NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PAKISTAN DEBATES ACTIONS IN KASHMIR REGION by: Jason Meizels

All representatives from the National Assembly of Pakistan agreed that the Kashmiri people have the right to determine their own future, but remained divided on how to facilitate the exercise of that self-determination, reflecting the region’s populace sandwiched between India and Pakistan on how to facilitate the exercise of that self-determination.

Kashmir has a long and complex history. The end of the British rule in India led to confusion over which nation the Kashmir region was part of, which precipitated the First Kashmir War and subsequently a failed plebiscite to determine the nation to which the region would belong to, and most recently, the removal of the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2017. The YMUN National Assembly of Pakistan discussed courses of action in resolving the debate over ownership of Kashmir. Three main ideas were the primary focus of the committee. First, the Kashmiri people have a right to self-determination, as expressed in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations. Second, human rights abuses must not be tolerated. Third, Pakistan must win the trust of the Kashmiri people.

Several methods of achieving these goals were proposed. Many delegates considered attempting another plebiscite. Some suggested that Kashmir should be split along the LoC (Line of Control). The Pakistani Minister of Finance suggested initiating a stable economic relationship with Kashmir, both to foster goodwill and to stabilize the region. The Leader of the Opposition brought up a soft border strategy, in which Pakistani-aligned Kashmiri could enter a DMZ inside Pakistan’s borders.

Patrick Brogan, a delegate representing Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan, a member in Pakistan’s National Assembly, noted that given the failure of the previous attempt at a plebiscite, another vote might only serve to exacerbate extremism and violence even further. Brogan stated that there is “no perfect solution,” but measures could be taken to provide funding to anti-India militants or to establish an economic relationship with Kashmir to promote stability.

During an unmoderated caucus, one group discussed the possibility of bringing in a third party mediator to facilitate negotiations for peace, so the best interest of the Kashmiri people could be kept in mind.

Adham Yousef, a delegate representing Siraj Muhammad Khan, another member of the Pakistani National Assembly, commented that he would support a public vote in Kashmir to determine its status; he believes that most Kashmiri would likely choose to join Pakistan, but Pakistan would “remain in support of the Kashmiri people” if the plebiscite led to independence.

The National Assembly of Pakistan is often criticized for its lack of Kashmiri representation. Shubhang Pandya, a delegate representing Malik Muhammad Uzair Khan, believes that “more representation would build more trust.” Mike Denihan, representing Abdul Rashid Godil, also stated that inclusion of the Kashmiri people from the Pakistani-controlled region in the Assembly would help gain favor for Pakistan and promote democratic ideals. However, some may argue that Kashmiri representation would anger India and decrease chances of peaceful negotiations.

Delegates were divided on whether to invite India to the bargaining table. Given the violations of human rights in Kashmir, of which neither India and Pakistan are innocent, such as the use of pellet guns and tear gas against protesters by Indian security forces, some delegates could not fathom reconciliation with India. Ariel Barnea, representing Khwaja Ghulam Rasool Koreja, said that he would not be open to negotiations with India. Other delegates recognized the eventual necessity of a dialogue with India, especially if another plebiscite is to be a viable option.

When asked what they considered the most important goal in working towards peace, delegates universally agreed that earning the trust of the Kashmiri people is the most significant step towards resolution, with Ariel Barnea adding that Pakistan must attempt to “ensure the safety and restore the confidence” of the Kashmiri people.

Mike Denihan stated that the National Assembly of Pakistan must gain the trust of the Kashmiri people “by any means necessary.” The committee is hard at work, debating and collaborating to determine just what means are necessary.