“History repeats itself, that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history.” -Clarence Darrow

Second United Nations Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva

Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D.

28 September 2006

“Self-Determination and Self-Governance in Kashmir” — text of speech delivered by the author at the newly re-organized UNHRC’s second meeting in Geneva.


  • Basic Premise: UN Resolution 1514 of December 14, 1960:

“All peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of that they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economical, social and cultural development.”

  • Ms. Karen Parker’s thesis:

– Self-determination linked to de-colonization process following the creation of the UN in 1945
– De-colonization has led to either “perfect decolonization” or “imperfect decolonization”
– In the case of former, the State has a seat in the UN and full sovereignty
– In the later, there is absence of full-governance
– Kashmir is in the later category in which the UN also got involved because “armed forces of India seized much of Kashmir under the pretext of coming to aid of a Maharajah who was attempting to quell the Kashmir’s revolt against him.”
– Even without the UN recognition of Kashmir’s right of self-determination, Kashmir’s case is based on a history of self-governance pre-dating the colonial period. Kashmiris talk, dress and have stuff different from others in their neighborhood.

  • Other “learned advocates”:

– All people have the right of self-determination by virtue of the UN Charter so that they can freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
– “Kashmir’s right of self-determination has been denied under alien and foreign domination in the last 60 years.”

  • What is the reality?:

– India was and is a “subcontinent”. Sub-national identities galore.
– Indian decolonization process was unlike any other (India Independence Act of 1947)
– Pakistan invaded Kashmir in 1947 (just read any book by Pakistani military brass)
– The Question of Quebec: Should the dominant ethnic identity be exercised in a manner that confines the rights of sub-identities within it?
– The Question of America: When does the emphasis shift from self-determination to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations?
– And finally, what about Punjab, Pakhtunistan, Taiwan, Kurds, etc.?


  • Self-Governance is “Self-Determination Plus”, meaning that it includes the rights of all ethnic groups, minorities, dissent, devolution of power, gender justice, egalitarian economy and cultural autonomy.
  • Self-governance is the new Mantra in the subcontinent. Musharraf likes it, Kashmiri politicians like it and even common man wants it. But does it exist?
  • Publicly stated positions of India and Pakistan:

Time to look beyond the UN Resolutions on Kashmir if either party is serious in resolving the issue (Pakistan)

– Borders cannot be changed (India)
– Make the Line of Control (LOC) irrelevant (India and Pakistan)
– Ensure Self-Governance (India and Pakistan)

  • Self-Governance in Indian J&K:

– Separate State Constitution, State Autonomy protected under Indian Constitution
– Both houses of State Legislature are populated by local politicians. There have been charges of “rigged” elections in the past, but all elections held in the last decade have been closely scrutinized and the independent civil society of India, as well as foreign
observers, have ruled these elections fair.
– All political decisions in the state like the budget allocations, development programs, internal security, freedom of the press and civil society are made by the local administration.
– Analysis shows that state autonomy is abused by state politicians and powerful bureaucrats to encourage nepotism, corruption and oligarchy within the state.
– State spends Rs. 350 million per day (almost all contributed by the Central government) on non-security related expenditures, which would normally be adequate for significant development but some of it is siphoned off by local politicians and bureaucrats.

  • Self-Governance in Pakistani J&K:

– 49 seat AJK Assembly has 41 elected representatives, 12 of which are assigned outside of AJK. Other 8 seats are “auctioned” to the highest bidder in various categories.
– 14 member AJK Council is chaired by the PM of Pakistan who appoints five members from federal ministers and the Pakistan National Assembly. In effect, non-Kashmiris populate half of the Council.
– In the elections held on July 11, 2006, even though the ruling party won only 19 seats in the Assembly, the President, PM and the Speaker all belong to this party, implying a tyranny of the majority and hardly an example of pluralism.
– In the Northern Areas (NA), the recent formation of the Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) has changed little as the Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs controls all its decisions. A favourable ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1999 has done little to the disfranchised people of NA. Political parties from AJK are disallowed to operate within the NA.

  • What do independent observers say?

Indian J&K: No comment on self-governance (Human Rights Watch, September 2006).
– Human rights abuse by Indian security forces and targeted killing by militants of civilians are highlighted. A particular reference is made to killing of nearly 600 Kashmiri politicians by terrorists who receive training, weapons, funding and sanctuary in Pakistan. (Human Rights Watch, September 2006)
Pakistani J&K: “Although Azad means free, the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but. The Pakistani authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict controls on basic freedoms.” (Human Rights Watch, September 2006)
– “There is a façade of an elected local government, but the federal government in Islamabad, the Army and the intelligence agencies control all aspects of political life in Azad Kashmir. The military shows no tolerance for dissent and practically runs the region as a fiefdom.” (Human Rights Watch, September 2006)

  • Where do we go from here?

– General Musharraf in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on September 26 laid the basic building blocks for a process towards permanent settlement of the J&K problem. He said: “Let us make the LOC irrelevant, withdraw troops from the region, set up joint management bodies and move to self-governance in the territory for a solution of the dispute.”
– I would argue that he has right ideas but in the wrong order.

  • The roadmap to permanent solution of the J&K problem will require following steps:

– Respect for human rights on both sides of the LOC. Immediate end to militancy and terrorism – closure of terrorist camps facilitated by Pakistani intelligence agencies.
– Self-governance in Pakistani J&K (including Northern Areas)
– Good Governance in both Indian J&K and Pakistani J&K
– Promote closer relations between the peoples on both sides of the LOC, including open access, commerce and trade links. This will require bilateral agreements.
– Put emphasis on human and regional development not semantics and polemics.

  • What is the “end game”?

– Quick end to violence as human suffering must cease as soon as possible.
– Respect for human rights for all peoples of Jammu and Kashmir irrespective of their religion, region, ethnicity or political orientation.
– Peoples of J&K have an unfettered right to peace and prosperity.


About Me

Dr. Vijay Sazawal is a policy analyst and a commentator who specializes in local governance and intra-community issues affecting political dynamics within the Kashmir valley. He has written extensively on the current political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir (commonly referred to as Kashmir), arguing for new and innovative approaches in understanding and resolving the simmering discontent in all communities and regions of the State.


Jammu & Kashmir Map