Thursday, 29 May 2008

Air Marshal Asghar Khan and Kashmir

Air Marshal Asghar Khan and Kashmir
Shabir Choudhry

A few months ago Chief Executive of Pakistan General Musharaf declared that overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are liberal minded people, and only one percent is 'fundamentalists'. May be he is right as far as the percentage is concerned, but it is this very tiny minority which is calling shots. It is this one percent which has to large extent has kept the overwhelming majority in a kind of hostage.

This tiny minority has tremendous power and influence over masses due to its religious status and resources. If they don't like something they can very easily declare that anti Islam, conspiracy of Jews, Hindus, America etc. They can even declare Muslim people as anti Islam, anti Pakistan or agents of so and so. Because of their control of mosques and their own media they can make many people believe that "Ganga Singh has become a Wahabi".

This lobby becomes more active and perhaps effective when it comes to Kashmir and relationship with India. Anyone who advocates a solution of Kashmir which is not liked by them they will declare him as anti Pakistan, anti Islam or even an 'agent'. Scores of honest and notable people from different walks of life have become their victims.

Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan has reputation of being an honest and sincere man. People like to call him "Mr Clean". From time to time he has advocated a non-military solution to the Kashmir problem, and a friendly relationship with India. He and many other people in position of influence advocate that Pakistan should cut down its arms expenditure and spend more on welfare of the people.

In his recent article 'The Condominium approach', published in many Pakistani English papers, he has openly criticised Pakistan's Kashmir policy and advocated a solution which is not based on United Nations resolutions. He wrote: Zia ul Haq's imitative further weakened what little was left of Pakistan's case in this dispute and Azad Jammu and Kashmir was for all purposes made an integral part of Pakistan. After the military takeover of Zia ul Haq he stated that the northern areas including Skardu were a part of Pakistan. This meant that Pakistan had in effect moved away from her stand that the future of this disputed area should be decided by a referendum'.

No doubt Pakistan has shifted its stand on Kashmir more than once, but if I was to say this there would be many to criticise me of being 'anti Pakistan' or 'anti Islam' even an 'agent'. One main reason for this is because I am a Kashmiri nationalist- someone who wants to see Kashmir united and independent. Because there is no strong lobby behind me to defend me, or what I preach, therefore it is easy for this 'fundamentalist lobby' to stick any label they like with my name. Apart from them there would be a few within the ranks of Kashmiri nationalists who would for reasons of their own spread baseless rumours.

When we say Pakistani support for the Kashmir cause is motivated by her national interests, and not because of any love for Kashmiris, we get criticism. The fact is Pakistan has always conducted the Kashmir policy according to her own interests and at times almost abandoned it because this suited her at that time. Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan comments like this: 'Publicly lip service was paid to the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir for self-determination but this had now begun to sound hollow'.

Like us Kashmiri nationalists he believes there is no attraction for the Kashmiris to join Pakistan, even if that was a feasible solution. He says because of political instability and military rule 'urge for the Kashmiris to join Pakistan must have been considerably reduced, for it had now very little to offer. If Pakistan was serious about creating conditions for Kashmiris to join Pakistan she should first put her own house in order. It is only when Pakistan has been converted into a country of their dreams that the Kashmiris will be motivated to struggle to join Pakistan'.

We also say that once the Kashmir dispute is resolved Pakistan and India could channel their resources to complete social and welfare programmes. Again this is something very strongly advocated by Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan. He wrote: 'Instead of using their very limited resources on improving the living conditions of their poverty stricken countrymen, the governments of these two countries have been competing in the international arms market for expensive war planes, war ships, tanks and other sophisticated weapons of human destruction'.

We have been advocating for some time that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. India despite huge army in Kashmir has failed to control militancy; Pakistan is not in a position to wage a war to liberate Kashmir and Kashmiri militants could keep the struggle alive but may not be able to drive India out of Kashmir by use of arms alone. In this situation best way forward is a dialogue, and when international trend is to resolve disputes by a process of dialogue we cannot shy away from it. Modalities of a dialogue could be worked out between the parties as to which is most feasible way to produce results. Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan pointed this out as far back as Ayub Khan's era that it was 'unrealistic' to think of taking Kashmir by force.

When we say anything like this we get criticism and this powerful lobby makes allegations against us, but now Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan has said the same thing very publicly. This man has a clean record and no one could doubt his sincerity and love for Pakistan, and even he is advocating the same course of action. He is not asking for implementation of United Nations resolutions, if anything he wants Kashmir to be united with some kind of joint defence arrangements for the State.

I wonder if this lobby would now label Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan of being anti Pakistan, anti Islam or even agent; or they don't have guts to face a big and pious man like Air Marshal (Retired) Asghar Khan. And they only target sincere but vulnerable people to make allegations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it may interest you to know that although asghar khan is a pathan, his family settled in kashmir (srinagar) and has very strong ties to that place.

his father brig rahmatullah khan a pathan from tirah valley served in the kashmir army, as did several of his brothers. his mother too, was a kashmiri.