“Let guiltless souls be freed from guilty woe.” Shakespeare
Kashmir has continued to be bone of contention, cause of wars, and border skirmishes, huge military budgets and nuke experiments in the sub-continent, since Mount Batten the British Governor General of free India just before partion secretly altered the Radcliff boundary award, so as to leave Gurdaspore District (the key to Kashmir) within India. Of course, he stepped outside his constitutional role and masterminded India’s aerial intervention in Srinagar on 27Oct 1947.
Briton’s colonial rulers did not pay the heavy price of their policy. But doubtlessly the people of Pakistan and India particularly the people of J&K have been facing the ordeal, and paying the price of Kashmir episode since 1947. The two independent states have remained at war with each other during these 54 Years, and Kashmiris in each decade had launched peaceful political struggle to press their demand for a free, fear and impartial plebiscite. But having turned deaf year to the just demand, India forced Kashmiris to begin a new initiative of Intifada and armed struggle for the achievement of the right of self-determination, as promised by India and Pakistan, and guaranteed under the United Nations charter and the Security Council resolutions.
The decade old Jehad by the people of Kashmir against forcible and illegal occupation of J&K by India has not only led to great human sacrifices in Kashmir, but it has brought armies of India and Pakistan up to eyeballs on several occasions during the last 12 years. Their fingers are on trigger.
Kashmir is fundamentally a political, moral and humanitarian question of the rights of a human society, evoking feelings of support and sympathy among all the civilized societies of the world, besides the strategic and economic interests of the regional powers. The time is becoming ripe, when all the parties of Kashmir dispute have to sit in close proximity, balance their interests and demonstrate a political will for a durable solution in accordance with the urges and aspirations of Kashmiris, as there is no historical odd insurmountable before the understanding and wisdom of neighbours and different nations on earth.
Fortunately in Pakistan there is not only a historical desire to resolve Kashmir issue by mutual dialogue with India, but now there is a leadership in power which has the stomach to face difficulties and take decisions resolutely and successfully. General Pervez Musharraf is a futurist military statesman, who knows well the dimensions of Kashmir conflict and benefits of its solution for a sea of humanity living under different systems in South Asia. He is ready to face war, if there is so, but he is flexible, if his rival is prepared for negotiations on Kashmir. On one Nov, 1999, he said, ” It (PAK) would have no dialogue with India which does not include Kashmir.”
On the subject of peace and war he said, ” hostility will be met with hostility and peace will be met with peace.” But we are sure peace in the region is the first and last desire of the Pakistani president, while as hostility is a relative term, if other party’s move looks unpleasant and circumstances demand tough steps like eye for eye, and ear for ear. But he was always prepared to discuss Kashmir with India in the broader interest of humanity, he said, ” I am flexible. I am ready to talk with Prime Minister Vajpayee at any place and at any time without preconditions.” But Kashmir is always a core topic in his mind and he always aimed at meaningful talks.
Happily, Kashmiris made their positive and substantial contribution towards the present Indo Pak Summit when the APHC and other freedom fighters refused to talk with India on Kashmir and insisted on Pakistan’s participation in the crucial talks on Kashmir as an important party of Kashmir dispute.
The present Indian leadership although hawkish from ideological angle looks a little responsive and flexible and might prove to be the proper instrument to sell any mutually agreed solution over Kashmir to her public. Both factors, i.e. the reason, sanity and global pressure conjointly prepared India to invite the president of Pakistan to New Delhi for talks on bilateral issues including Kashmir. The president and chief executive General Pervez Musharraf accepted the invitation of the prime minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee for vital Delhi talks on Kashmir. The historical conjunction between Pakistan and India will take place on 14 July-16 July. The people’s of both the countries especially the people of Kashmir have pinned much more hopes with the Delhi Summit, which is taking place after 1998 Kargil war and amid the 12 year old armed struggle of Kashmiri youth against the 54 year old India’s occupation of two thirds of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Apart from the conservative rhetoric of the majority Indian leaders, describing Kashmir as their constitutional and secular part, PM Vajpayee himself frequently hinted at flexibility on Kashmir and other issues. The two leaders have reciprocated polite words of reconciliation and friendship and General Musharraf has in a recent telephonic conversion with the prime minister of India cautioned against uttering conservative words on the status of Kashmir in order to auger a bright start for the Delhi Summit towards permanent political peace and economic independence in South Asia, though over the issue of talks with the Hurriyet in Delhi, India has shown obduracy and has cautioned Pakistan against what India calls “adventurism.”
Although as rightly stated by General Pervez Musharraf the exact line of flexibility can not be described or drawn but still this much can be understood that Pakistan has no reservations and she has no meaningless words to fill in the blanks. Speaking on TV and Radio on 15 June General Musharraf said the protracted dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir would be high on his agenda for the talks. He repeated Pakistan’s position that Kashmir was the core Issue between the neighbours and said, ” chances of moving forward have never been brighter than they are now. He said, ” I am sure my counterparts in India-the Indian leadership, the Indian government- will also show open- mindedness, and this time we will change history”.
Of course, president Musharraf comes from army, but in Pakistan’s history he is not the exceptional case of Generals to cease the power. Only this is the stabler institution and constituency to deal with Kashmir and nuclear issue. Moreover under the given conditions people cannot afford to wait longer than necessary. Some times the ordeal of unfulfilled hopes make people desperate and depressed.
A famous Persian couplet is quoted here to convey the message: –
Ta tiryaq az Iraq awurdah shawed
Marguzeedah murdah shawed
There are reasonable factors behind the decision of Pakistan to have direct talks on Kashmir and other issue with India. The OIC has provided full-fledged moral and political backing to Pakistan on Kashmir besides supporting peaceful dialogue with the India to resolve the long-standing Kashmir question. Hence Pakistan’s foreign minister Abdul Sattar ensured world Islamic support to the forth-coming Delhi Summit and long before the 14 July Pakistan would be in a better position to plead its case on Kashmir.
Besides Islamabad believes that financially weak Pakistan should refocus its priorities and form policies aimed at a rapid economic development. It is pleaded that the settlement of problems with India will help revive Pakistan’s economy with the help of international financial institutions, dominated by the US and European countries. The western companies plan to bring huge investment provided the political climate in the sub-continent becomes permanently cool and stable.
India’s economy is not immune from all these conditions, threats and risks. She is engaged in a decade old bloody war against Kashmiris inside and along a long and hazardous LOC in J&K, draining India’s exchequer and telling upon the military professionalism of her armed forces by conducting en masse killings and hatching feelings of revenge in Kashmir. Leading Indian intellectuals and politicians favour the Indo-Pak summit. M.J Akbar writes:-
“Time has not melted the Kashmir dispute, instead more than a hundred thousand corers are spent each year on the cost of confrontation. Kashmir has corroded the credibility of Indian democracy (how many elections there can been called genuine?) and Kashmir has become the excuse for the militarization of Pakistan, which in turn makes democracy impossible to sustain.”(dawn 24 June)
Although Kashmir will be the major topic of deliberations in the forth coming Delhi summit. But Kashmiris who have been fighting their war of the right of self-determination and sacrificing their blood, honour and property endlessly over the years would be watching the negotiations on TV or listening to radio. Why the fate of Kashmiris will be discussed in absentia? Allah Almighty would not pass the judgement in absentia on the day of judgement. But this should not annoy Kashmiris at least owing to the following reasons: —
Kashmir lost its suzerainty when India grabbed it on the fateful day of 27Oct 1947, following the partition and freedom of India. The UN Security council passed resolutions and constituted commission to hold plebiscite in J&K, but it did not define legally Kashmir as a party at par with Pakistan and India. This became clear when the UN commission to investigate into the conflict between India and Pakistan was constituted and named as the “UN commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). The commission was not named as UN commission on Kashmir, contrary to the hopes of the people of Kashmir. In the subsequent years also when whether resolutions were passed or pacts were drawn by India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Kashmiri leadership was never asked to sit across the table as a third party in these parleys. It was perhaps to a great extent owing to India’s intransigence, who abhorred to give triangular character to Kashmiris question and every time stressed on twain meetings with Pakistan and Kashmiris separately. This gave birth to different agreements on the one hand in the shape of Nehru-Abdullah Pact 1952 and Indra-Abdullah Pact 1974 and on the other hand Tashkent Pact, Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration between Pakistan and India. But, in the current year (2001) Kashmiri freedom fighters and APHC took a firm and unique stand to turn down repeated talk offers by India with Kashmiris on twain lines. This stand of Kashmiris forced India to retreat back to her previous bilateral way of talking with Pakistan but still without Kashmiris. The stand taken by Kashmiri freedom fighters will give Pakistan additional leverage over India, though ironically this sacrifice could not lead Kashmiris to the forth-coming dialogue table between Pakistan and India in Agra.
Pakistan is not blamed for this. Pakistan has always supported the freedom movement and has sided with Kashmiris. But yet international compulsions and other factors have always compelled the governments of Pakistan to talk with India on Kashmir without Kashmiris on the table. Nevertheless, Pakistan has every time in every meeting with Kashmiri freedom fighters assured them that Pakistan will try to find out some alternative with regard to their (Kashmiris) participation in the talks. Some Kashmiris and Pakistanis say Pakistan should have rejected bilateral talks offer in the present form. But these people over-look the fact that no nation or state in the modern global village can afford to live an isolated political and economic life. Hence what is true of other nations, is true for Pakistan also.
One important reason is that India believes Kashmir to be her integral and irrevocable part and rejects Kashmir to be the third core party of the dispute, while as Pakistan is the chief advocate of tripartite talks on Kashmir and it was due to the efforts of Pakistan that the OIC gave some recognition to the APHC. Moreover, Kashmiri factor as third force always irks India.
One more vital cause, which cannot be over looked, is the behaviour of Kashmiri leaders in the past and especially during the last 12 years. These politicians ought to have acknowledged that Kashmiri people who had gained great respect throughout the world for their unprecedented sacrifices have grown conscious politically, and are sensitive about their prideful history, struggle and inspiration. As every state, nation community guards and promotes her interests, so we also must honestly serve our interests as long freedom fighting Islamic patriots, not frightening or hating interests of other communities living over centuries with us. Even though ultimately we may like to accede with Pakistan, this must be our own internal decision reflecting our faith, conscience and interests.
Kashmiri politicians should have ensured their contribution in principle to what jointly both Pakistan and India, might agree upon in the best interests of this region and regional peace and progress and wishes of Kashmiris. Unfortunately all the Kashmiri leaders are not speaking the language of masses, nor they value the source of their strength in nation’s history, ideology, culture and economy.
Another reason behind this situation is that during the last 12 years of gore and turmoil, our groups and politicians could not bring forth unity in diversity in our multi-religious, linguistic society. They followed myopic outlook, when the time was yearning for patience, compassion, and humanitarian thinking in order to tolerate and accommodate people and groups of diverse ideas fighting occupational forces of India. Despite Islam being followed by overwhelming majority of Kashmiris, friction and fragmentation in thought and body has increased during the last 12 years of freedom movement. Muslim clerics and organisations have failed to forge inter-group unity or focus on common interests amongst all the existing parties. The clerics on the contrary have promoted group interests but unfortunately under the Islamic gown. The existing freedom fighting groups or parties could have formed a united militia with a common purpose and uniform strategy as did Chinese, Vietnamese and Algerians against their enemies.
But this suggestion fell on deaf years, resulting in counter militancy in 1994 and eliminating many able and valiant sons of our struggle in Kashmir. When every one beats his trumpet and does not value nor persue love, devotion, and honesty, and when there is no patriotic ideal before the politicians or clerics of a society, helpless people have but to beat their breasts. It is sad that no too theologians or religious groups honestly agree with each other on religious interpretations. Often even basic issues are made controversial. Every group is constructing his own mosques all over Kashmir. This was not the case in the past, but today we are sailing in the same boat, though there is a remarkable increase in the number of Muslim clerics each year than before.
We formed the Tehreek-i-Hurriyet Kashmir (THK) comprising eleven parties in 1989. But soon it was dissolved to create All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC). If we really aimed at unity in diversity on the political front of the freedom movement, we could do it by broadening the scope of THK. THK could perform the task better without damaging people’s commitment and solidarity with the cause. Look how strongly and mockingly the APHC executive body was made cleric in holy and temporal orders which gave veto power to every executive member to guard the entry post. This led to non-observance of democratic norms at the highest level of our Jehad movement. The non sequitur has naturally made this alliance non-operational judging by the individual activities of Hurriyet leaders. Had the APHC executive acknowledged the sacrifices of outstanding freedom fighters outside its circle and demonstrated open heartedness towards the fellow freedom fighters, perhaps it would not have put it’s head in a noose. However we believe that it’s base should be broadened to give representation to the outstanding people of the freedom movement.
Since the concept of a tripartite dialogue on Kashmir as seen by APHC has not matured, wisdom is to face this episode. Though APHC had seven golden years at its disposal but the executive body could not utilize its rise in Kashmir politics, for the collective good of Jammu and Kashmir, nor the movement could become self-supporting financially.
It did not forge unity in diversity.
It did not promote patriotism against sectarianism, which was the hallmark of Pakistan movement in 40’s.
It could not devise a unanimous political, askery and diplomatic strategy to boost-up freedom struggle against the occupational power of India.
It could not read the pulse of the people of Kashmir to initiate measures to overcome moral disappointment in the society.
It every time turned deaf year to the demand of broadening the scope of the executive.
They could not follow one common agenda during the last seven years.
Hurriyet statements often contradict one another and do not see eye to eye with each other.
Generally speaking Nifaq is the order of the day and rhetoric is common in public speeches and mosque sermons. Each and every party or group and their leaders daily swear by Islam and Islamic system. But hardly they mean what they say. Atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion prevails when people talk with each other. Whispering has become the safer way of communicating ideas due to this hazy political environment, filled with dishonesty. We only preach the principles of self-sacrifice, self-accountability, and submission before Allah. In short, the tale of prison (Kashmir) is horrible.
This is the overview of the political and social climate in Jammu and Kashmir, when two executive chiefs of Pakistan and India will meet in India to discuss the fate of millions in the region. Some of the reasons as to why the core issue of Kashmir is discussed between two chiefs of India and Pakistan in absentia of Kashmiris have already been analysed in this paper. Regardless of some demerits in their bilateral talks, every wise Kashmiri and Pakistani whose hearts bleed to see humanity tearing into pieces prays for a historical change in the status quo, benefiting the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The people of Kashmir cautiously hope that this summit will succeed, since the two chiefs have a stomach to face the present and build the future of mankind from humanitarian angle. It is to be reminded here that some months back while referring to Kashmir dispute, Prime Minister Vajpayee had used the tem “Insaniyet” instead of the Indian constitution. General Pervez Musharraf also recently told some Kashmiri politicians and intellectuals that Kashmir was a humanitarian question as well, and Pakistan and India could not resolve it with out Kashmiris.
We have before us scores of developments occurring, when both Pakistan and India seem happy to sit across the table, to explore a visible road map towards a final solution of Kashmir issue. In fact there is no just and everlasting solution possible without the participation of Kashmiri people and freedom fighters, which have gained leverage during the past 12 years due to their sacrifices. Certainly, it would have created an ideal situation if Kashmiris as the real force and party had been invited to give their input in the Indo-Pak deliberations. But since it did not mature for many reasons, the demand however cannot be ignored in future, and some agreed formula to hold a joint KPIC (Kashmir Pakistan India Conference) should be discovered. Till then the freedom fighters of Kashmir (APHC and others) must do solid inspirational and reflective work for the success of the freedom movement of Kashmir. Because the future oriented freedom struggle is the best way to promote the national cause of the people of Kashmir.
As the events move forward to address the Kashmir issue, it is in our best interest to put trust in the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf ‘s promises with Kashmiris and support the Pakistan-India Summit of July 2001 and pray for its success.
Mr. Muhammad Farooq Rehmani is the chairman of Jammu & Kashmir People’s League.