right of accession either to India or Pakistan;
- Ensured that there is no solution to the Kashmir dispute, and refused to withdraw troops out of Jammu and Kashmir territories as demanded by the UNCIP Resolution on 13 August 1948.
- Also, was it not Pakistan which proposed to change name in the UN Security Council from ‘Jammu and Kashmir Problem’ to ‘India and Pakistan Problem’?
If it had been Jammu and Kashmir Problem, it clearly indicated a problem of Jammu and Kashmir State. When it is called India and Pakistan Problem, it becomes a territorial dispute. For how long and for how many times we will say ‘it is not Pakistan’s fault; and that Pakistan is the only country which supports us’.
Bitter fact is that we are suffering since 1947 on both side of the divide because of wrong and imperialist policies of Pakistan; if there was no attack on 22 October 1947, we could have been independent with friendly relations with both countries.
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:email@example.com