Thursday, 29 May 2008

Change of heart or change of strategy?

Change of heart or change of strategy?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 20 August 2006

Not for the first time in life I am attacked, accused and abused because of my political views. Some of these people genuinely, though wrongly, think that I am at fault; and by criticising me they are doing a service to Pakistan and the Kashmiri struggle. Others are doing it because they are told to do it, and it brings them rewards. These people are manipulated to believe that opposition to a Pakistani government is a direct attack on integrity of the State, especially if it is coming from a Kashmiri.

They perhaps don’t know that it was not people of East Pakistan who were at fault; it was wrong policies of the mafia which ruled Pakistan that pushed them against the wall. It was hiding of facts and ‘criminal silence’ of the majority that encouraged this mafia to continue with their policies, hence Pakistan lost East Pakistan.

This ruling mafia did not learn any lessons from the disaster of 1970/1. They have created similar conditions for Pakistan once again; and this time they have betrayed the Kashmiri struggle as well. If my Pakistani brothers want to sleep walk in to this disaster, or want to bury their heads in sand hoping that the danger will go away, then I cannot help this.

But I have a duty to perform. For my actions I am answerable to my people and my conscience, and not to these critics some of whom don’t even know what they are criticising. No matter what is the strength of this opposition, as long as I know I am on the right path I will continue with my jihad to caution people of forthcoming dangers- this is a ‘sunat’ of our prophets. Before I write anything I have certain criteria in mind. For example:
1. What contribution is it going to make to the debate at hand;
2. How is it going to help the cause of Kashmiri peoples right of self determination;
3. Is it going to promote Kashmiri nationalism;
4. Is it going to promote tolerance and peace;
5. Is it going to oppose forces of extremism, hatred and violence;
6. Is it going to expose those hidden characters who have harmed our struggle and continue to do so?
7. Is it factually true?

If my proposed article satisfies some of the above then I go ahead with it and widely circulate it without any fear of reprisals, because I know I am doing a jihad. I am fighting those forces who want to hide truth, spread hatred and extremism, and who oppose unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir.

Some of my critics have asked me why I don’t write about seven hundred thousand Indian army which is stationed in Jammu and Kashmir; and which has killed more than hundred thousand Kashmiris and raped women etc. In their opinion this is due to my change of heart.

For their information I have criticised the role of Indian army and government many times, and at that time it was only few of us doing this jihad, as ‘rewards’ for doing this were not available. Now that ample rewards are available to highlight this and an army of professionals are busy doing it; and this matter is widely discussed, documented and observed by many human rights organisations, I wonder if there is any need for me to do it as well. And if I do, what new am I going to add to this information? Who doesn’t know that more than half million Indian army is stationed there; and that there has been killings, rapes and destruction?

Some critics ask me to present a balanced view. I totally agree with this. A view has to be balanced otherwise it loses its credibility. In order to provide a balanced view I have to ask why that army is there. Was it there in this number before 1989/0 and was it killing Kashmiri people and raping women before 1989/0? Is only Indian army to be blamed for rapes and killings or there are non state actors-militants involved in this crime as well? What is going on there is it jihad or has it become a business?

There is ample evidence that some militants are also involved in killings and rapes; and different kinds of human rights abuse takes place on this side of LOC s well, but our Pakistani brothers and some Kashmiris don’t want to listen to this, as this, in their opinion, will divert attention away from India. Is this good enough reason to ignore crimes committed by some militants who also defame holy name of jihad? This crime, in my opinion, should be widely highlighted that culprits could be punished; and that they do not deceive more innocent people.

No one can deny or justify human rights abuse on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir or for that matter in any part of the world, but culprit in this case is not only men in uniform; some culprits are hiding under masks. I am not going to waste my time telling people what they already know; rather I will use my time and skills to expose those who hide their faces under those masks. And for this jihad if I am accused, attacked or abused by those who are agents of those forces who want to hide truth, and those who have created great problems for Pakistan in the past and are even now sowing seeds of communalism and hatred, I think it is price worth paying.

As for killing of Kashmiri people is concerned it is a big loss, and my heart goes to the families of the deceased, but we have to ask ourselves why did they lose their lives and who killed them? Are they all killed by the Indian army or there are other actors involved in this? We are educated people with God given gift of brain and ability to analyse things. Most of the killings occurred in cross firing because these ‘mujahids decided to attack army personnel in populated areas and return fire killed innocent people; or by bombs which normally go astray and land at bus stops or market places. Not to mention deaths caused by group fightings, ideological fightings and revenges.

At present Pakistan army is fighting Muslim militants in Wazirstan and in Balochistan, and in this fight hundreds of Muslims have lost their lives including innocent women and children. Those who are killed are Muslims and those who kill they are also Muslims, and it is difficult tell who shaheeds are in this deadly conflict. Without going in to rationale of this ‘war’, I just want to give one example. If some members of banned Balochistan Liberation Army opens fire at Pakistan army personnel in a main bazaar of Quetta, and Pakistan army returns this fire and in this cross firing innocent Pakistani Muslims lose their lives. Who should be blamed for this killing: Pakistan army or members of Balochistan Liberation Army?

I know many people won’t like this, but facts are facts whether we like them or not; all armies are trained to kill. Pakistan army when ordered killed tens of thousands of innocent Pakistanis in East Pakistan; and they are doing the same thing again-killing their own Muslim brothers in Wazirstan and Balochistan, because Pakistani rulers think these people are ‘terrorists’ and are anti state.

No matter what we think, in view of Indian rulers those who are fighting their rule in Jammu and Kashmir are ‘terrorists’ and are anti state, hence they order their army to kill them. Why does this surprise us? If we throw stones at our enemy we will be foolish to expect bouquet of flower in return, especially when that enemy is stronger and cleverer than us.

I am for complete independence of Jammu and Kashmir from both India and Pakistan, and at one time supported militancy; but after some years realised that we Kashmiris were ‘manipulated’ and ‘used’. Those who started this militancy their purpose was not liberation of Jammu and Kashmir, but to ‘keep India busy’ or more precisely ‘keep India bleeding’.

I had no role in starting this militancy and nor I was in a position to stop this ‘guerrilla war’ which was supposed to be fought in jungles and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir rather than in Lal Chowk of Srinagar, most busy part of the city. Basic rule of any guerrilla war is that enemy is killed and their supply routes are destroyed with minimum loss to themselves, as Hizbullah has demonstrated in Lebanon.

‘Guerrilla war’ in Jammu and Kashmir was strange: it was ‘fought’ in city centres and populated areas, and it resulted in death of more than fifty thousand Kashmiris with death toll of ‘enemy’ only in hundreds.

And disturbing part of this episode is that still ‘struggle’ is not recognised as a Kashmiri struggle - it is still regarded as a dispute between India and Pakistan which they have to decide between them. There is a big reason why it is taken like this by the international community. Those who planned this ‘struggle’ had no strategy for the liberation of whole of the State; and moreover they only talked of Indian side of Kashmir implying that only this area is disputed.

With bomb blasts, killings, kidnappings, and waves of propaganda we have all made Indian side of Kashmir disputed, with this message to the international community that we only want liberation of that area, as we on the other side of the divide are happy with the status quo. And introduction of jihadis from various countries gave completely different perspective to the struggle as it was linked with the Islamic fundamentalism; hence it looked not a Kashmir struggle but something very ‘sinister and dangerous’.

We true nationalists of Jammu and Kashmir didn’t want this outcome, so we analysed the situation and drew up a strategy. This strategy had many dimensions. As we wanted unification and independence of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, we wanted to ensure that the whole State is seen as disputed, and not the areas under India as Pakistan wanted. We therefore decided that activists living under ‘occupation’ of India should expose India, and those living under ‘occupation’ of Pakistan should expose Pakistan that the entire State is seen as disputed. And minus a few pro Pakistan leaders with ‘nationalist hat’, majority in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are following this strategy.

We also wanted to oppose jihadis who came from other countries and changed the complexion of our struggle: before it was a Kashmiri struggle for right of self determination, and after their entry and interviews that they were there to do a jihad and establish Islamic law it transformed it in to a fundamentalist struggle.

This Islamic aspect of the struggle was introduced to deprive the Kashmiri struggle of international support. Also in practise it meant that non Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir keep away from the struggle as they have no love for Islam. This also meant preparing grounds for the division of the State, hence we witness somersault of Pakistan on Kashmir issue- self governance and joint management.

Kashmiri struggle was for right of self determination, and it was Pakistan which proposed in the UN that it should be curtailed: Kashmiri should only have two options to either join India or Pakistan. Pakistani government has said good bye to its previous stand on Kashmir, obnoxious as it was to nationalist Kashmiris; and now Pakistani government is talking of ‘self rule’ and ‘joint management’.

Instead of talking about exact number of Indian army in Kashmir and deaths there which we all know, and there is an army of people to do this anyway; I would like to discuss policy shifts of Pakistan which could prove to be disastrous to the Kashmiri struggle. Remember India has never claimed that it is fighting or supporting for Kashmiri peoples independence, if anything their policies are designed to keep Kashmir at all costs.

Pakistani brothers need to ask themselves, if their government’s policy on Kashmir was a correct one then why is it that not a single country in the world supports it; and why is it that Pakistan feels compelled to change it every now and again. Only last Thursday 17th August, President Musharaf said that both India and Pakistan were not "in favour of their (Kashmir's) independence"; and that they want to have a "joint framework for self-governance".

Formulas of ‘Self governance’ or ‘joint control’ are all recipes for the division of Kashmir, and unfortunately they are coming from Pakistani governments. First time Pakistani governments agreed for division of Kashmir was in mid 1950s, and then in 1963. We Kashmiris, like any other nation, don’t want division of our motherland. Pakistani governments have betrayed the Kashmiris; and to me tragedy is not in their betrayal, as they have betrayed Qaaid e Azam and his ideals as well, but in this demand by Pakistani brothers that we should not even complain about this.

If Pakistan wanted to settle for a division of Kashmir then this could have been achieved many years ago. It could have been achieved before Kargil fiasco. Who is responsible for these deaths and rapes if objective is division of the sate? Friends and brothers, you call me what you like I will do what I think is correct for my struggle.

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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