Stepping up the heat against India, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday that there will be a “reaction” in the country when the curfew is lifted in Jammu and Kashmir and warned that India’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 would trigger a rise in extremism adding that “1.25 billion Muslims around the world” are “watching”.
While Khan, since August 5, has said, in his opinion pieces and interviews, that there is a nuclear threat and shadow of war, this is the first time he is talking about a reaction from Muslims across the globe.
Desperate bid to up the ante
Since August 5, this is the first time Imran Khan has linked developments in J&K to “global Islam”. Clearly, he is ratcheting up the rhetoric in the run-up to the UNGA. His words so far haven’t found the resonance he wants but with the Valley lockdown entering its 40th day, New Delhi also has its diplomatic task cut out.
In his speech at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Khan said: “I want to tell the world that Modi’s actions will have a reaction when the curfew is lifted. The Muslims in India will react and the Muslims around the world will react. Marginalisation radicalises people. What Modi is doing is pushing people to retaliate. Our religion means peace but when a Muslim sees that the world is silent on such injustice, it acts as a tipping point. The news of marginalisation of Muslims… is spreading across the Muslim world but they (the governments) don’t speak because of their trade ties (with India)… however, they (people) are closely watching the Indian atrocities inflicted on Kashmir.”
While there was no official statement from the government on Friday, sources in Delhi said that Khan was “trying very hard to incite Muslims” in the country to “trigger unrest”. “This is a desperate call by the Pakistan Prime Minister since his government has not been able to gather any support so far at the international stage,” an official source in Delhi told The Indian Express.
At the rally in PoK, Khan said: “What is happening in Kashmir is against humanity. For 40 days, our Kashmiri brethren are under curfew… I want to tell Narendra Modi that what he is doing in Kashmir, only a coward can do… such torture… 9 lakh Indian soldiers have locked down Kashmiris in their homes. The RSS has deep-rooted hate for Muslims and wants to avenge past Muslim rule in the sub-continent through ethnic cleansing.”
Addressing the gathering, Khan made over a dozen references to Prime Minister Modi and at least half-a-dozen references to the RSS.
“What Narendra Modi is doing in Kashmir is driving Muslims towards extremism,” he said. “I want to tell India that, by detaining thousands of people, you are pushing people into extremism. People will rise against India, and it is not just about Indian Muslims, there are 1.25 billion Muslims around the world. They are all watching this,” he said.
“I want to warn India that extremism will rise as the people of Kashmir will stand up against oppression… When atrocities reach their peak, people will prefer to die rather than being subjected to disgrace,” he said. “By oppressing Kashmiris, Modi is sending out a message to 20 crore Muslims in India that they can only live as second-class citizens in Hindustan. With no rights, they will be treated like animals and will be lynched in broad daylight for eating meat,” he said.
Expressing solidarity with the people of Kashmir, he said: “Mark my words, we will give a befitting response. We are a nation that will fight until the last breath”.
Referring to the Balakot strike by the Indian Air Force, he said Pakistan returned the Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture as Islamabad wanted to solve all problems through talks. But, he said, Pakistan’s gesture was interpreted as weakness. This time, however, “if India throws a brick, we will respond with a stone (eent ka jawab paththar se aayega),” he said.
Khan claimed the Kashmir issue has been internationalised with the United Nations Security Council holding closed consultations on it for the first time in 50 years. “Next week, I am going to address the United Nations General Assembly and I will not disappoint the people of Kashmir. I will stand for the rights of Kashmiris,” he said.
He asked the crowd whether they wanted to march towards the Line of Control (LoC). When the crowd cheered in agreement, Khan asked them to wait for his signal. “I am aware that many of you want to march towards the LoC, I know you have the passion but I will tell you when to do so…. First, let me go to the UN and world leaders and advocate the case of Kashmir. Let me tell them that if this issue is not resolved, the entire world will bear the impact,” he said.
Khan’s speech comes days after Pakistan raised the issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Asserting that Kashmir is an internal matter, India has so far thwarted Pakistan’s attempt to internationalise the issue.
India had earlier cautioned Pakistan against ratcheting up the rhetoric. In a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that “extreme rhetoric and incitement to anti-India violence” was “not conducive to peace”. And in a meeting with Trump at the G-7 in France, he had said that all issues between the two countries are bilateral in nature and “that’s why we don’t bother any other country.”
Since August 5, Khan has threatened to “teach Delhi a lesson,” told Pakistan’s Parliament that “incidents like Pulwama are bound to happen again”. “What will happen then? They will attack us and we will respond and the war can go both ways… But if we fight a war till we shed the last drop of our blood, who will win that war? No one will win it and it will have grievous consequences for the entire world. This is not nuclear blackmail,” he had said. In a series of tweets on Sunday, he called the Indian government “fascist”, “racist”, following “Nazi ideology” and accused it of “ethnic cleansing & genocide ideology”.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, “We condemn the irresponsible remarks and tweets by Pakistani leaders on matters internal to India.”
“The main motive behind this is to form an alarming situation for India which is far from ground realities. Pakistan needs to understand that they have been snubbed from all sides. The world has seen their provocative and unsubstantiated rhetoric based on lies and deceit,” he said.