Iftikhar A. Khan--
Amid conflicting reports whether the Kashmir issue was on the agenda of an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s meeting in Niger, the foreign ministers of the OIC’s member states in a diplomatic victory for Pakistan unanimously reaffirmed support for the Kashmir cause.
In another landmark development, the OIC unanimously adopted a Pakistan-sponsored resolution urging the UN Secretary General to initiate a global dialogue to counter rising Islamophobia and promote interfaith harmony.
On the bilateral level, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who led Pakistan delegation at the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, raised the issue of the ban on visas for Pakistanis recently imposed by the United Arab Emirates with the UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimi.
According to details of the Niamey meeting released by Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Saturday, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on Aug 5 last year to change the internationally recognised disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps.
It asked India to cancel the issuance of domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris as well as other unilateral and illegal actions, including Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Order, 2020; Jammu & Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate Rules, 2020; Jammu and Kashmir Language, Bill 2020 and amendments to the landownership laws.
Also rejecting policies being pursued by the RSS-BJP regime, the 57 member countries of the OIC asked India to refrain from taking any steps to alter the demographic structure of the disputed territory.
The OIC foreign ministers condemned in the strongest possible terms human rights violations perpetrated by Indian occupation forces in held Kashmir and other such instances of terrorism that have been the source of unspeakable suffering for the innocent Kashmiri people.
The resolution condemned the state-sponsored terrorism and crimes against humanity by Indian occupation forces against the Kashmiri people.
It denounced extrajudicial killings during fake ‘encounters’ and ‘search-and-cordon’ operations and demolition of houses and private properties as a form of collective punishment;.
The unanimous resolution condemned the renewed use of pellet guns by Indian occupation forces against innocent civilians, condemned the harassment of Kashmiri women by Indian troops and deplored that India had callously exploited the current Covid-19 crisis to intensify its military crackdown and further advance its unlawful occupation.
The conference welcomed the visit of OIC Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir from March 2-6, 2020.
India was asked to adhere to its international human rights obligations and allow the OIC Special Representative on Jammu and Kashmir and the OIC Fact-finding Mission to visit occupied Kashmir and implement recommendations of the two reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Jammu & Kashmir.
The OIC asked the international community to review its engagements with India as it was violating and disregarding the international law, the international humanitarian law, and international resolutions.
It emphasised that the question of Kashmir was of utmost importance for the Ummah.
The OIC recognised that Jammu and Kashmir is the core dispute between Pakistan and India, and its resolution indispensable for realisation of the dream of peace in South Asia.
The CFM noted that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the principal party to the dispute, and stressed that they should be included in any peace process for resolution of the dispute.
It affirmed that any political or electoral process held under foreign occupation cannot be a substitute to the exercise of the right to self-determination.
Tabled during the 47th session of the CFM, a separate resolution was drafted in the context of growing incidents of Islamophobia in various parts of the world.
The resolution expressed concern that Islamophobia, as a contemporary form of racism and religious discrimination, was on the rise. It expressed deep concern at the recent incidents of desecration of the Holy Quran and reprinting of blasphemous caricatures which hurt sentiments of more than 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.
The OIC decided to designate March 15 as the “International Day to Combat Islamophobia” each year. It authorised the OIC Permanent Missions in New York to jointly table a resolution in the UN General Assembly, calling for establishment of this day.
The resolution urged the OIC member states to organise and support various high-visibility events aimed at effectively increasing awareness at all levels about curbing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
Speaking on the session, Foreign Qureshi said that adoption of the resolution was a reflection of the sentiments of billions of Muslims who respected other religions and expected similar respect for Islam and the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Meanwhile, positively responding to Pakistan’s offer, the CFM meeting decided to host its 48th session in Islamabad in 2021.
As the prospective CFM Chair, Pakistan also became a member of the six-member OIC Executive Committee for the next three years.
Meetings with FMs
Foreign Minister Qureshi in his meeting with United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State Reem Al Hashimi raised the issue of the ban imposed by the Arab country on Pakistanis.
Mr Qureshi, who spent a busy day in Niamey, holding meetings with foreign ministers of some countries, apprised Ms Hashimi of difficulties being faced by Pakistani citizens with regard to the UAE’s ban on visas.
Pakistan is among 13 Muslim majority countries facing the ban on new employment and visit visas recently placed by the UAE.
Interestingly, India is not included in these countries, and the visa on arrival facility is still available for European countries making it clear that the ban has little to do with the coronavirus.
Mr Qureshi underscored the need to address the issue at the earliest possible.
He highlighted the close fraternal ties as well as people-to-people contacts between the two countries and stressed Pakistan’s commitment to forge closer cooperation with the UAE in diverse fields.
While appreciating Mr Qureshi’s statement at the CFM session, the Emirati minister lauded Pakistan’s initiative to propose an OIC resolution on combating Islamophobia.
The two sides also exchanged views on OIC matters and stressed the importance of strengthening it as a united and pivotal platform for the Ummah. It was also agreed to enhance mutual exchanges to carry forward the process of growing bilateral cooperation.
Mr Qureshi also held meetings with Foreign Minister Kalla Ankouraou of Niger, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Somalia Balal Mohamed Osman, Sudanese Foreign Minister Omar Qamaruddin Ismail and Foreign Minister of Kuwait Dr Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah.