Kashmir Lockdown and SAARC platform to address COVID-19

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza on 14 March 2020 (Saturday), called for an end to the lockdown imposed in India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, given the threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic”. He expressed his views during the SAARC video Conference on the outbreak of Coronavirus. 

Dr. Mirza, while highlighting Pakistan’s approaches and responses to the pandemic, underscored that Pakistan had been engaged in containment efforts from the outset of the outbreak. Pakistan’s proactive strategy and containment efforts have been recognized and commended by the World Health Organization. He underscored the need to empower and mandate the SAARC Secretariat to act as a platform for regional efforts to combat the pandemic. Among other measures, he proposed instituting exit screening by member states for travellers in the region and instituting mechanisms for learning from the effective efforts of China, a SAARC Observer State, in containment and control. He reiterated Pakistan’s earlier proposal of hosting SAARC Health Ministers’ Conference at the earliest opportunity.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia. Its member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It was dysfunctional as India was trying to hijack it and member states were not satisfied with Indian hegemony.

However, availing the opportunity of Pandemic, India wanted to revive SAARC and called a Video Conference. Dr. Zafar Mirza, representing Pakistan, attracted the world’s attention to Kashmir. There are 5 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Kashmir is under lockdown since 5 August 2019 and a curfew is imposed under 900,000 Indian troops. Internet Service and Mobile Services are suspended. The journalist area bared to travel to the region. Foreign Visitors and tourists are banned to travel to Kashmir. Indian troops are involved in the worst human rights violations. Killings, detention, arrest, rape are routine matters on a daily basis. Draconian laws allowed Indian troops to humiliate humanity under legal protection. Around 8 million people are under siege. While Kashmir has been turned into the largest jail. The shortage of food, fuel, electricity, medicines, etc., is affecting the common man’s life adversely.

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, almost the whole world is suffering. Till this moment, it has been reported 157 countries have been confirmed. However, the rest of the countries may also have been victims, but maybe not declared and hiding, or maybe no capacity to test. The spread rate is rather high. Although the fatality rate is low, with the fear of spread many countries has cancelled flight operations, educational institutions are closed, big gatherings has been banned, almost facing a lockdown situation. The World may understand the situation of Kashmir, which is locked down for more than 8 months.

The whole International community may appeal to India to free Kashmir, lift the curfew, pull-back troops and stop human rights violations. Indian revocation of Kashmir status was illegal under the Indian constitution, under the UN Charter, and under all international norms of the civilized world. India could not win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris for the last 7 decades and may not sustain its forced occupation for a longer time. It is appealed to free Indian Occupied Kashmir, the sooner the better.

Dr. Zafar Mirza appreciated the suggestions given by the member states and offered all possible best cooperation with any country to overcome pandemic. Pakistan is also a victim of COVID-19 and has been confirmed in 57 cases. And wanted to cooperate with the international community to fight against COVID-19. Pakistan is working closely with WHO and China, and taking all possible measures to avert any big disaster.

It is a global threat and must be fought globally. Pakistan will play its due share up to its full capacity and desires to activate SAARC with its original mission and objectives. Pakistan believes in Peace, Harmony, Cooperation, Mutual Respect, and Benefits. Pakistan wanted to play a positive role in regional stability and prosperity.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.