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How we lost Kashmir

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It was nothing short of an exceptional speech by our seasoned ambassador to the UN at the General Assembly. Grounded both, in reality and higher moral footing, it was a befitting response to a xenophobic characterisation of the people of Pakistan as terrorists by the Indian foreign minister. The ambassador’s speech was, however, short-lived and lost credibility before it could even develop one.

In the midst of glory, she committed what should be an unforgivable mistake that is not only going to embarrass Pakistan in the decades to come but has also dented its rightful stance on Kashmir — the use of false evidence and that too at the UN General Assembly. With emotions running high in Pakistan and the patriotic need to stick to one’s guns, the full extent of damage, while not clear to many at the moment, will be felt every time in the coming years Pakistan raises a point on Kashmir, and at any forum.

Courtesy our ambassador, the UNGA has ended on an ugly note for Pakistan and there is no point in hiding from this or remaining in denial. India now has legitimate evidence, which it has already begun to use to discredit Pakistan terming it the ‘Mother of lies’ by equating Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir with that of Pakistan’s supposed duplicity on hiding Osama bin Laden. As senseless as the two connections may be, at a forum like the UNGA, the purpose of which is to build and shape narratives, Pakistan has unfortunately lost the deal on Kashmir. And it will take a decade or more to build the same momentum for the world to take notice.

The government can either choose to ignore this, and we as commentators try to give it a spin, play it down, defend our ambassador for an otherwise brilliant job, and develop a precedent that it’s okay to be incompetent once in a while at the cost of damaging the nation. Or the government decides to put its foot down and remove the ambassador from such an important position where there is no room for error. The problem is that those in position of authority are not ready to call out the ambassador for her mistake, mostly out of courtesy and those aspiring to be in a position of authority or the commentators and scholars find themselves reluctant to be in the bad books of someone like our UN ambassador, who is so deeply established in the power circles. That leaves us with the security establishment that finds the world of expertise beyond Lodhi and Mushahid as dark and gloomy. The net result is that we carry on with a legacy of incompetence expecting a different result.

The norms and professionalism would suggest that the ambassador resigns on her own, but that won’t ever be the case in Pakistan. The charm of power, prestige and glory always prevail over better senses — even if that costs the nation a fortune. Also, in a country where nobody resigns no matter what the reason, the pressure or moral sensitivity for our UN ambassador to resign is almost negligible.

You see, if after decades of experience, our ambassador is making an error as grave as this, while it may be convenient to shift the blame onto her staff, in reality it is about incompetence and that too right at the top. Her Excellency had one job, and if for whatever reason she hasn’t been effective in it, she herself is the only person to take the blame. There is no reason why the entire system or the nation bears the brunt of one individual’s error.

It was after all our incompetence that what was once known as Kashmir ‘freedom fight’ globally, in a matter of years got labelled as ‘terrorism’. And it is our incompetence today that the Kashmiris suffer on a daily basis. In times like these, it’s not India but incompetence that is our biggest enemy, and Kashmir is the victim.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2017.

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