'The decision can potentially have repercussions for the whole world'
On Monday, August 5, India’s ruling party, the BJP, made the controversial move to strip Kashmir of its special status. The decision was met with shock and despair in the region and beyond. The UN said it was deeply concerned with the security lockdown in the valley whose communication with the outside world has been cut off. Tens of thousands of troops were moved in.
The next day, on August 6, a special joint session of the Pakistan Parliament was convened to discuss the decision for the disputed territory. Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a 30-minute speech in Urdu.
Given the importance of these developments, SAMAA Digital brings you a full translation of the prime minister’s speech. It has been undertaken by Zahra Sabri, a literary translator and doctoral student at McGill University, Montréal, and SherAli Tareen, who teaches at Franklin & Marshall College in the US.
Prime Minister Imran Khan: Honourable Speaker, I’m not sure that we in the House fully grasp the importance of the joint session we are having today. Honourable Speaker, can you please tell the Opposition… Honourable Speaker, let me please state this. It is not just the Pakistani nation which is watching this session today. The Kashmiris are watching it. The world is watching it. I humbly submit to my Opposition, that if this is how you mean to disturb the session, then I will just take a seat. I will do this because the signal that should go out from this House is that the entire nations stands united on this issue.
Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif: I would request my friends to listen to this speech. After that, we will give a proper, well-grounded response to it.
Prime Minister Imran Khan: Thank you, Honourable Speaker. This session is not just important for the Kashmiris. It is important not just for the Pakistanis. The decision that India has taken yesterday can potentially have repercussions for the whole world. This is why this session is of vital importance. I again request that it should be listened to with immense calm and patience, because an extremely important message is about to be sent from this House today.
When we came to power, the main priority of my government was to end poverty in Pakistan. To reduce poverty. In order to achieve that, we decided that the most important thing to do was to improve relations with all our neighbouring countries. Because as long as tension and instability persist—and all that we suffered during the fifteen years of the War on Terror—the worst impact is on investment and on the growth rate, and you cannot bring people out of poverty. Hence, I reached out to all our neighbours. As soon as I came to power, I said to India: “If you take one step towards us, we will take two steps towards you.” I approached Afghanistan to say to them that whatever misunderstandings may have affected our relationship in the past, now we want to open a new chapter. I went to Iran to speak to them, and discussed the issues there. With China, we have always enjoyed good relations. Then I also went to the other countries, and finally our visit to the US was also motivated by the desire to resolve the various problems that had arisen in the past, so that Pakistan can achieve stability and be able to progress. So that our growth rate can increase and we can attract investment, in order to bring our people out of poverty.
So, when at the start of my tenure, I spoke to Narendra Modi, he expressed several reservations, such as Pakistan maintaining training camps [for cross-border militancy] and things of this sort. I explained to him then that when our country had experienced the painful Army Public School incident in 2014, all the political parties had come together on the same page, and we had ratified a National Action Plan wherein we had taken the decision that no militant groups would operate from Pakistani soil. I explained this to him. Thereafter, we tried to start a dialogue with them on this, but came to the realisation that they were not interested. And after that, Pulwama happened. When Pulwama occurred, we tried our level best to make them understand that Pakistan had no role in it. However, we had already realised that they were facing elections, and they were determined to make Pakistan a scapegoat for the purpose of their elections and to divert the world’s gaze from the oppression being perpetrated on the Kashmiri people.
Hence, all the steps they took were to create war hysteria in the country. Their sole motivation was to make Pakistan a scapegoat and to win the elections by creating anti-Pakistan sentiment through their electoral campaign. They only sent us their dossier [of evidence] later, and sent their warplanes over into Pakistan first. Thank God, the Pakistani Air Force delivered a fitting response. And then when we took their pilot into custody, we returned him to India immediately to give a message that Pakistan had no intention to make war. After that, we kept quiet and figured that we should wait until the Indian elections were over. We would resume our dialogue once they were done with their elections. Then, when their elections ended, we tried again. And I remember that at the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Summit in Bishkek, when we saw the way they were acting, we decided that we would hold off from further dialogue with them, because they were mistakenly interpreting our efforts for peace as our weakness.
Recognising that the issue was not progressing through bilateral means, when I met President Donald Trump, I invited him in good faith to mediate the issue as this [Kashmir] is a hotspot in the world and the entire population of more than one billion people in the subcontinent is being held hostage to this single issue of Kashmir. The Indian response was before you.
Now with respect to the action they have taken yesterday [the abolishment of Article 370 in Kashmir], I want to lay this before this House that we had realised while we were in Bishkek that they had absolutely no interest in talking to us, and what I suspected then has now been borne out. The action they took yesterday did not arise out of a sudden plan. This was part of their election manifesto. And it clearly reflects their ideology. Honourable Speaker, this is what their ideology is. A viewpoint based on the ideology of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). If you read the writings of the RSS’ founding fathers—one of them being [Madhav Sadashiv] Golwalkar—you will understand what their ideology was. [It is] the ideology that confronts us today. Their ideology was to ethnically cleanse the Muslims from India! Their ideology demanded that once India achieved independence, it would represent a nation exclusively for Hindus. They had never imagined that the minorities who lived in India at the time would have Pakistan as an option. This was their basic ideology, and even today, if you read the books of the founding fathers of the RSS, they had a very clear ideology that India was only for the Hindus. They aspired for a Hindu raj. And inside their hearts, there was a deep sense of racial prejudice against the Muslims. And what was that prejudice motivated by? They used to resent that Muslims had ruled India for 500–600 years. And when the British were exiting India, they were thinking that the time has now come to curb and suppress the Muslims in India. To ensure they live as second-class citizens.
Honourable Speaker! Today, we should pay tribute to Quaid-i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, because he was the first person to discern the reality of the danger this ideology posed. Quaid-i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah used to be considered an ambassador for Hindu-Muslim unity. His life evinces no trace of prejudice towards others on the basis of religion or race. His whole life is available for us to observe. The question that must be pondered is this: how did a person like the Quaid-i Azam, who was beyond prejudice and was concerned with gaining independence from the British… What was the reason that a person of this sort ultimately decided that Pakistan must be created? You can read the Quaid-i Azam’s speeches from the 1920s when he parted ways with the Congress Party—he kept on telling the Muslims that, “You have no idea what’s about to be done to you. Muslims are going to be supressed under a brute majority! After servitude to the British, you will now be bound in servitude to this Hindu raj.” You should read these speeches of the Quaid-i Azam even today. We should tell people how great a mind he was, who was to be able to divine the turn the game was about to take [to foretell the future trajectory of communal politics in South Asia].
The Quaid-i Azam left for England in disappointment [with party politics]. He later returned, and if what the Quaid-i Azam had been saying had not been publicly proven before the Muslims in the 1937 elections [in British India], then this state of Pakistan would not have been created. In the 1937 elections, the Muslims were able to witness with their eyes that what the Quaid-i Azam had been saying was really the truth. No member of the Muslim League was included in the ministries. Hence, when Muslims came to understand and embrace his fears and apprehensions that India was moving in the direction of a Hindu raj, that’s when many of those who had not accepted the validity of the two-nation theory earlier now gravitated towards the Muslim League, and that is how the Pakistan movement started.
Today, those people in India who did not believe in the ‘two-nation theory’… From the several conferences that I’ve been to in India, I remember well that certain members of the Kashmiri leadership would tell me that it was a big mistake to have created Pakistan. They simply did not accept the reasons behind it. Today, I’m hearing from their very lips that the Quaid-i Azam’s two-nation theory has been proven correct. In today’s India, those same people are now saying that the Muslims here—or the minorities in general, for even the Christian community is experiencing the same treatment—are not equal citizens.
Honourable Speaker, here at this point, I would like to repeat just a small statement of the Quaid-i Azam. When the Quaid-i Azam made his famous speech of August 11 , he said that everyone is free to go to their respective places of worship. And we mistakenly say that [this demonstrates that] the Quaid-i Azam was ‘secular’. That speech of his… What I am trying to explain to you are these two ideologies. What is the actual reality of these two ideologies? One ideology has already become apparent to you, which is a racist ideology. They don’t consider Muslims to be equal. They want India to belong exclusively to Hindus.
Then there is the other ideology, on the basis of which Pakistan was created, and which was the Quaid-i Azam’s ideology. And this was the ideology that here [in Pakistan], every human being will enjoy an equal status. And what did he base that ideology on? He based it on the experiences of the community of Medina. He was following the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. If you study the life of the Prophet during his time in Medina—the Covenant of Medina; the covenant he signed with St. Catherine’s Church [i.e. St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai], committing that as long as the world remains, Muslims will continue to guard your places of worship; the Prophet Muhammad’s words in his Farewell Sermon where he said that we are all children of Adam. Whatever may be the colour of our skin, we are all children of the same Hazrat Adam. This shows that he rejected racism. There was no idea of distinguishing between human beings [on the basis of colour or race]. Our ideology on which Pakistan has been founded was a great ideology. This is what I mean to explain. It was not characterised by such racial prejudice.
When Quaid-i Azam delivered this speech of August 11, and when earlier, during the Pakistan Movement, he warned Muslims that they will not be able to secure their rights here in India, he was not playing the ‘Muslim card’! He had realised the nature of the kind of ideology he was up against. The ideology we see today, which is responsible for what happened in Kashmir yesterday. He had realised this. Where the Quaid-i Azam is concerned, even his adversaries recognised that he was not given to dramatics. He truly meant what he said. He was not given to indulging in rhetoric. Hence, what he said in his Aug 11 speech reflected the Charter of Medina and how it dealt with minority communities.
Honourable Speaker, I wish to tell everyone this. Even the people of our nation do not realise the significance of this—Hazrat Ali [fourth Caliph of Islam] lost a case to a Jewish member of the community. The Caliph of the times lost a case to an ordinary member of a minority community! Hazrat Ali, first of all, was the Caliph. Secondly, just reflect on the spiritual position he occupies in our religion. Reflect on how a judge ruled against him, and in favour of a minority community member. Imagine how difficult this is to conceive in our world today. Today, after all, we live in the modern world. And this ruling occurred all the way back then!
What I mean to say is that if we study the workings of the community formed according to the Charter of Medina, then what is being practiced in India today is in absolute opposition to it. [Hence, the point is:] when we are unjust to minorities in our country, we go against our founding ideology. We go against our religion.
However, Honourable Speaker, when this present BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] government arrests people on the pretext of beef consumption, and mobs grab hold of them and lynch them [this represents the fulfilment of the BJP’s ideology]. And what they have done in Kashmir just now and the torture and violence they perpetrated during the previous five years, the way they treated the Christian community—this is their very ideology! This is their ideology. Their founding fathers had already proclaimed that: “We are distinct from these others. We are superior”. It is a racist ideology! Today, what we find ourselves confronting is a racist [Hindu nationalist] ideology.
This is why until and unless we acquaint ourselves with the background to this situation, we can’t plan our reaction to what they have done in Kashmir yesterday. Their actions in Kashmir are in line with their ideology. They have acted against the constitution of their own country. This [BJP] government has acted against the verdict of its supreme court, and against the verdict of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. They have gone against seventeen UN Security Council resolutions. They have gone against the UN General Assembly resolution. They have gone against the Simla Agreement. The decision they have made is to alter the demography [of Kashmir]. They have already proclaimed this. They have already declared their designs to transform Kashmir’s demography once they have achieved a change in its legal status. Changing an area’s demography is against Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is considered a war crime! Thus, they have violated all the international laws and their own country’s laws for the sake of their [supremacist, racist] ideology.
Honourable Speaker, what we confront today is a [systematic] ideology. So, to grasp what I will outline in a bit, it is important to first understand the texture of this problem. This was not some sudden or random decision [repealing Article 370] on their part. They are simply pursuing the complete fulfilment of their long-running [racist] ideology. So now, they have passed this law and annexed Kashmir. The question that arises here is this: the people of Kashmir, who have been suffering atrocities and injustices for several years, especially the last five years, and have been striving for their freedom despite this [brutal state oppression], will they now, just because of a piece of legislation, suddenly decide that: “Our movement is over. We are ready to submit to enslavement [by the Indian state].” To the contrary, Honourable Speaker, their resistance will now acquire further intensity and catapult to unprecedented levels. When I had asked President Trump to mediate, it was because our [Indo-Pak] bilateral talks had failed. They were just not taking place. Therefore, we must all understand that this has now mushroomed into a terribly serious issue. The reason why I have called this joint session of the parliament is because this issue has very serious implications.
What is the primary point of importance? Their [the Modi government’s] brutalities in Kashmir over the last five years, which are a direct manifestation of their [racist, supremacist] ideology, are only going to increase as they further intensify their suppression of the resistance in Kashmir. Their suppression of the Kashmiri freedom movement. This is because they [due to the supremacist Hindu nationalist ideology] do not consider the Kashmiris to be equal human beings. Honourable Speaker, this ideology is racist! Had they [the BJP and its allies] considered Kashmiris as human beings on par with themselves, they would have tried to advance their political agenda through some sort of democratic means—by running a movement to mobilise popular support [in Kashmir] and by convincing the [Kashmiri] people of their viewpoint. But instead, they are following the path of “might is right” and brute force and power. They will try to crush these Kashmiri people. But when they crush them, there will be a reaction. There will be a Pulwama-type incident. There will be a Pulwama-type incident, and I make this prediction today that they [the Indian government] will again do as they did before [in February] and tell the world that this is terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Even though everyone knows that Pakistan had nothing to do with the Pulwama incident. Even they [the Indian government] know that. So now, when they will oppress Kashmiris and unleash even further brutality… And the reaction that will produce—I am declaring this today! India will blame Pakistan for it. This is the likely cycle which makes this such a serious situation.
They are going to do another thing. My fear now is that the Indian state is going to engage in ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. They are going to try to expel Kashmiris forcibly from their homes, and turn them into an oppressed minority, under the shackles of a [tyrannical] engineered majority. When the Indian state will do all this and keep blaming Pakistan [for the consequent reaction from Kashmiris], this [vicious cycle] will pose serious consequences. I can foresee this scenario because of how matters unfolded during the Pulwama episode. When India sent its fighter jets and dropped bombs in the middle of the night in Balakot [in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province], I met and deliberated with the Army and Air Force chiefs at around three or three-thirty in the morning. Our first point of concern was whether any casualties had occurred. Whether any Pakistani lives had been lost. When we determined that there were no figures for any casualties so far, we decided that we won’t respond now, and the next day, we would only reciprocate with dropping a token bomb [distant from human and non-human animal population] in their territory, similar to the way their planes had acted before exiting our territory. But if, Honourable Speaker, we had suffered casualties [in the Balakot bombing], then our Air Force had also locked in targets in their territory, in places where they would have been bound to suffer casualties. And I kept telling them during the Pulwama episode that two nuclear-armed countries cannot take such a risk. We must resolve our differences through dialogue.
I’m declaring today that when such a precarious situation will arise [with the looming threat of nuclear conflict], it will not remain within anyone’s control. The mindset these people [Modi’s Hindu nationalist government] have… I perceive a terrible hubris in it, which is a trait perceivable in every racist. This sense of superiority… Like the white supremacists in the U.S. and other foreign countries who go on shooting sprees and attack people. This is a bizarre mindset, premised on belief in one’s own racial superiority over others. And this sense of hubris can lead the Indian State to once again practise terrible persecution in Kashmir. And if there will be a reaction against their oppression, for example if a Pulwama-type incident occurs—the Indian government will then take some action against us and we will take some action in response. It is simply inconceivable that they should attack Pakistan and we should not respond. We will respond.
So, what will happen next? The hostilities can escalate further. We would face a tit-for-tat situation. And what are the possibilities then? This back and forth cycle of violence has the possibility of turning into a conventional war. And if a conventional war breaks out, what will happen then? There could be two potential consequences. This war could either go for us or against us. If it went against us, then what choices will we be faced with? Then, Honourable Speaker, I had said in this very hall [in February] that we would face two choices: either follow the path of Bahadur Shah Zafar [the last recognized Mughal monarch, deposed in the 19th century] or that of Tipu Sultan [the 18th century Muslim ruler of Mysore]. The first path is that of putting our hands up and surrendering and accepting defeat, while the second, the path of Tipu Sultan, is that of fighting till we have expended every last drop of blood.
And Honourable Speaker, I’m telling you today. I know my people. The Muslim, the person who has faith in God, does not fear death. He only thinks of humanity to please God, the Lord of all universes. But his decisions are not guided by fear. We only privilege peace over violence because our religion teaches us to love humanity. Because we care about the human race. But the question I raise is this: if we fight till our last breath, what kind of a war will that entail? It will be the kind of [nuclear] war that no one can win. Everyone will lose that war. And the [catastrophic] effects of such a [nuclear] war will reverberate globally.
Now the next question is this. Am I engaging in what someone might describe as “nuclear blackmail?” No, I am not engaging in “nuclear blackmail”. I am appealing to common sense: “Hope for the best. Be prepared for the worst.” Is the world prepared for the worst? If the situation swings in the wrong direction, is the world prepared for it? This is why this is the time to take action! This is why we appeal to the world: a country [India] is blatantly violating and making a mockery of all international laws with never a worry or care. Because it knows that it was allowed to get away with impunity earlier as well… For all its barbarities and cruelties in Kashmir over the years, save for a couple of UN reports on human rights—and even those reports marked a rare change from the past!—the international community said and did nothing to stop India. In fact, it is precisely the inaction and indifference of the international community that has over the years emboldened India to take this step [of annexing Kashmir].
And if even now, at this present dangerous juncture, the world fails to take any action, then I assure you that it will have terribly serious consequences. This crisis will be pushed further, and it will reach a point which will bring unimaginable harm to everyone. Thus, this is the time to act. I think this current period of [Indian] history can be analogized to that of Nazi Germany when another egregiously racist regime was in power led by Hitler and the Nazi Party. The kind of actions their party [the BJP] has been indulging in follow in the footsteps of the Nazi Party. I was just recently reading reports of the Indian elections—the BJP’s conduct was reminiscent of [that of] the Nazi Party, for instance in the way they have currently pushed the opposition to the wall. Because they have done everything they could to control [and muffle the opposition]. In fact, the BJP has pummelled not only India’s democratic traditions, but is hitting at the foundations of the country’s entire national character and secular outlook as formulated by its great founding fathers such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. This ideology [of the BJP’s] is the same ideology that killed Mahatma Gandhi. This is the ideology, Honourable Speaker, which, if not immediately curtailed, will metastasise out of control, harkening back to the fatal mistake of Neville Chamberlain [one-time British Prime Minister] who rather than confronting Hitler when he should have, became infamous for a policy of appeasement [towards Nazi Germany]. If the global community does not intervene and act now, if the so-called developed world does not uphold its own international laws, then which catastrophic directions will we see this situation moving towards? We will not be held responsible for it then.
The reason we all stand here today, the reason I have called this joint session of the parliament is to underscore this point: this crisis is now intensifying to a level that can injure the whole world. On behalf of my government, let me make clear that we will raise and fight this issue on every international forum. We will engage the United Nations Security Council. We are studying how we might access the International Criminal Court through the United Nations Security Council. We will raise this issue at the UN General Assembly. We will talk to various heads of state about it. We will highlight this issue at all international forums and through international media. We will tell the global community that the Indian state is heading the very direction of the injustices of Nazi Germany that the West always condemns and deems contrary to all self-ascribed values that anchor the modern Western world, and about which it says ‘never again’. Perhaps because this [Indian occupation] primarily affects Muslims, the world, unfortunately, is not responding enthusiastically. But ultimately, this brutality and oppression will harm the entire world. The freedom movement of Kashmir cannot be crushed through a piece of parliamentary legislation. The voice of not only all Pakistanis but also all Muslims in the world is with Kashmir and Kashmiris today.
Honourable Speaker, I am deeply familiar with Western societies. The people there are not aware of the reality of what the Kashmiri people are having to go through. I and my party will take responsibility to make the world better aware that the injustices that are being meted out to Kashmiri Muslims, and religious minorities in India more generally, are of a nature that goes against all those cherished values that the Western world claims to uphold. In fact, most people there [in the West] are unaware of this. They do not realise what is happening in Kashmir at the moment. It is our job to raise this issue in the global community and to make the point that it is not us who are engaging in nuclear blackmail but rather the BJP government that is following a course the logical conclusion of which is destruction. It was one thing if it could be expected that Pakistan should calmly accept and submit to the racial superiority of the BJP government and, say “We acknowledge them [Hindu nationalists] as superior”. But that is something we will never do! So, if we don’t submit to this, what other path is left to us, except one of collision? And where that path is concerned, let me repeat here again, it will not only affect the subcontinent. It will affect the entire world. Thank you.
Zahra Sabri is a doctoral student in South Asian History and Literatures at McGill University, Montréal.
SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College in the U.S. He is the author of Defending Muhammad in Modernity, University of Notre Dame Press.