Thursday, 29 May 2008

JKLF leadership, Kashmiri movement and article writing

JKLF leadership, Kashmiri movement and article writing
Dr Shabir Choudhry 14 December 2005

Very recently a Pakistani journalist asked me about my role in the Kashmiri struggle and within the JKLF. In his view my role was now limited to article writing, as I had no visible contacts with Yasin Malik and Amanullah Khan, who appear to be leading Kashmiri movement for independence. My response to this is given below.

Every national struggle for independence goes through different phases, and Kashmiri struggle is no exception to this. However our struggle is unique in the sense that we are occupied by more than one country, and some sections of our people don’t want independence. To put it crudely they either want to be Pakistani or Indian but not a Kashmiri. And our occupiers because of their physical control exploit the situation by projecting these people as leaders of the Kashmiri people, whereas it is known fact that their loyalties either lie with Islamabad or New Delhi; and in some cases with both.

Every genuine struggle for independence has many fronts, and militancy is only one front, and political activity is the other. As militancy has seen its hey day, and is no longer seen as a viable and acceptable method of pursuing one’s objective; and in any case as I have no role in militancy, so let us talk of political work.

Political activity consists of meetings of different organs of the party, public meetings, press conferences, political statements and interaction with other political parties etc, and purpose of all that is to send political message to party members, and people in general and governments. First of all I would like to know which of the above we have not done.

We regularly have party meetings, press conferences, political statements and close interaction with other political parties. In fact, you will be surprised that we are perhaps the only Kashmiri political party, which has regular meetings. However I accept that we might not have had same media coverage in Pakistani media, and that is because they want to project other JKLF groups, which are perceived as ‘their own’ and projecting a Pakistani agenda.

In our effort to refine and clarify the JKLF ideology, which has been tarnished by compromises made by Amanullah Khan and Yasin Malik, we had to reassert our position with regard to Gilgit and Baltistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and that didn’t win us friends in Pakistani media and in Pakistani establishment. Pakistani establishment went out of its way to instruct different organs and members of the civil society to either boycott our activities or present them in negative sense.

Apart form that in this global village and with access to new technology one doesn’t have to hold a rally to get its message across. In a struggle for independence parties carry out different kinds of activities some legal and others not so legal, and purpose is to highlight the cause. Kashmir dispute has been highly publicised because of some legal and some illegal activities, and there is nothing more that one could to do further highlight it.

With help, support and influence of outside forces a lot of work has been done to resolve the Kashmir dispute; and one can see a considerable progress in this regard. There are a number of direct and indirect channels working full time to work out modalities to move forward; and hammer out a formula that could be acceptable to all the concerned parties.

And in this phase of the struggle, a public meeting, a rally or violence is not going to change anything. To me it is a battle of ideas, and JKLF cannot win this or influence this by holding a public meeting or by throwing a bomb, and that again in public place. This phase of the struggle needs an intellectual input from the JKLF, and we don’t want to be out of step with that.

We need to demonstrate to people who matter that we know what is happening, and that we are willing and capable of making a positive contribution to support the peace process and reach an acceptable solution. Over the months and years we have made concerted effort to influence or at least get an ear of those who matter; and some of this activity is best to be kept away from the media.

If we are not holding rallies it does not mean we don’t have means to do so, and one should not construe that we don’t have support on the ground; if anything we have more support and more friends in Pakistan, Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan then ever before. Apart from that tell me which Kashmiri party is holding big public meetings and rallies, in fact most are waiting for a miracle to happen. They have already given in, and live in hope that someone else will do the needful.

Unlike our JKLF other JKLF groups and some other Kashmiri parties have no financial worries, in fact, they have so much that they don’t know what to do with it, so we have to use our meagre resources carefully.

Generally when a Kashmiri party holds a public meeting they get up to a thousand people after a lot of effort and expense; and after people leave the meeting they hardly remember what was said. A message heard by people from a platform in a speech is difficult to remember and nearly impossible to pass on; whereas a message on a paper is easy to understand, could be read again and is easy to pass on.

So we use our resources sensibly, and by spending half of that money we produce books and booklets, which help to pass on our message to thousands of people. In the past two years we have produced more than six books and booklets on different aspects of the Kashmiri struggle; and in December of this year we will (inshallah) produce at least three more booklets We will hold launching function for these, and that itself is a political activity, which to us, is more productive and long lasting.

I write articles on current affairs, act and react on the everyday issues, and not on ancient history to get my name published and stay alive in media; and those who have this in mind they are totally wrong. My articles are published in many papers and are also used by different Internet papers, and by Grace of Allah, are read and noted in various places.

With regard to Yasin Malik, what you and others got to remember is that he joined the JKLF in late 1980s, and I am one of those who helped to form it in 1977. I have my own contribution and standing in the JKLF and he has his own. We don’t need umbrella of Yasin Malik or Amanullah Khan to continue our struggle for unification and independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In any case these two have alleged to have maligned the JKLF name by making ideological compromises; and our JKLF would not make any agreement with them until they come clean on their ideological stand. There is an old saying that there are no free dinners in business, similarly there are no protocols without an ideological compromise.

This is not only our view, this is a widely held view in political circles; and no nationalist party of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan want to have any political contacts with them. Apart from that they are regarded as ‘b team’ of agencies. Their activities sometimes reflect and reinforce this image, for example, Amanullah Khan attempted a border crossing of LOC in 1992; and now everyone knows that it was funded and engineered by Pakistani agencies.

He seems to be more worried about rights of people living on the Indian side and less worried about rights of his own people in Gilgit and Baltistan, who have far worse living conditions in the whole State of Jammu and Kashmir. One may ask how many demonstrations he had taken out for rights of people of Gilgit and Baltistan, or for that matter for rights of people Mirpur who will be displaced fro the second time to meet needs of Pakistan. One can give many other examples to support above point.

Similarly Yasin Malik’s JKLF gets official patronage, and in view of some, on both sides of the divide. Officials of Pakistan miss no opportunity to project him, and high level government officials take part in his functions, Ministers and even Prime Minister and President of Pakistan have enough time to attend his functions and project him.

One can only get this level of official support and media projection if there is some understanding behind the scenes, which in practise means an ideological change; and this is visible in policies of Yasin Malik’s group, as he doesn’t talk about rights of people of Gilgit and Baltistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir. He doesn’t even talk about rights of people of Mirpur who will be evicted from their homes for the second time to provide water and electricity to Pakistan.

Very recently I met an Indian journalist and a Pakistani journalist, both of them have good understanding of Kashmiri politics and during course of discussion both of them acknowledged that Amanullah Khan and Yasin Malik have compromised their ideology.

This proves the point that we are the only JKLF group which adheres to the original ideology as it was enunciated by the JKLF in 1977, and this is the ideology of Maqbool Butt Shaheed. In view of the above we are proud to say that, at least, we have the correct ideological stand.

As far as our strength and public support is concerned, soon after the deadly earthquake, we were the first Kashmiri political party to announce help of 50 lakh rupees and have practically given out help in form of tents, blankets, clothes, food and building of tin houses. This money was raised by JKLF members and given to us by public who trust us.

Which other Kashmiri party or JKLF group has done this. One might say that Yasin Malik announced one cror rupees and he went across to help and support the earthquake victims. But there are some serious questions attached with the help he has given, and there is no comparison between the two.

Yasin Malik, it is claimed, raised this money from Kashmir, the Valley. Within days after the tragic event he came to New Delhi to sort out his visa, and practically stayed less than a week in the Valley, and war torn Kashmiri society is not that rich that he could raise one cror within a few days, especially when there is serious trust vacuum there. Even if he did, he must have got that money in Indian currency; and he went to Pakistan by air, so he could not have put that money in a suitcase and boarded the plane.

Fact of the matter is that he got this money in Pakistan, and it was not one cror it was much less. It was good of him to come and show solidarity and support people on this side of the divide, and we appreciate this; but as far as money is concerned it was not raised but given to him. And as a good and obedient boy he gave it back most of the money to those who provided it in first place. There is an old saying that Kunwainh ki matti kunwainh main lag jati hai, meaning that soil out of well is generally used on it to complete it. You might recall that he gave ten lakhs rupees to President of Azad Kashmir’s relief fund and twenty lakhs to President of Pakistan’s relief fund; and very little money was actually given out to the people in the form of relief work.

Corruption in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir is rampant, Pakistan is still fifth most corrupt country in the world, and Yasin Malik knows it; and in view of this why leave this money, especially if it was given to him by the people in form of Zakat and Sadka etc at the mercy of corrupt officials.

I hope this explains the situation with regard to the JKLF, and why we don’t want to align ourselves with either of these two leaders of JKLF because it will tarnish our image and reputation. I also hope that now you know where we stand in practical politics and on ideology. Whereas others have made some advances by ideological flirtation and by making compromises on ideology, but we have not shifted ground; and history will tell who were loyal to the ideology and the cause.

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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