When will fate smile on Kashmir?

A popular Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatoon cries out in her well known poem “When will fate smile on me?”. In an obvious reference to the ultimate desire of all her fellow occupied people she seeks answers to their collective quest for freedom.

However with recent developments of increased détente between India and Pakistan, Kashmiris will be wondering whether fate has destined that they remain perpetually occupied.

As has been the case in Palestine, Kashmir too has had its fair share of ‘Oslo-type accords’. On each occasion, instead of moving towards implementing United Nations resolutions, India as the military occupier of Kashmir, followed the footsteps of her close mate Israel, by rejecting the legitimate demands of the Kashmiris and intensifying her military presence.

Many will recall the ‘Simla Accord’ of 1972, whereby both countries resolved to ‘settle their differences by peaceful means’. As is the case today, with respect to Kashmir, both sides agreed to postpone a ‘final settlement’ to sometimes in the future. Nothing has changed. Hence, the fate of Kashmir remains hanging on an uncertain future ‘settlement’.

As the Pakistani General Musharraf, now adorned as ‘President’ was toasting his new diplomatic ‘coup’ with the leader of his hostile Indian neighbour, Atal Vajpayee, Kashmiris had nothing to celebrate but mourn a new betrayal.

After all, history records that for 55 years none of the previous Pakistani leaders have been able to restore the territorial integrity of Jammu and Kashmir. After the death of the leader of the Pakistan movement, Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1948, the leadership of the country was soon usurped by feudal lords and civil bureaucrats.

There have been exceptions of course. But as fate would have it , some of them died in mysterious circumstances. A well-known commentator on Pakistan, Ahmad Irfan, refers for instance to the death of one such person.

“A year before their armed struggle had begun, the Kashmiris had lost their political commander-in-chief, President Ziaul Haq.” Irfan describes him as “the man who had masterminded the Afghan jihad and helped beat the Soviet invaders, along with more than two dozen senior army officers, had gone down in a not so mysterious crash of Pakistan Air Force C-130 plane.”

His successor Benazir Bhutto immediately reneged on her father, Zulfikaar Bhutto’s anti-imperialist stance and pro-Kashmiri goals. Indeed, between her and the present, none have provided any hope of liberating Kashmir.

Betrayal or treason are some of the serious charges laid against Pakistani leaders by Kashmiris. The question posed by Khatoon, however, remains unanswered: “When will fate smile on me?”