Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Listen to Musharraf


Listen to Musharraf when he speaks, there is a huge scope for dialogue, comments Naseer A Ganai.

Recently the former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf addressed India Today Conclave in New Delhi. Responding to questions, Musharraf, in his speech, linked Kargil and Siachen to Kashmir dispute. He warned that if the “story went on” there would be more Kargils and Siachens. He said Kashmir remains the key dispute and core point. “We had a freedom struggle since 1947. The non-violent movement turned into militancy because of the public sympathy in Pakistan for the people of Kashmir which gave rise to dozens of freelance Mujahideen groups.” 
“Terrorism and extremism are a state of mind.  If we have to kill terrorism and extremism, we have to change our state of mind. We need to address terrorism and extremism in long and short term perspective,” Musharraf urged.
In a way Mushraff described Kashmir as the mother of all disputes in the sub-continent. 
The National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah, who is infamous for shooting his mouth off, heard Musharraf patiently. 
The silence of Dr Farooq was admission of reality of the Kashmir dispute. And it is this reality that India should come into terms with. New Delhi’s and its media’s perpetual state of denial would bring nothing to the region except chaos. It would strengthen the forces inimical to the peace and stability. It would give room to what Musharraf says extremists, who are averse to ideas, like freedom, liberty, peace, justice, secularism and democracy. 
India has accepted Kashmir as a dispute but then it forgets its promises when it presumes even the slightest change in situation. On August 7, 1952, Nehru told the Indian Parliament: “As the House knows, we have decided right at the beginning that we are agreeable to a plebiscite in which all the people of Jammu and Kashmir will take part. We are resolved not to dishonor this pledge we have given to the people of India and therefore, we shall pursue policy accordingly… We do not want to win the people against their will and if people of Jammu and Kashmir want to part company with us, they can go their way and we shall go ours.” 
In 1995 when situation was tense in Kashmir and Dr Farooq Abdullah had not offered his services to be part of democratic farce enacted in the State in 1996, former Prime Minister of India Narasimha Rao famously promised people of Kashmir from Burkina Fasco, a little known Island in West Africa “anything short of Azadi.”  
Now 13 years down the line, New Delhi doesn’t even consider Kashmir as a dispute and it doesn’t even discuss demilitarization of Kashmir. There are no Taliban in Kashmir and the demands of the political parties of Kashmir are not non-negotiable. The pro-freedom camp is not asking something that is alien. They are asking for something that has been accepted by India. That is resolution of Kashmir dispute. 
No one in Kashmir espouses the exclusivist ideology. Even the US that went for war in Afghanistan and Iraq obviously to impose its ideals of democracy and liberty is ready to talk to Taliban. 
A year ago, Taliban were pariahs. But now the president Barack Obama has declared that the United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan, and it opened doors for reconciliation process. Now the US says that it would talk to moderate Taliban. In future, the reconciliation will be the new strategy of USA in Afghanistan.
The West is ready to negotiate with Taliban. They have given them even new name now: Moderate Taliban. In Kashmir there are no Taliban. But here you have unrest, frustration, anger and a bottled up resentment. Every day when an incident of human rights violation takes place here, youth come out to give vent to their anger by pelting stones knowing well that in retaliation bullets would be fired on them and they can get killed. And many of them got killed. But it continues unabated.
Today we have the leadership in likes of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and in Syed Ali Shah Geelani. And they have publicly said no to stone pelting. In present day Kashmir, no one is hardliner. Those who even object to the stone pelting and call for peaceful struggle shouldn’t be branded as the hardliners. There is enough room for dialogue and the resolution. 
In fact, there is more. In the Muslim world, every one rejects the West and its interventionist policy. But Kashmir welcomes any intervention of the West. Isn’t it strange? 
The Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is the chief pontiff of Kashmir or the religious head. And when Kashmir was not in the mandate of Richard Holbrooke, Mirwaiz expressed dismay and anger.  
If Pervez Mushraff is to be believed, Islamabad is ready for demilitarization and making borders irrelevant. He exhorted India to make the borders ‘’irrelevant’’ and ‘’tear down the Line of Control’’ and said ‘’this (the LoC) is another Berlin Wall it needs to be torn down.’’
No one in Kashmir is against the “making borders irrelevant and demilitarization.” These steps would bring an era of peace and development in Kashmir and in the whole region. 
Kashmir has now become essential for peace in South Asia. Shabir Shah, the Hurriyat leader who has been described by the Amnesty International as “prisoner of consciences” always says “South Asia would burn if Kashmir is not solved.” Many people in Kashmir would laugh at it. This cliché of “South Asia would burn” has frustrated many and they would ridicule it. Some would say we are already burning, and we don’t care whether South Asia remains or burns. 
But in reality subcontinent is really burning and it is at the brink of another war. And war between India and Pakistan could be their last war given their nuclear capabilities and India’s complacently jingoistic media. So time has come for New Delhi to respond to what Mushraff has stated in New Delhi. “Bury the past, and settle the core issue.” Musharraf insisted that it should be done urgently. The word “urgently” might have been used by him taking the fast changing geo-political realities in consideration. India is confident and an emerging power and Kashmir the pain in its neck. If the dispute is settled, nothing would happen to the nation state of India. Disputed regions don’t make nation states strong. Yes their settlement makes them more powerful and more respectful.

NC, PDP’s politics on Kashmiri blood
Here is another reality of the Kashmir dispute. The chief minister Omer Abdullah promised exemplary action against the troops involved in killing of two innocent youth in Bomai Sopur in North Kashmir on March 6, 2009.  The chief minister elaborated the exemplary punishment. He said he would talk to the defense minister and the home minister of India. The report has been prepared by the concerned deputy commissioner. He has identified the persons responsible for the unprovoked firing. But still there is no action. Mehbooba Mufti, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party president raised the issue in the Assembly. The PDP didn’t allow the governor to continue his speech. He left the speech half way. Ali Muhammad Sagar is the Minister of the Rural Development. He termed the PDP’s ruckus in the House as a political gimmick.  
Here is another reality. In 2006 four youth were killed in Doodhipora. They were playing cricket and the troops shot at them. Ali Muhammad Sagar was in opposition then. In Assembly, he termed the incident as genocide. See the records of the Assembly to check out the veracity. He was not alone. The present Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, Dr Mehboob Beg, Sharief Din Shariq, Saifullah Mir were leading from the front. They boycotted the speech of the governor. The PDP didn’t oppose the governor’s speech. 
It shows when in power the human rights violation has different connotations for the Peoples Democratic Party and when out of power it does mean different. The National Conference too applies the same yardstick. These are the ‘representatives’ of people. They apparently speak about people when they are not in ‘power’. When in power they do nothing as they come to know that it is not in their jurisdiction. However both the parties would continue to befool people as long as Kashmir dispute is not settled. Kashmir dispute should be solved for the good of region as advocated by the president Pervez Mushraff recently while addressing the India Today Conclave.

(The author is senior correspondent Greater Kashmir)

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