Thursday, 29 May 2008

Is this nationalism?

Is this nationalism?
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Although Kashmir is multi religious and multi ethnic state with diverse political views, but it is generally accepted that there are three political schools of thought, namely those who want to accede to Pakistan, those who want to be part of India and those who want the State to become united and independent.

Those who want to be independent are known as nationalist Kashmiris and other two schools of thought are known as either pro Pakistan or pro India. A lot has happened over the years, and secret agencies have infiltrated all schools of political thought, and it has become difficult to distinguish who is ‘b team’ of which agency.

Those who want to join Pakistan or regard themselves as ‘unpaid soldiers of Pakistan’, if they criticise only India for wrong doings in Kashmir and cannot see anything wrong what Pakistan is doing, then that is understandable. Similarly those who regard themselves as Indian, and only see wrong doings of Pakistan and turn blind eye to Indian role in Kashmir is also understandable; but I have difficulty in understanding the role of so called ‘Kashmiri nationalists.’

Some of these Kashmiri nationalists have over the years proven to be communalists and ‘pro Pakistani’ in nature, and yet they impose themselves as Kashmiri nationalists. They take this role not to serve the Kashmir cause or the cause of an independent Kashmir, but their task is to keep the independent camp divided and ensure that Pakistan’s interests are appropriately protected.

This could be best understood from the following. India occupies about 48% percent of the Kashmiri territory and calls it its ‘integral part’; and despite all the facilities they had before 1989, the people of Kashmir with some help from outside arose against the Indian rule. And people of Azad Kashmir, not appreciating their own position and status and status of their brothers in Gilgat and Baltistan, went out of their way to fight for ‘liberation’ of their brothers on the other side of the LOC.

On the other hand Pakistan occupies about 38 % of Kashmiri territory, and knowing full well that this is not a Pakistani territory, ‘bravely’ calls Gilgit and Baltistan as its ‘Northern Areas’. These people are even denied of basic human rights and yet majority of people from Azad Kashmir are more concerned about freedom and rights of those living on the other side of the divide rather than their own plight.

Whenever we spoke about rights of people of Gilgit and Baltistan and Azad Kashmir we were told not to speak about rights of these people at this stage, because it will divert attention from the other side and it will help India to get off the ‘hook’ Their argument was that at least Pakistani army and administration is not killing the Kashmiri people, and we must not equate both countries because we need a friendly country to support us.

People when they say the above, forget the point that Kashmiris are being killed on the other side because they started armed rebellion, and if people of this area were to start something similar on this side, then they will face the same music, as was faced by the people of East Pakistan. Or they will face the same plight which was faced by people of Malakand Division who wanted to have a Shariat Law, and ended up having tanks and helicopter gun ships shelling their houses. And if that happened in the distant past and does not come on canvas of their memory, then they only need to look at what is happening in Wana and other parts of FATA.

Lesson of this is that whenever authority of a government, whether it is legitimate or not, is challenged, governments react to impose its authority, and in doing so try to root out all sorts of opposition. In order to establish its authority, and in some cases in order to keep control of a territory, if governments have to kill or imprison innocent people they do not hesitate.

In the beginning of June Pakistani authorities in order to maintain control over people in Gilgit who were unhappy about the syllabus, opened fire in which a number of innocent people were killed. Despite firing with live ammunition and killing protesters the authorities were having difficulty in controlling people so they imposed a curfew which remained in force for more than two weeks. Even during the duration of this curfew there was some trouble and as a result more people died with Pakistani bullets, and scores of people were put behind the bars without any legal help.

No doubt people die every day on the Indian side of the divide, and people of Azad Kashmir protest against those killings. People on this side do not face the same plight mainly because they have not risen in rebellion against the Pakistani rule; but whenever they defied the authority of Pakistan, be it in Poonch as in 1955, in Chakothi in 1992 or in Giligit as in 2004, men in Pakistani uniform will not hesitate to shoot.

Shooting by the Pakistani troops and killing of people in Gilgit has not surprised me at all because all people in uniform are trained to follow orders and, if necessary kill, but what has surprised me is the response of so called Kashmiri nationalists. When people are killed on the Indian side we waist no time to condemn and have demonstrations in all parts of the world, and people of Azad Kashmir always take lead in this.

Now that innocent people were killed on this side of the divide, it was expected that pro Pakistan parties will turn blind eye to this incident; but I hoped that the Kashmiri nationalists from both sides of the divide will speak against these killings. Apart from Shaukat Maqbool Butt and Arif Shahid of JKNLF, the remaining ‘nationalist leadership’ on both sides of the divide decided to behave like ‘good boys’ and remained quiet. Perhaps they didn’t want to annoy their ‘friends’ in Pakistan, by speaking for the rights of people of Gilgit and Baltistan. Pakistanis regard this area as very sensitive and would not like even Kashmiris to speak about it.

Some later reports suggest that about two weeks after the event, there was a meeting of All Parties National Alliance in Muzaffarabad and they also condemned these killings. By remaining quiet on this major incident what message we have given to the world outside, that:
Kashmiris only protest when Indian forces kill people, and when they are killed by militants or by Pakistani forces we choose to remain quiet;
Injustice done by India is highlighted but injustice done by Pakistan is ignored and put under the carpet;
Even Kashmiri nationalists are having double standards on this issue and this supports the widely held view that some Kashmiri nationalists are only ‘B team’ of Pakistani agencies;
If this point is established then it gives more credence to the Indian propaganda that this struggle is instigated and maintained by the Pakistani agencies;
And this impression is not good for my struggle of united and independent Kashmir, it is not good for even pro Pakistan movement, and surely it is not good for Pakistan.

The above analyses should help people to understand why it is important for Kashmiris to demonstrate that our movement is not run and controlled by Pakistan in order to protect interests of Pakistan; or that they are using us Kashmiris to take revenge of 1971.

We have to show in our action and approach that Kashmir is occupied by both countries and we want both to vacate Kashmir that people of Kashmir could unite and live in peace. We also need to tell them and the world that we are not going to be part of their proxy fight. We want both governments to know that:
· We have no interest in ‘keep India bleeding’ policy, because this policy is also bleeding people of Kashmir;
· We have no interest in making some minor changes to the existing LOC;
· We don’t want any solution of Kashmir based on religious affiliation of the people;
· We certainly don’t want any decision imposed upon us, and people of Kashmir must have the final say on the future status of Kashmir.

Writer is a Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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