Should we confine a historical issue like Kashmir to elections alone, comments Naseer A Ganai.
Asif Zardari is a politician by chance. Had Benazir’s tragic assassination not taken place, he would have been a non-entity in Pakistan politics. But changing situation brought him before “devil’s advocate” where Zardari agreed to sacrifice Kashmir for Indo-Pak friendship. The statement was not liked by cross section of people in Jammu and Kashmir except Abdul Gani Vakil, Minister for Social Welfare.
Vakil Sahib these days speaks a lot about South Asian affairs though he was the chief minister had assigned him job to speak on social welfare and related affairs. But he is adamant. He few days ago claimed that Musharaff ruled out independence in Pugwash conference. Three years ago Vakil, while addressing people at Congress headquarters in Srinagar, had claimed that Kashmir has entered into accession with Nehru-Gandhi family not with the Government of India. The welcome by Vakil has not in anyway lowered the importance of Zardari’s statement. Recently an analyst described it as move by the Pakistan not to negotiate with India presently when it is facing problems on so many fronts.
Ostensibly the argument has some weight but let it be presumed that Pakistan really wants to keep Kashmir on backburner for time being and improve its relations with India, what are options left with the Kashmiris who for the last sixty years have been seeking resolution of Kashmir.
Is there a need for strategy?
There is. Even if India and Pakistan agree on keeping Kashmir in cold storage, the very nature of the dispute would not allow them and Kashmiri leadership should not allow them. The geo-political changes, Afghan war, increase influence of China in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and above all international dimension of the issue would always make Kashmir as one of the major conflicts of the world. It is this nature of the dispute, which the pro-freedom leadership or those who have sympathy with Kashmir or Kashmir cause have to exploit.
Historically Kashmir could be cursed placed but geographically it is blessed. It is close to China, Afghanistan and both China and United States of America ostensibly should have substantial interest in it. That is why the China is investing in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Americans are showing interest in investment in this Kashmir. Here is the role of Kashmiri leadership and its intellectuals if there are any.
They have to make the world community understand the consequences of Kashmir issue being unresolved. They must be made to understand that Kashmir is not only an issue between India and Pakistan alone. It is a Muslim political issue and it should be viewed as such. In this backdrop the political leadership should also give serious thought to recent support of the United States to the Kosovo and the report of the American State Department ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -2007’ released in March, which has highlighted in detail how the “troops indulge in fake encounter killings, custodial disappearances, rapes and other rights abuses across the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir.” The report carried by some newspapers here has perhaps first time pointed out several issues faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It has mentioned “extra -judicial killings, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces” as major problem. In addition, the report says under the (Jammu and Kashmir) Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990, no “prosecution, suit, or other legal proceeding shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers of the act,” without the approval of the central government.
The detailed mention of Kashmir and human rights issue in the report has to be viewed and debated in Kashmir. It is to be seen whether US sees Kashmir as place where it could act as it did in Kosovo to achieve its strategic objectives and to gain confidence in the Muslim world. No doubt there is consensus among the parties including those fighting for the right to self-determination of the people that Kashmir is a Muslim political issue, it has to broadly explained.
If the leadership views that they see United States has rule they should see where United States fit in the scheme of things especially after the declaration of independence by Kosovo.
Elections in the State of Jammu and Kashmir of late have been turned into an issue of popularity among people by those who in 90s when the mass revolt broke out in Kashmir deemed it wise to be outside the State. No doubt it is an issue but not a crucial one. With Jama’at-e-Islami deciding once and for all that they won’t go for election boycott but at the same time making it clear that the elections or the state assembly won’t change the nature of Kashmir dispute, other parties too should make their position clear. Or they would be challenged by non-entities like Saif-Din-Soz.
This debate should end and the pro-freedom parties have prominent role to play in ending the debate forever. They have to be categorical in their response and have to tell all those who consider assembly and the elections as litmus test for popularity among the people what is the state assembly for and what has been its relevance. What about those who been in assembly and what are their views about the assembly and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir?
The National Conference senior leaders including Abdul Rahim Rather is on record saying how New Delhi eroded special status of the Jammu and Kashmir over the years. With or without assembly New Delhi would not give an inch to any leader who prefer to take a route of assembly and history is witness to it. From Sheikh Abdullah to Farooq Abdullah, to Mufti Sayeed what New Delhi has given to them though they have given every inch to New Delhi.
Sheikh-Indira Gandhi accord didn’t give Sheikh back an autonomy. Farooq Abdullah’s autonomy resolution was not even considered by New Delhi. This assembly and its “elected” representatives have no courage to pass a simple resolution seeking revocation of the armed forces special powers act. In fact legal experts here argue that state government could have easily revoked the AFSPA but they have failed to do it because they fear NewDelhi would not like it. The assembly has failed to pass the permanent (residents) disqualification bill after New Delhi objected to it. Interestingly in one of the debates Muzaffer Hussain Baig, Deputy Chief Minister ridiculed the argument that Kashmiris have ever ruled Kashmir. “We have been always at the beck and call of New Delhi,” he said. And it is this assembly where pro-freedom leadership is being invited to dance on the tones of New Delhi by those who are at the beck and call of New Delhi.
The silence is no answer to offer. The silence breeds confusion. In the broader strategy the leadership has to clear that they are not, if they believe in it, with the elections and then they could cite hundreds of example of irrelevance of the assembly and the elections in context of Kashmir issue. Kashmir issue should not be confined to unnecessary debates of elections or assembly.