On Tuesday, India responded to a “farcical resolution” recently passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan, regarding the delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir. The statement was made by Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, who reiterated that Islamabad has no locus standi to interfere in India’s internal matters.
“We categorically reject the farcical resolution passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on the subject of the delimitation exercise in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has no locus standi to pronounce on or interfere in matters that are internal to India, including the Indian territories under Pakistan’s illegal and forcible occupation,” said Bagchi
The MEA spokesperson also said, “It is regrettable that instead of putting their own house in order, the leadership in Pakistan continues to interfere in India’s internal affairs and engage in baseless and provocative anti-India propaganda.” He emphasised that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir “has been, is and shall always remain an integral part of India”, adding, “The delimitation exercise in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is a democratic exercise based on principles of extensive stakeholder consultation and participation.”
In his remarks, Bagchi called on Pakistan to “immediately cease anti-India cross-border terrorism and shut down its infrastructure of terrorism; stop the grave and persistent human rights violations in Pakistan occupied Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (PoJKL)”. “Refrain from effecting any further material changes in the status of PoJKL, and vacate Indian territories that are under its illegal and forcible occupation,” he further urged Islamabad.
The resolution in question was presented by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who claimed that India’s decision aimed to artificially alter the electoral strength of the Muslim majority in Jammu and Kashmir. It also “categorically rejected” the delimitation commission report, and referring to the abrogation of Article 370 alleged that India is making attempts to further its “illegal actions of August 5, 2019, and subsequent measures”.
The recently passed resolution also reiterated Pakistan’s “commitment and solidarity with Kashmiris” and urged the government to highlight this cause at all bilateral and multilateral forums, including the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The foreign minister of Pakistan also made a policy statement about writing a letter to the president of the UN Security Council and the General Secretary of the UN, about the “unlawful steps” India has taken to change the demographic structure of Jammu and Kashmir.
In March 2020, the delimitation commission on Jammu and Kashmir was formed, and based on the commission’s final report the panel gave six additional assembly seats in the Jammu region and one to Kashmir. Accordingly, the areas of Rajouri and Poonch were brought under the Anantnag Parliament seat. These changes are yet to be made and will come into effect after the notification by the central government. Pakistan’s Zardari contended this exercise by the commission and said that it is designed to “further marginalise the Kashmiri people”.
Bagchi’s remarks also come a day after India criticised the OIC’s statement on the delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir. On Monday, Bagchi had said during a press conference, “We are dismayed that the OIC secretariat has once again made unwarranted comments on the internal affairs of India, as, in the past, the Government of India categorically rejects the assertions made by the OIC secretariat on the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral and inalienable part of India.” He added that the OIC should “refrain from carrying out its communal agenda vis-à-vis India at the behest of one country”.
The OIC, a 57-nation intergovernmental organisation, in a series of tweets on Monday, said that it expresses a “deep concern over India’s attempts to redraw the electoral boundaries of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, altering the demographic structure of the territory and violating rights of the Kashmiri people”. The OIC, in its remarks, also called the delimitation exercise a “direct contravention” of the UNSC resolutions and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention. It urged the international community, particularly the UNSC “to take immediate cognizance of the grave implications of such ‘delimitation’ exercises”. The organisation further stated, “Referring to the long-standing and principled position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and relevant decisions of the Islamic Summit and OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, the general secretariat reiterates its solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Lord Qurban Hussain, a British–Pakistani Liberal Democrat politician, also attempted to raise the issue of Kashmir in the British Parliament, on May 17, in the Questions and Statements session of the House of Lords. Conservative Party’s Lord Rami Ranger retaliated, and brought up the issue of persecution of minorities in Pakistan. “Lord Hussain knows two Sikh traders in Peshwar were murdered last week because of their religion,” said Ranger. He went on to highlight how religious minorities in Pakistan are being forcibly converted and Shia mosques have been attacked. Rami questioned, “Who is supplying arms to terrorists in Kashmir, who is training them… encouraging them to create disruption in paradise?” The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has also called for the immediate arrest of the perpetrators and demanded that “the government must make it clear that violence against religious minorities will not be tolerated”.
The incident in question occurred earlier this week in Pakistan, when two Sikh businessmen were shot in the Bata Tal bazaar of Sarband near Peshawar. According to the police, the two attackers were on bikes and they shot Kanwaljeet Singh, 42, and Ranjeet Singh, 38, who had shops in Bata Tal and were in the business of spices. Subsequently, the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for the attack. The ISKP is reportedly affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, and is active in South and Central Asia.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident and offered sympathies to the victims’ families. He also directed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province CM Mahmood Khan to ensure immediate arrests, and reportedly, ordered a high-level probe into the incident. The killings also sparked protests as the local Sikh community blocked the Grand Trunk Road (Peshawar-Islamabad road), demanding justice and protection from the Pakistani government.
As per reports, this is the second such incident against the minority community in Peshawar within the span of eight months. Satwant Singh, a member of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC), said that these appear to be “targeted killings”, as “both were turbaned Sikhs who were sitting at their shops”. On Sunday, India also called upon Pakistan to take strict action against those responsible for this attack, and urged the authorities to sincerely investigate the incident.