Wednesday, 28 May 2008

All Parties Conference and Kashmir dispute

All Parties Conference and Kashmir dispute
Dr Shabir Choudhry 14 July 2007

Both, All Parties Conference organised by Mian Nawaz Sharif in London, and 'drama' staged in the centre of Islamabad have ended. Both important events have inherent failures and defeat attached to their much-publicised 'victory'. The drama, which was cleverly written, but unprofessionally directed and poorly executed was staged to support and strengthen the government had a tragic end which will have serious repercussions for the present government and future of Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif might think he has enhanced his position and gained something out of this moot, but many question if he really has achieved anything out of this? APC was an important event in the view of current political situation of Pakistan, and had potential to influence future of the country. However on behalf of government ministers are down playing its importance; and Sheikh Rashid, Minister of Railway who speaks less about railway and more about politics, and has reputation of being a bit of loose cannon said, it was a 'Jumma Bazar' (Friday Bazar).

This, in view of many, was an insult to respected participants of the APC, which included many prominent leaders, and even included two times former Prime Minister, senior PPP leaders, MMA leaders and Leader of the Opposition and other nationalist leaders. Some commentators have termed APC as 'Anti Pervaiz Conference', as most if not all, participants were against General Musharaf and his rule. One MQM commentator said, as there was no one there to represent the ruling alliance the moot should not be termed as All Parties Conference, rather it should be called OPC (Opposition Parties Conference).

That apart in view of serious commentators the APC has failed to deliver or put forward any concrete proposals to face or oust the government. If anything divisions among the parties have become more apparent, and perhaps have persuaded opportunists to either stay on the bandwagon of General Musharaf or jump on it in order to secure a favourable place in the future set up.

The conference tempo was against General Musharaf's military rule and Altaf Hussain, which does not leave much choice for MQM. One can see logic of opposing General Musharaf's military rule and his insistence to continue to rule in same style, but APC's declaration that they will not work with the MQM is beyond comprehension. MQM despite its faults and its role on 12 th May is a parliamentary party with tremendous influence at the federal and the provincial level; and politics of boycott will not help strengthen the fragile political system.

If politicians think they can corner MQM in Karachi and Hyderabad then they are wrong because once genie is out of bottle it will not go back in it; and the struggle to force it back in the bottle can result in breaking up of the bottle. It is debateable if the MQM can strengthen the democratic system in Pakistan, or help to bring economic stability and prosperity, but no one question its ability to cause chaos and destabilise and threaten the stability of the country, especially of Karachi, economic hub of Pakistan.

In view of this ground reality, one wonders if it was a good strategy to sever all political ties with the MQM. It is not good for politics and democracy that Parliamentary parties close doors of dialogue and interaction, especially in a country that faces many internal and external challenges; and where roots of democracy, accountability, transparency and tolerance are very weak.

On Kashmir

APC passed a reasonably good resolution about future of Jammu and Kashmir, by saying that the people of Kashmir should be allowed to decide their future in accordance with wishes and aspirations of the people. This in practise means that people of Jammu and Kashmir can take any decision: it could be some kind of accession, independent Kashmir or some other position before the final settlement which is acceptable to the people, as long as it helps to resolve the Kashmir dispute and bring peace in the region.

But peace is not in the interest of everyone, especially in the interest of those who have made Kashmir dispute as a business. These people know that the UN resolutions, whatever their importance or relevance now, failed to provide solution. These resolutions deprived Kashmiri people a right to independence, and limit their choice to decide between India and Pakistan. In other words these resolutions do not give people a right to self - determination but only give them a right to accession. Furthermore Pakistan refused to withdraw her forces in accordance with the UN resolutions, and later on India also started calling Kashmir as its 'integral part'.

Apart from that the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan make these resolutions redundant, as it urge both governments to find a solution through bilateral talks. Both governments have engaged themselves in bilateral talks many times since the signature of the Shimla Agreement, practically demonstrating that much talked and frequently referred resolutions are practically out of date and could not be implemented.

Nawaz Sharif, as a Prime Minister of Pakistan, having first hand information on the subject matter decided to by pass these resolutions and held talks outside the framework of the UN resolutions. Similarly some other parties including, PPP and Tehrek e Insaf have also supported talks outside the framework of the UN resolutions. It was in view of this situation the APC prepared the resolution on Kashmir in which the UN resolutions were not mentioned.

But one Kashmiri who went their as an observer, and is perceived as a 'pro Pakistan Kashmiri', probably on behest of his political masters threw a bomb shell by demanding that the resolution should be made conditional to the UN resolutions. APC delegates, perhaps under pressure of this unexpected intervention readily agreed to make amendments to their earlier resolution.

But they forgot that these are the same resolutions which deny people of Kashmir a right to independence; which have failed to provide a solution; which demand Pakistan to withdraw all the troops from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, and ask India to withdraw only a 'bulk' of her army.

By passing this resolution in the APC, are these leaders negating everything Pakistan has done on Kashmir since the Shimla Agreement, including the Lahore Agreement signed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif? Are they committing themselves that they will withdraw Pakistani troops from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, and let India keep her forces there? India has about half million troops in Kashmir and if India withdraws sixty percent, which could be considered as the 'bulk', required by the UN resolutions, will that be acceptable to these leaders?

For the benefit of these leaders and readers I produce relevant parts from the UNCIP resolution of August 1948, part 2, section A, paragraph 1: " As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from the State."

Paragraph 2: " The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting."

Section B, paragraph 1: "When the Commission shall have notified the Government of India that the tribesmen and Pakistan nationals referred to in Part 2 A2 hereof have withdrawn, thereby terminating the situation which was represented by the Government of India to the Security Council as having occasioned the presence of Indian forces in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and further, that the Pakistan forces are being withdrawn from the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Government of India agrees to begin to withdraw the bulk of their forces from that State in stages to be agreed upon with the Commission."

Participants of the APC have to accept responsibility for this error, especially Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Nationalist leaders and PPP leaders, who are more liberal and understanding, and who know that a lot of water has gone under the bridges since these UN Resolutions were passed and ground reality and international politics has changed. You cannot win a struggle or a war by turning the clock back.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

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