Thursday, 29 May 2008

Freedom struggle enters a crucial stage

Freedom struggle enters a crucial stage
Shabir Choudhry

Next few months are very crucial for the Kashmiri struggle, and one can safely say that, to a large extent, performance of the concerned groups in these months will determine the final outcome of this long and bloody struggle. It is therefore important that possible future outcome is envisaged, and appropriate measures are taken, in the light of present overt and covert actions and trends.

No doubt in the recent past Kashmir became a number one issue on the international agenda, and it appeared that international efforts would culminate in some kind of solution for the thorny dispute of Kashmir. But after the ‘easing of the tension’ {although armed forces of both countries are still facing each other on the LOC and on the international border} with between India and Pakistan, Kashmir once again has been put on the back burner.

Kashmir dispute has slipped from the ‘chart’ as a less important issue, hence put on the back burner for sometime because main players in the ‘conflict resolution’ have already too many things on their plates. Bush is still busy, rather frustrated in his ‘war’ against Osama and Al Qaida. Despite lofty claims and strenuous efforts there is not much in the form of achievement which he could show to get full backing of the American people. He therefore has to start something new in order to keep peoples attention diverted from economic scandals which has hit America over the past weeks.

In view of that he has to prepare people and his military machine for a ‘crusade’ against ‘evil’ Sadam; and problem with that is the opposition from other Western powers, and even strong opposition from Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region. Apart from all this, Bush is still faced with enormous problems in Palestine. As a result of this he has less time for the Kashmir dispute, and in the view of his advisors it is better to leave this issue dormant for sometime, and let the concerned parties to the dispute sit back and analyse everything in the light of new and drastically changed world.

Other person who has important role in the Kashmir dispute is General Musharaf who has reputation of taking tough decisions; it is however different matter that some of his decisions have back fired with disastrous consequences for all concerned, of course including Kashmiris. He has made turns and U turns on Kashmir, and whatever is his personal like or dislike on the matter he has retreated in to a cul de sac with very little room for any effective movement.

Apart from that General Sahib has much bigger challenge facing him. He has ‘imported’ chaos of Afghan problem to his door steps with huge implications for security and stability of Pakistan. General Zia Ul Haq fought America’s war against Communism; Musharaf is assigned to fight this war against ‘Islamic fundamentalism’. Every war has its casualties, and Musharaf will face many during course of this war. He will be kept in ‘check’ and ‘occupied’ with challenges of this game plan with little time to think of anything else. If {and it is a big if} and when he begins to get on top of things, he might feel that ground under his feet is slipping away as he had left it too late.

As if this was not enough Musharaf has to hold some kind of elections in October and implement his model of democracy. This itself is a gigantic task, especially when there is a strong public opinion against what he has produced in the name of ‘constitutional reforms’. In view of all these challenges one can see that despite all the good will, he will have no time or ‘energy’ left to take daring decisions on Kashmir.

As if the above scenario was not bad enough, Jamat e Islami in the Indian occupied Kashmir has also come out with a bombshell, and has added to the problems of the General. Amir Jamat e Islami, Ghulam Ahmed Bhat who heads the Jamat in Occupied Kashmir, has recently said that Jamat is not fighting for the State’s accession to Pakistan. Prior to this Jamat was a big voice in support of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan; and people thought that Jamat was fighting for Pakistan. And now after this very clear clarification, coming from its elected head, that Jamat is not fighting for accession to Pakistan, one wonders what Jamat stands for. As the struggle is against Indian rule in Kashmir, I presume they could not be fighting for State’s accession to India.

People of Kashmir who have lost 80,000 lives in the struggle have right to ask what Jamat stands for and what is the purpose of its ‘struggle’. Those who have helped Jamat to become an important force in the Kashmiri struggle have, in their own way, started asking them what they stand for. Analysts believe that the recent attack on the Srinagar office of the Jamat, in which there were no casualties, was a signal to the Jamat leadership that they will have to pay a price if they make an ideological somersault.

JKLF has always advocated the solution of Kashmir in the form an independent Kashmir; and this was the popular demand in the Indian occupied Kashmir. Pakistan has, especially over the years, tried to play down this popular demand, and projected Jamat e Islami as the voice of those people who want to join Pakistan. In Pakistani government’s view people of Kashmir are sacrificing everything in order to join Pakistan; it is different matter, however, that Qaaid e Azam’s Pakistan is no longer there, and even some of those who are part of the present Pakistani federation want to get out of it.

Concerned citizens of Kashmiri society are bewildered over confusion of Jamat’s ideological stand or its non-existence. And the news that Shabir Shah and may be some other leaders are considering taking part in the forthcoming elections in Kashmir has further confused the people.

Although elections and political process is a good thing in most societies, but situation in Kashmir is such that it requires more than just an elections to effectively resolve the problem. Kashmir is a disputed territory, and in Dr Nazir Gilani’s words: people of Kashmir have a ‘title’ and India and Pakistan have ‘claim’ over Kashmir; and claim could be false and rejected but the ‘title’ has its own legal and moral jurisprudence. Future of entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is to be determined by the Kashmiri people, and elections in one part of the State, and again in the presence of a large army is not appropriate method to ascertain the wishes of the people.

If the APHC leaders or other Kashmiri leaders participate in elections then that would be construed as accepting the status quo; and if that was to be the outcome then question is why Kashmiris have sacrificed so many lives and honour and dignity of respectable women. Those who would dare to participate in elections as they are planned, then they would surely face wrath of the people who have sacrificed everything for the freedom struggle.

It is a testing time for the APHC leadership and other Kashmiri leaders. The world scene has changed after 11th September, and the world community does not seem to be too much interested in drawing distinction between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. And that means any act which involves violence is taken as terrorism; and leaders of so- called free world are making such arrangements that enslaved people in the world are deprived of freedom.

On one hand the international community is making strategies to deprive the Kashmiri struggle of support which it deserves; and on the other hand it is pressurising the Kashmiri leadership to take part in the forthcoming elections. The Kashmiri leadership is in dilemma; they are not sure what course of action to take. Heat is on-they are deprived of the support and are told to, one way or the other, take part in the elections, or at least DONOT oppose it. They don’t want to take part in the elections, as it is not substitute for a referendum; but if they stay out of the contest then others might steal the show.

If purpose of these elections is to elect genuine representatives of the Kashmiri people that the future status of Kashmir could be negotiated, then some kind of mechanism and a package has to be worked out that such elections can take place on both sides of the LOC. If such mechanism and a package is worked out then the Kashmiri leadership on both sides of the divide, including the militant leadership, could be persuaded to take part in it, or at least not oppose it. In any case, the Kashmiri struggle is going through a very delicate phase, and it is incumbent on the leadership to show their wisdom and sense of duty to the nation.

Writer is a Kashmiri political leader based in London, and is author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

No comments: