Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said Islamabad is willing to hold a referendum in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to give people the right to decide whether they want to remain in the country or be independent.
“Let the people of Kashmir decide what they want,” he said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. “Pakistan is ready for a referendum or a plebiscite. Let them decide whether they want to remain with Pakistan or to be independent. We are all for it.”
He said people from all parts of the country are invited to visit PoK to assess the human rights situation in the region. “Azad Kashmir holds free and fair elections and it elects its own government,” Khan said. “Like any other administration, they have their problems. But as I said, let us invite observers from all over the world. I assure you that they can go to the Pakistan side of Kashmir but won’t be allowed on the Indian side.”
Khan lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led government and compared the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to that of the Nazis. “Just as the Nazi ideology was built on hatred for minorities, the RSS ideology is also based on hatred for Muslims and other minorities, including Christians,” he said.
The prime minister said India has been taken over by an extremist ideology known as “Hindutva” and alleged that the country is also run by extremists. “It is a tragedy for India – and for its neighbours – that the country has been taken over by the RSS, an organisation which also assassinated the great Mahatma Gandhi,” Khan claimed. “A nuclear-armed country is being run by extremists, and Kashmir has been under siege for over five months.”
He said the situation in Kashmir received little international attention, claiming that commercial interests are more important for Western countries. “India is a big market and that is the reason behind the lukewarm response to what is happening to some 8 million people in Kashmir, as well as to minorities in India,” he said.
Khan also spoke about the Citizenship Amendment Act and said it was “blatantly against minorities”. He pointed out that these matters were raised when he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and later she issued a statement in November that the situation in Kashmir is “not sustainable”.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have ratcheted up since New Delhi abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 and divided it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India for Kashmir since Independence, did not take the decision well. Pakistan responded by suspending trade with India, downgrading bilateral ties and sending back its envoy. It also approached several international bodies, including the United Nations.