By Dr Shabir Choudhry
3. Background to the Conference
4. We need help from you
5. Indian response
6. Press Conference in London
8. Invitation List
9. Invitation card
10. Attitude of Pakistani officials
11. A letter to Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi
12. Contacts with other officials
13. A letter to Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri
14. Other issues related with the visas
15. A letter to Tariq Aziz
16. Plans were in place to sabotage the conference
17. Some media coverage: JKLF to hold Kashmir International Conference in Mirpur, 10 December 2004, NNI.
18. JKLF wants a joint strategy of Kashmiris, 18 December 2004
19. JKLF vows to continue peaceful struggle for independence, NNI, 24 Jan 05
20. Jammu and Kashmir leaders may attend Mirpur meet, 29 Jan, Hindustan Times.
21. JKLF holds Kashmir Conference in Mirpur, 27 Jan 05
22. JKLF holds Kashmir Conference in Mirpur, 06 Feb, NNI
23. A Press Statement from Mirpur 06 Feb 05
24. Kashmiri leaders ready for a Mirpur conference: JKLF, 08 Feb, NNI
25. Preparations in Azad Kashmir
26. JKLF team reaches Islamabad
27. PRESS Conference in Islamabad 14 FEBRUARY 2005
28. Meetings with diplomats
29. A meeting with Raja Zafar Ul Haq, Secretary General Muslim League (N)
30. Rule 144 imposed
31. JKLF will fight back
32. JKLF Press briefing in Islamabad Press Club
33. Panel interviews with newspapers
34. Dialogue with JKLF Yasin Group
35. Informal meetings
36. A Press briefing in Dadyal
37. A visit to the grave of Master Majid
38. A journey to Kotli
39. Minister of food
40. Press Conference/ Kashmir Conference in Kotli
41. Tata Pani
42. Press conference in Rawlakot
43. Journey to Bagh
44. Press conference in Bagh
46. Mrs Shaukat Maqbool Butt
47. Human rights abuse in Azad Kashmir
48. A meeting with Asif Khan
49. A meeting with Khalid Ibrahim
50. A meeting with Amanullah Khan
51. A meeting with Sardar Atiq Khan
52. Meetings in Bhimber
53. A meeting with Chaudhry Shujhat Hussain
54. Book launch in Mirpur
55. Kashmir Conference in Mirpur
Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain
When we announced the JKLF International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur, we thought we will be able to make a positive contribution in working out a Kashmiri strategy which will help Kashmiri groups to have better understanding among them, hence help to find a peaceful and permanent resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
A suggestion was made that we should hold this conference in Srinagar, but this was rejected on the grounds that government of India might not issue visas to our delegates or create some other problems. We therefore decided to hold this conference in Mirpur where we had a considerable strength, and also expected that government of Azad Kashmir, a ‘base camp’ for independence of Kashmir, will be more supportive and accommodating.
Apart from that we thought Pakistan is traditionally a champion of Kashmiri peoples right of self determination and provide them ‘political, diplomatic and moral support’; and in that context expected plenty of support, help and guidance from them. We thought they will be pleased with this effort, and will help us with issuing of visas to our delegates. We also expected from them full support in other matters, especially related to media coverage.
What happened to us in Azad Kashmir was totally unexpected. Not only that, Pakistani officials refused to issue visas to those who wanted to come over to Azad Kashmir to take part in the conference, they also instructed their stooges in Mirpur to apply rule 144 to sabotage our conference.
Pakistan, I thought, was a well wisher of Kashmiris and wanted them to get their right of self determination. It was hard to believe that a Pakistani government could stab us in back like this, hence I remembered the proverb about an elephant having two different sets of teeth.
We people have revolutionary mind, we love our country and wanted to liberate it from both India and Pakistan, and for this purpose we established the JKLF. Some other people who joined the JKLF, especially in Azad Kashmir and on the Indian side of Kashmir gave - in to the intimidation of agencies and compromised their ideology, although they still use the JKLF name.
The JKLF was established in Britain, and its Head Office was here in free and liberal society. Before the JKLF Head Office was transferred to Azad Kashmir, I opposed this move because I thought that secret agencies will be able to intimidate and infiltrate the organisation and damage our ideology and independence movement. At that time no one listened to me, and later on when agencies did their job and the organisation suffered a serious set back because of splits and ideological compromises, some people acknowledged this mistake.
Agencies have their own men in various parties and the JKLF is no exception. The process of splits and compromises within the JKLF, under the Chairmanship of Amanullah Khan, continued and we experienced another split whereby Yasin Malik became a Chairman of one group of the JKLF, and its Head Office moved to Srinagar. Even at that time I raised my voice against this and predicted that agencies will infiltrate this head office as well and further split the JKLF, and this will create more problems for the organisation and damage our ideology. Readers will be interested to know that the JKLF on the Indian side has also experienced three main splits, and many important individuals left the party either as a result of serious disagreements or in frustration.
Other nationalist Kashmiri organisations regarded the JKLF as a ‘B’ team of agencies, and it was at that time our JKLF began its crusade of purifying the ideology. We wanted to assert that the JKLF is not a ‘B’ team of any agency and that we adhere to the original ideology of the JKLF which is in line with the thinking of Maqbool Butt.
As followers of Maqbool Butt, we decided to fight back and expose the hypocrisy of Azad Kashmir and Pakistani governments. We thought it was imperative to inform people, rather, educate them that agenda of Azad Kashmir and Pakistani governments is not to liberate Kashmir. They are part of this vested interest which wants to use Kashmir dispute as a ‘business’, and demand of that business is to keep the pot boiling rather than solving it.
It is unfortunate to note that even JKLF groups headed by Amanullah Khan and Yasin Malik also have some business men among them. This is not to suggest that they don’t have sincere people in their groups; but those who are calling the shots are involved in a business rather than a struggle for independence. Their aim is not liberation of Kashmir but to make money in the name of the struggle.
During our tour of various Azad Kashmiri cities I also had an opportunity to interact with ordinary people and pleasantly found that people are pro Kashmir and they are looking for a change. They are fed up with the lies which are being fed to them for the past so many years and they are genuinely looking for sincere and able leadership.
It was pleasing to note that people wanted to hear more about nationalist policies of the JKLF and were willing to cooperate with us, and join the JKLF. In my view the ground in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit and Baltistan is really fertile for the nationalist politics, and we must not waste any more time and try to exploit the situation in the interest of the JKLF.
I also realised that people are really against the upraising of the Mangla Dam and rightly feel that Pakistan is using Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan as a Pakistani colony. People are not rising against the Mangla Dam upraising because of fear of reprisals. In Mangla Pakistan has a Core Head Quarters which means three divisions of Pakistan army with many secret agencies, and people know what will happen to them if they rise against Pakistani rule there. Their silence does not mean love for Pakistan. It is fear which is forcing them to remain quiet; else no one wants to be oppressed and uprooted from their homes, especially to irrigate jageers of Pakistan landlords and to provide energy to Pakistani industrialists.
Details of our visit and the way we projected our ideology is produced in this book written by Dr Shabir Choudhry. At the time of our visit we had no plans to produce this as a book, and it was towards the end of our tour of Azad Kashmir when someone suggested that we should write up details of the sabotaged conference, and our fight back in form of a book.
As Dr Shabir Choudhry is known to have writing skills and has produced a number of books on the issue of Kashmir; he was requested to take up the challenge. I am pleased to say that he has done a good job. I am impressed with his memory as he has given minute details of every event and every discussion accurately. He has dealt with questions by giving some background that readers could understand them better, and nothing is seen out of context.
Despite his other commitments and busy schedule he completed his task within a few months and presented a draft of the book to the Central Committee meeting held in Birmingham on 7th May 2005. The Central Committee appreciated the work and decided to publish it as a book with its Urdu translation. The title of the book, ‘JKLF visit to POK’ was suggested by me and I am pleased that rest of the colleagues agreed with it.
It was decided that this book should be produced in two languages, Urdu and English, and it will be a kind of innovation that a book on Kashmir is produced in two languages. Also it will be a new thing that a Kashmiri nationalist party has produced a book on its political tour, otherwise people come or go, make speeches, give interviews and everything is forgotten.
I want to congratulate Abbas Butt and Zubair Ansari that since they have taken over as the President and Secretary General they have encouraged Dr Shabir Choudhry to produce material on Kashmir; and we have seen a number of booklets published from the platform of the JKLF. They have also rightly encouraged politics of consensus and dialogue, and for that they must be commended.
I hope that this book will help people to understand Kashmiri politics, especially politics of the JKLF. It will also help them to appreciate our efforts and understand that JKLF groups headed by Amanullah Khan and Yasin Malik have compromised their ideology; and in practise they have become tools in hands of the secret agencies to further their agenda and create confusion.
In view of this I can vouch that the only JKLF group which seriously and sincerely adheres to the original ideology of the party is the one headed by Abbas Butt. In the light of our experience of transferring the party Head Office within the State, I strongly urge that the JKLF Head Office should remain in Britain; and that we should set up our branches in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
It was an honour that the Central Committee asked me to write an introduction to this important book, and sincerely hope that it will help the JKLF and the independence movement. Also I hope that it will help the Kashmiri youths to understand the ideology of the JKLF.
Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain
Vice President JKLF
25 May 2005
3. Background to the Conference
After ‘eyeball to eyeball’ situation on borders for more than a year, leaders of India and Pakistan, because of internal and external pressure, decided to de – escalate the tension and start a process of dialogue in order to resolve problems rather than go to war which could have led them to a nuclear confrontation.
This move was appreciated around the globe and both leaders, President Pervaiz Musharaf and Atal Bahri Vajapayee, were encouraged to talk to each other and resolve all outstanding disputes including the Kashmir dispute. One could say that both leaders realised that they have no option but to talk, and continue the dialogue until they reach some consensus.
In order to support the peace process and have peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia, the JKLF UK & Europe announced an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur, first of its kind to be held inside the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This move of the Liberation Front was welcomed by political parties and members of the civil society on both sides of the border.
However, International Kashmir Alliance could take credit for being the first organisation to visualise future changes taking place in South Asia, and arranged an International Kashmir Conference in London. This Conference was unique in many ways as it attracted participants from all sections of the Kashmiri community from both sides of the forcibly divided state. It also attracted political heavy weights like the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazeer Bhutto and the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abudullah.
Following foot steps of the IKA, some other organisations also held conferences in various capitals of the world, but they could not match the success of the IKA conference as these conferences only represented one political view. The IKA held its second International Kashmir Conference in Toronto, (Canada) which also proved to be a great success; and organisers managed to get a joint statement from participants who came from different social and political backgrounds.
And when the JKLF UK & Europe announced its conference in Mirpur, many thought that it was the IKA show only managed by the JKLF leaders who also played a leading role in organising the IKA Conference. This rumour was spread by those who felt that our JKLF conference could create serious political problems for them. They wanted to sabotage the conference, and they thought it was better to link it with the IKA in order to get sympathy of those powers and groups who disliked and opposed this forward looking and pro people Alliance.
JKLF leaders realised the difficulty of the task at hand. They knew Pakistani authorities, despite the peace process and lofty claims about Kashmiri peoples rights and people to people contacts, would not allow any conference to take place if organisers are not in their good books or they don’t have a green signal from them.
With this in mind the JKLF leaders contacted senior Pakistani officials in London, and explained to them about the conference. Amazingly these officials gave a very positive response, and assured them of full support. They also asked if we wanted any help in any matter. We knew help reference was regarding finance and subsequent ‘dictation’ to get the desired results. It was a difficult situation as a refusal could offend them and that could mean problems for us and the conference. So we politely turned it down by saying that we don’t need a big budget for this conference and that the JKLF have raised money from our own sources for this conference; but at any stage if we feel that we need some help and advice, we will contact you.
Despite our polite refusal, they showed interest in the conference and assured us of their support; however they requested something in writing that they can keep some record and pass it on to Islamabad. After discussing it with other colleagues in JKLF UK & Europe, President Abbas Butt asked me to draft a letter that could be sent to both countries, India and Pakistan. So I drafted a general letter briefly giving reasons why we wanted to hold this conference. The copy of the letter is produced below:
4. We need help from you.
1. We welcome determination of both countries to resolve all their issues including the Kashmir dispute through peaceful talks; but we feel that it is not possible to resolve this dispute which is not territorial or bilateral in nature without active participation of the main party to the dispute - people of Kashmir.
2. We feel a mechanism should be worked out that true representatives of the Kashmiri people are made part of this peace process.
3. Kashmiri people are the main party to the Kashmir dispute and it is in their interest that they must support this peace process in order to have peace and stability in the region.
4. But before the people of Kashmir can play any positive role in this process, they need to build understanding among themselves. For this purpose JKLF UK & Europe has decided to hold an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur on 19/20 February 2005. It will be the first conference of its kind to be held inside the Kashmiri territory where people of all ethnic back grounds will be invited; and we hope that this will help to formulate a policy which will play an important role in resolution of Kashmir.
5. Cooperation of all three parties is must if we are to resolve this dispute and establish peace in the region; similarly we need goodwill and cooperation of both governments to make this conference successful and productive.
6. We therefore request government of India to issue Kashmiri leaders with travelling documents and we request government of Pakistan to issue visas that these people could take part in this important conference.
7. I shall be writing to you again to give you a list of invitees.
I look forward to hearing from you, and expect full co operation from you.
On behalf of JKLF UK & Europe
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Chairman Diplomatic Committee
5. Indian response
Unlike the Pakistani officials the Indian officials didn’t look very pleased about the idea of us holding a conference in Mirpur. They were curious who would organise the conference for us since we didn’t have our organisational set up there. Perhaps they thought that we were also working as a ‘B’ team of Pakistan, and only wanted to promote their agenda from the JKLF platform.
We assured them that unlike some ‘B’ teams of Pakistan, we were completely independent in our ideology and actions, and were not promoting a Pakistani agenda. Also we told them that our Secretary General, Zubbair Ul Haq Ansari was in Mirpur, and there was a team of dedicated people there who would support us and help us in dealing with matters related to the Conference.
After our interaction and assurance that we were not pursuing anyone’s agenda, and that we sincerely wanted to support the peace process for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, we were told that they would not oppose the conference; but won’t go out of their way to issue passports to all Kashmiri leaders, as they didn’t want to be seen part of this conference or any other conference.
However we were assured that they would give it a careful consideration and issue some passports to those who would apply for a passport to take part in this conference. We were also assured that they would not create any obstacles to this conference, and would not take off anyone from the plane.
This assurance was good enough for us, and we reported the progress of our communication back to the Executive Council of the JKLF, which ultimately decided to go public with the idea of the conference. So the Executive Council directed me to arrange a press conference in London that we could announce the JKLF UK & Europe International Conference in Mirpur.
6. Press Conference in London
PRESS STATEMENT 06 OCTOBER 2004
JKLF UK & EUROPE PRESS CONFERENCE HELD IN LONDON ON 06 OCTOBER 2004
As a President of JKLF UK & Europe I am pleased to welcome you here.
1. As an organisation which wants unification and independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir we welcome this news that both India and Pakistan are prepared to go beyond their traditional stand on Kashmir and consider other options on Kashmir.
2. We hope that they will seriously consider the option of an independent Kashmir which could lead to peace and stability in the region. By accepting this option both countries will also enhance their standing in the comity of nations, and no country will feel sense of defeat.
3. We also welcome determination of both countries to resolve all their issues including the Kashmir dispute through peaceful talks; but we want to remind them that Kashmir is not a bilateral matter and it could not be resolved bilaterally. History of bilateral talks between the both countries also support our view, therefore we emphasise that a mechanism should be worked out that true representatives of the Kashmiri people are made part of this peace process.
4. We request government of India to work out a strategy to declare a cease fire in Jammu and Kashmir that valuable human life could be saved.
5. We also request non Kashmiri Jihadi forces to leave Kashmir that the peace process is not endangered.
6. People of Kashmir are denied of their basic human rights and they are forcibly divided by LOC, we request both governments to open all the possible routs that people of Kashmir could interact with each other which will lead to better understanding among different ethnic communities and could also help to build social, cultural and economic ties.
7. The areas of Gilgit and Baltistan are legal and constitutional part of State of Jammu and Kashmir, and we request government of Pakistan to allow people of these areas to enjoy basic human rights. These areas are not Pakistan’s ‘Northern Areas’, and they must be part of any future talks on Kashmir. People of these areas must be allowed to form their own government until that time the future of the whole State is determined.
8. We appreciate Pakistan’s energy and water requirements but we want to emphasise that innocent people of Mirpur should not be made to suffer once again to meet water requirements of Pakistan. We are well wishers of Pakistan and want to see stability and prosperity in Pakistan, but we suggest that people of Pakistan should also take active part in this by allowing construction of dams inside Pakistani territory.
9. There has been a plan to build Kala Bagh Dam since 1950s, and yet not a foundation brick has been laid down because of the opposition from the local people; whereas opposition of local people from Mirpur was crushed in 1960s. And even now opposition to upraising of the Mangla Dam is ignored.
10. Pakistan plans to build another dam inside the Kashmiri territory to meet energy needs of Pakistan. This dam is known as Bhasha Dam or Diamer Dam and plan is to build this dam inside Gilgit and Baltistan.
11. We feel people of Kashmir need to support this peace process that there can be peace and stability in the region. But before the people of Kashmir can play any positive role in this process, they need to build understanding among themselves. For this purpose JKLF UK & Europe has decided to hold an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur in February 2005. It will be the first conference of its kind to be held inside the Kashmiri territory where people of all ethnic back grounds will be invited; and we hope that this will help to formulate a policy which will play an important role in resolution of Kashmir. END
Abbas Butt, President of JKLF UK & Europe
Mohammed Nazam, Senior Vice President
Sarwar Hussain, Vice President
Dr Shabir Choudhry, Chairman Diplomatic Committee
Asim Mirza, Chief Organiser
Masoom Ansari, Treasure
While organising the IKA Conference we learnt that for a successful international conference, one has to plan in advance and contact the potential participants months before the date of the conference that they can reorganise their diaries. Also it gives the organisers sufficient time to iron out any unforeseen hiccups and obstacles. So with that in mind we made this announcement in October 2004, as we wanted to give ourselves sufficient time to arrange everything for an epoch making conference which, we thought, will help Kashmiris to formulate a common strategy for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
In the JKLF UK & Europe headed by Abbas Butt we have people who are founding members of the JKLF and have a track record of three decades working for the unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir. So it was not the first conference we were organising, but we have never attempted anything at this level from the JKLF platform. We knew it was a gigantic task which required a lot of hard work and finance.
Some colleagues were keen to send out invitation cards but I and Abbas Butt insisted that until the finance is not arranged we will not order invitation cards, never mind sending them out. In view of this we arranged an Executive Council meeting specifically on the issue of finance.
Mohammed Nazam, a former Birmingham Councillor and proprietor of Dadyal Cash and Carry, a chain of food store, assured the Executive Council that he will pay half of the total cost of the conference. Mohammed Nazam who is a Senior Vice President of the JKLF, have been very generous in the past and financed many JKLF projects.
Abbas Butt, the President on behalf of Butt and Co, volunteered two thousand pounds and other members promised five hundred each, and we thought it was sufficient for our purposes, as a conference in Mirpur would not incur too much expense. Apart from that there were some generous Kashmiris who volunteered to help us with transport, accommodation and food.
8. Invitation List
So once the finance was in place then we started preparing a list of potential participants. There was some concern whether we should invite and honour those who have opposed us and still openly speak against our ideology. Some members pointed out that why should we spend our hard earned money to promote those individuals and leaders who have accused us of many things in the past and continue to oppose us.
As we wanted to build confidence and formulate a joint strategy of Kashmiris that they can promote and defend Kashmiri interest, therefore, it was imperative to leave personal matters aside and show magnanimity in this matter. After some discussion it was decided that we should invite all the Kashmiri leaders from the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and issue invitations without prejudice.
That meant inviting all those people who from time to time, accused us of many ‘wrong things’, and continue to oppose us in every possible way. Anyhow after some discussion we agreed on a list of participants, but still some important names were left out. This conference generated plenty of interest, especially on the Indian side of the LOC, and many leaders whose names were left out by mistake, requested us invitation cards.
For the sake of records a complete list of invitees is produced below; it is however possible that some people due to difficulties in postage or communication might not have received the invitation card.
List of invitees of the JKLF International Kashmir Conference.
1. Dr Ghulam Hussain General Secretary PPP group and former Minister in ZA Bhutto Government
2. Air Marshall ® Asghar Khan;
3. Imran Khan
4. Mushaid Hussain
5. Taj Mohammed Langha
6. Shafqat Mahmood
7. Hasil Bizenjo
8. Raja Zafar Ul Haq
9. Sindhi Nationalists
10. Sindhi Nationalists
11. Professor Khaleeq Ul Zaman, JK Awami Party
12. Abdul Majid Malik, Liberation League
13. Sardar Ishtiaq Hussain, PNP
14. Waqar Kazmi, PNP
15. Shaukat Maqbool Butt, NLF
16. Amanullah Khan
17. Arif Shahid, APNA
18. Sardar Atiq Khan, Muslim Conference
19. Ijaz Afzal, Jamat e Islami
20. Khalid Ibrahim, PPPAK
21. Afsar Shahid, KFM
22. Rashid Tariyabi, Jamat e Islami
23. Barrister Sultan Mahmood, PPP
24. Parvez Ashraf, PPP
25. Tariq Farooq, Muslim Conference.
26. Ch Anwar Ul Haq
27. Asghar Sethi
28. Sardar Sabir Kashmiri
29. Ishfaq Ullah Shawl
Gilgit and Baltistan
30. Wajhat Hassan, APNA
31. Mohammed Iqbal Advocate, Karakaram…
32. Major Hussain Shah
33. Mrs Shamim Amir Hamza
34. Nawaz Naji
35. Dr Abbas Rizwi
36. Inayat Ullah Shamali
37. Farooq Rehmani People’s Freedom League, APHC Gilani
38. Abbas Rizvi Anjuman Shar-e-Shiane J&K
39. Abdul Majid Malik, J&K People’s Movement
40. Adeel Mushtaq Wani, Muslim Conference
41. Advocate Pervaiz Ahmed, Kashmir Mass Movement
42. Dr Sheikh Waleed Rasool, People’s League J&K
43. Farooq Ahmed Wani, J&K National Front
44. Ghulam Nabi Mir, J&K People’s Conference
45. Ishtiaq Hameed, Muslim League J&K
46. Khadim Hussain, Muslim Hussain Khateeb, J&K Freedom Movement
47. Professor Nazir Ahmed Shawal
48. Showket Hussain Bhat, Democratic Political Movement
49. Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Mahaz e Azadi J&K
Kashmiri leaders from Indian side
49. OMMER ABDULLAH *
50. MEHBOOBA MUFTI
53.SYED ALI SHAH GILANI
54. MOLVI UMMER FAROOQ
55. PROF.AB.GANI BHAT
56. MOLVI ABAAS ANSARI
57. SAJAAD GANI LONE *
58. SHABIR SHAH
59. SYED SALEEM GILANI *
60. Prof. SAIF DIN SOZ *
61. AB RASHID SHAHEEN.M.P*
62. JAVID MIR
63. BILAL LONE,HURIAT CONFERENCE
64. NAHEEM AHMAD KHAN *
65. DR.HAMEEDA BANU NAHEEM *
66. BHIM SINGH Panther party *
67. DR.NIRMAL SINGH President BJP *
68. DR. REKHA CHOUDHARY Professor Jammu University
69. MIRZA AB.RASHID(RAJOURI)EX.MINISTER,SPEAKER,MP *
70. CH.TALIB HUSSIAN EX.MINISTER AND MP(RAJOURI) *
71. SAJAD AHMAD KICHLOO(DODA DISTRICT)MLA *
72. TAHIR MANHAS Leader/Human Rights *
73. PINTO NARBOO,MLA.(LADAKH *
74. MIAN ALTAF AHMAD,MLA,GUJJAR LEADER *
75. MAULANA IFTIKHAR ANSARI-SHIA LEADER *
76. BASHIR MANZAR Kashmir Images Journalist *
77. AHMAD ALI FAYAAZ Excelsior Journalist *
78. MANZOOR ANJUM- UQAAB Journalist *
79. M.SOFI, SRINAGAR TIMES *
80. PARVAIZ MAJEED- CHATTAN *
81. ZAHEER-UD-DIN- GREATER KASHMIR
82. ZAFAR IQBAL MANHAS Journalist and political analyst *
83. M.ASLAM- KASHMIR NEWS AGENCY(KNS)
84. VED BHASIN Kashmir Times Journalist
85. BALRAJ PURI Leader/Human Rights
86. ARUN JOSHI, HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAMMU *
* Those who either applied for a visa or were going to apply in a few days.
Expatriate Kashmiri leaders
87. Syed Nazir Gilani (UK)
88. Najib Afsar
89. Sadeeq Mirza
90. Mushtaq Kashmiri
91. Jabbar Butt
92. Nazam Bhatti
93. Masoom Ansari
94. Surrinder Kaul
95. Rashid Chaudhry (Austria)
96. Naeem Khan (Austria)
97. Abid Shaheen (Belgium)
98. Khan Zahid Iqbal (Belgium)
99. Jamil Maqsood (Belgium)
100. Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri Switzerland
101. Mumtaz Khan (Canada)
9. Invitation Card
It was decided in the meeting that Dr Shabir Choudhry and Zubbair Ansari should be appointed Coordinators for this conference, and that they will report back the progress to the Executive Council.
While arranging the IKA Conferences we learnt that Zafar Iqbal Manhas, who is a journalist and human rights activist based in Srinagar, played an important role in helping to organise the participants from that side of the LOC. We therefore decided to benefit from his experience and appointed him a Coordinator for that side.
When we discussed this with him he agreed with the idea, and suggested that we must add more names to the list in order to ensure that each community and each district is represented, so acting on his advice we added some more names to already a long list of potential participants. That in fact meant more pressure on our meagre budget.
We sent him cards that he can distribute them to the invitees on the Indian side of the LOC, and also help them with visas and other matters. There were some people whom I directly sent the invitation cards; and Zubbair Ul Haq Ansari was responsible for distributing cards in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. Because of weather conditions and geography, he also had to delegate his responsibility to some people; and it is possible, as noted earlier, that not everyone might have received the invitation.
A copy of the invitation card and a conference programme is produced below:
Struggle until Victory
Alama Iqbal Road, Bank Square, Mirpur (A-K)
19th- 20th February 2005
In view of the situation in Jammu & Kashmir and the geopolitical requirements of South Asia, it is imperative that we find a solution of the Kashmir dispute which is acceptable to all parties, and which can bring peace and stability in the region. .
With that in mind JKLF (UK & Europe) which believes in a peaceful
resolution of the Kashmir dispute, has arranged an International
Kashmir Conference in Mirpur. Although some important conferences have been held outside the State to discuss the future of Jammu and Kashmir, there hasn't been such conference inside the State. .
JKLF is a nationalist party which strongly believes in liberal and
democratic values, and which supports peoples right to determine their
future; and we want to take this initiative of holding the conference,
first of its kind to be held inside the State. .
We believe you are among those who can make a positive contribution in the Conference; hence we cordially invite you to take part in the two
days International Kashmir Conference which will be held on 19/20th
February 2005 in Mirpur.
Participating in this conference are some highly respected and well known leaders, journalists and activists. They are coming from both sides of the line of control and not only from the subcontinent but also many other nations including America and UK and Europe. .
Dr Shabir Choudhry and Zubbair Ul Haq Ansari have been appointed coordinators of this conference and I request you to contact them that they can make appropriate arrangements.
I look forward to hearing from you soon. .
Abbas Butt .
President JKLF UK & Europe
19.02.05 ( Day 1)
1st Session 2nd Session
09.00am – 13.00pm 15.00pm – 19.00pm
20.02.05 (Day 2)
3rd Session 4th Session
09.00am – 13.00pm 15.00pm – 19.00pm
Abbas Butt (UK) Zubbair Ul-Haq Ansari (Mirpur)
Tel: 01923 221219 Tel: 058610 46220
01923 230992 058610 43228
Mob: 07949 812543
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org E mail: email@example.com
Dr. Shabir Choudhry (UK) Jabeer Hotel
Tel: 0208 597 4782 Tel: 058610 43092
Mob: 07941 295327 058610 46692
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Attitude of Pakistani officials
Many people expressed their doubts if the Pakistani officials would issue visas to the Kashmiri leaders, especially who disagreed with their views on Kashmir. I was told that Pakistani government won’t allow us to have a conference on Kashmir in Pakistan or in any part of the State under their control, unless we strike some kind of deal with them.
I disagreed with these views because of the changes in Pakistani government’s Kashmir policy, other confidence building measures; and people to people contacts which, by and large, were encouraged by both governments. Also I was confident because of the assurance given to me by different Pakistani officials that they will issue visas and that they will not create any problems.
Apart from that when I talked about this in political and diplomatic circles, I was told that they will use their influence, if needed, but they saw no reason for Pakistani officials to behave in adverse manner. This interaction further strengthened my belief that despite opposition of some elements within the Pakistani establishment, and strong lobbying against the conference by some Kashmiris who have used this struggle as a business, visas will be issued.
Just to make sure I made a number of phone calls to my contacts in Islamabad, and I was once again assured that there would be no problem with visas; and that visas would be issued by middle of February. Based on this belief I assured my colleagues and who ever else asked me about the conference; and made our travel arrangements.
Nine senior JKLF leaders decided to fly out to support this conference, and we reached Islamabad on 13th February that we can personally over see the conference arrangements and welcome participants, especially those travelling from the other side of the divide.
I spoke to Zafar Iqbal Manhas many times and I wrote him one short letter as well, and copy of that is produced below:
Dear Zafar Sahib Aslamo Alaykam
06 January 2005
Thank you for your mail.
I know Pintoo Sahib and Asghar Sahib are not from Jammu but I wanted to show how many people are invited from outside the Valley as I believe these two are from Ladakh.
I have already sent you more than 40 cards with no names. So you can use theme as you like. Give some cards to Prakriti Gupta; she can pass them on to people in Jammu.
Of course you will be the coordinator with full responsibilities. I shall send you the required letter for High Commission of Pakistan soon.
Last time I gave you Prakriti’s phone number and this is her email. You can liaise with her. email@example.com
With regard to the people of Jammu, you can include whoever you think is the right person, but please put his/her name on list and forward it to me that I can also amend my records and pass it on to people in Pakistan.
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Before I left London I spoke to Zafar Iqbal Manhas and other people on the Indian side to ascertain the situation. Zafar Iqbal Manhas told me that all is not well here; and that Pakistani High Commission had a very negative attitude. Officials in the High Commission reported that they had no knowledge of the Conference; and they asked him to tell me to contact them.
It was hard to believe that they were not aware of this conference which was widely reported in the Kashmiri and Indian press, in fact, one journalist commented that we had the best pre conference media coverage, and congratulated us on our team work.
Anyhow without wasting anytime I contacted Pakistani High Commission New Delhi and spoke to officials in the Visa Section. They asked me to send them a list of invitees, and any other written details, which I promptly did. The gentleman told me that it would be better to speak to the Counsellor Section as they have ‘big say’ in this matter.
11. A letter to Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi
Apart from this I wrote a covering letter to the Visa Section which is produced below:
Head of Visa Section
High Commission of Pakistan
06 January 2005
Dear Sir/Madam Aslamo Alaykam
Re: JKLF Conference in Mirpur and Visas
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front UK & Europe is holding an International Conference in Mirpur on the subject of Kashmir on 19/20 February 2005.
A brief rational of the Conference is enclosed with this letter, but in nutshell we aim to support the peace process of both governments, and wish to find a framework that can help to resolve the Kashmir dispute peacefully to the satisfaction of all parties to the dispute.
As we want a number of delegates to take part in this conference from the other side of the LOC, we need your help and support in this matter. Mr Zafar Iqbal Minhas is the Coordinator for this and he will contact you with regard to the issue of visas for our delegates.
Relevant people in Pakistan have already been informed about the conference.
I sincerely hope that you will do your best to issue visas in time that we can benefit from wisdom and experience of these people.
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Tel: 0044 208 597 4782/ Mobile: 0044 7941 295327
12. Contacts with other officials
After sending the letter and a complete list of invitees to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi, I followed it up on phone and spoke to a number of people there who acknowledged receipt of the letter, and told me that they have to wait for instructions from Islamabad.
One sympathetic official advised me to contact certain people in Islamabad that the process could be expedited otherwise officials have habit of sitting on the papers, and do nothing. Also he told me that they would probably hear something from Islamabad by second week of February and visas could be issued to some people on 16/17th of February.
What that in practise meant was that the Pakistani officials will sit on the papers till the last week, and then issue some visas to less important people just a few days before the conference. This last minute issuing of visas will make it difficult for them to take part in the conference, as from Delhi they will have to go back to Srinagar or Jammu to get their baggage for a long journey to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
To overcome this problem we advised people to take their baggage with them when they go to New Delhi for a visa. This approach also had its own problems as people travelling from the State of Jammu and Kashmir would need to leave their homes in advance to get their visas, if at all they get them, and no one has enough time to sit in New Delhi and put up with uncooperative attitude of the Pakistani officials.
It was obvious that these problems and uncertainties with the visas will de motivate people, and will have negative impact on the conference, as people in frustration will make other political arrangements for those dates. It was also having negative impact on our preparations as we weren’t sure what to prepare for, and who will or will not turn up for the conference.
As it was me who assured everyone that people will get visas and it was my personal credibility, not to mention the credibility of the entire JKLF team, at stake; and I was making frantic efforts to put things right. I also tried to re establish my old contacts, and apart from the Foreign Office I even contacted senior officials in the Pakistani establishment. They all assured me that some people will get visas, and that boosted my confidence.
But this confidence was once again shattered when I heard from Zafar Iqbal Manhas, Pervaiz Majid and Ahmed Fayyaz Sahib from Srinagar, and Tahir Manhas and Prakriti Gupta from Jammu that Pakistani Officials are completely uncooperative, and that they were not even taking any applications for the visas. One possible reason for this could be that the authorities could turn around and say that no one applied for the visas to participate in the conference, and we will have no evidence to show that some people did.
By that time we had everything arranged and those of us from UK, who wanted to take part in the conference, had made travelling arrangements. It was nine JKLF leaders who were ready to go, and some of them were flying out on 9th of February. I was flying out on 12th and the remaining people on 13th.
13. A letter to Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri
After discussing the matter with Abbas Butt I wrote a letter to Foreign Minister of Pakistan Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri on 7th February. The copy of the letter is produced below:
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front
(UK & Europe) 172 Cambridge Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, England, IG3 8NA
Telephone: 00 44 (0)20 8597 4782/Mobile: 00 44 (0)7941 295327
Date: 07 February 2005
Our ref: Drsch/JKLF/conf Your ref:
Right Honourable Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dear Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri Sahib Aslamo Alaykam
Re: Visas for participants of JKLF Mirpur conference
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front UK & Europe is holding an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur Azad Kashmir, and our aim is to support the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and to formulate a Kashmiri strategy in these talks.
Before announcing the conference I contacted Pakistani High Commission officials and talked about possibility of visas for participants who wish to travel from the other side of LOC. I was assured that there should be no problem as long as I provided details of the conference together with the names of invitees. This I did about four weeks ago.
Now that invitation cards for the conference have been delivered to all important Kashmiri leaders in all regions of the State, and leaders from various political and ethnic backgrounds have shown great interest in this conference, I am told that Pakistani High Commission in Delhi is not helping them with the visas.
I understand that both governments are engaged in a peace process on Kashmir, and have established good friendly relationship; and many delegations from various walks of life have been permitted to visit each others country which has helped to create better understanding. In view of this I can’t understand the logic of creating problems for those Kashmiri leaders who wish to take part in this conference, especially when we also want to support the process which both governments have pursued for some time.
Previously we used to hear that India is creating certain obstacles that Kashmiri leaders cannot travel abroad. If these leaders don’t get visas to take part in the conference, then unfortunately it will be taken as Pakistan’s attempt to create obstacles. And this will be bad for Pakistan’s image and will affect Pakistan’s relationship with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as it could be seen as Pakistani government’s attempt to oppose Intra Kashmir Dialogue which could help us to work out a strategy on Kashmir dispute.
Sir, right to travel is a basic human right; and under the UNCIP resolutions on Kashmir, which Pakistan supports, we people have right to travel from one part of Kashmir to the other; and in this regard we need your help. I am faxing you a complete list of invitees from there and the letters we have sent to your government.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF
CC to Suleman Bashir, Additional Secretary Asia Pacific
14. Other issues related with the visas
After sending this letter I contacted my ‘friends’ in Islamabad and expressed my concern about the delay in issuing of visas. I was told that I was showing unnecessary concern; and that the people in position have been briefed with a positive note and that they will issue visas to some people.
But a new point was raised that it was not so straight forward for Pakistan to issue visas to these Kashmiri leaders because both governments are deeply involved in a process of a composite dialogue, and have to look at various issues as they don’t want any negative impact on this process and the forthcoming talks on the bus service. He thought Pakistan might even talk to India to get their agreement before issuing visas to these people, and if the Indian agreement is not there then there could be a problem.
Then with a big laugh he said, ‘Choudhry Sahib if all these Kashmiri leaders are allowed to come to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan to attend your conference, then you will be stealing the show of our bus service’.
I think he spilled the beans. If these leaders were allowed to come to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir then of course that would have taken some of the charm away from the bus service, as the authorities probably wanted these prominent leaders to board the first bus to get the maximum publicity.
Also I contacted Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi. The Delhi Office told me that they were still waiting for a green signal from Islamabad, and that they should hear from them in a day or two.
1. A letter to Tariq Aziz
With all this in mind, I decided to contact another very influential person in Pakistani government. Tariq Aziz is known to be very close to President Musharaf, and wields enormous influence. Twice I phoned him and could not speak to him as he was in meetings. So I wrote a short letter to him, which is produced below.
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front
(UK & Europe) 172 Cambridge Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, England, IG3 8NA
Telephone: 00 44 (0)20 8597 4782/Mobile: 00 44 (0)7941 295327.Email:JKLF@diplomats.com
Date: 09 February 2005
Our ref: DrSC/CDC/9F05 Your ref:
Dear Tariq Aziz Sahib Aslamo Alaykam
Re: Meeting on issue of Kashmir
JKLF UK & Europe is hosting an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur on 19/20th February 2005; and we have invited leaders from all regions of the State that we can formulate some policy to support this peace process.
I hope India will provide travelling documents and Pakistan will issue visas to those leaders, journalists and human rights activists who wish to take part in this conference. So far no visas have been issued to our invitees, and I request you to help me in this matter. I am faxing you a copy of my letter to Mian Khursheed Kasuri Sahib, list of invitees and my letter to Head of Visa Section, Pakistan High Commission New Delhi.
I am reaching Islamabad on 13th Feb and will hold a Press conference in Holiday Inn on 14th. Soon after the press conference I will proceed to Mirpur to make arrangements for the Kashmir Conferences. I was wondering if you could be kind enough to give me an appointment on afternoon/evening of 13th that we can discuss issues related to Kashmir and the Conference.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Chairman Diplomatic Committee JKLF UK & Europe
16. Plans were in place to sabotage the conference
After writing to Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, I followed it up with phone calls but could not speak to him because he was busy with pre arranged meetings. However I managed to speak to a Spokesman of the Foreign Office, Mr Masood Khan. He was very polite and sympathetic. He requested me to send him all the details including the list of invitees. I spoke to him many times; in fact, he also phoned me and assured me that he will do everything possible to help us.
I am grateful to him for his efforts, I know he did his best to help us; but of course there is a limit to what he can do as people in other departments call the shots when it comes to the issue of Kashmir.
Apart from this I was told by a reliable source that a London based Kashmiri, who is like hand and glove with Pakistani secret agencies, especially travelled to Islamabad and requested them to sabotage this conference as it could seriously affect his ‘business’ which heavily depends on the present trouble in Kashmir. There are many other people who have vested interest in the status quo, because they are treating it as a ‘business’ and not as a struggle for independence of Kashmir.
So it was in the interest of all these people that no such conference should take place which has potential of evolving a common strategy on Kashmir dispute. These people know that meetings which are held in Marriot hotel or at other place under auspices of Pakistani agencies are not designed to build confidence among Kashmiris, rather they are ‘programmed’ to create more rifts and further divide them; and they have no worry about such meetings.
Whereas our Conference was being organized without their patronage and blessing, and this unnerved some people, and they applied pressure on the authorities not to issue visas to participants of this conference. Those who opposed our conference also knew that we had a good networking in political and diplomatic circles, and that we will be able to go ahead with the conference even without the participants from across the LOC, and come out with some strategy which could be embarrassing to them. So they had plans to sabotage this conference but we were not aware of this at that time.
I knew I worked hard for this conference, especially over the issue of visas to our participants, but by the time I left London on 12th February 2005, I wasn’t sure if they will issue visas to our invitees.
17. Some media coverage before we left for Azad Kashmir
JKLF to hold International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur
MIRPUR Dec 10 (NNI): A two-day International Kashmir Peace Conference will be held in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir to formulate a common strategy to resolve the vexed
issue of Kashmir.
Being held under the aegis of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the Conference would be first of its kind to take place in Azad Kashmir.
Announcing the schedule of the conference, Chairman Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Diplomatic Committee Dr Shabir Choudhry has said that the
conference will be held from 19-20 February 2005.
In a statement issued in London, he said that time has come to say good bye to politics of violence and intimidation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and start a new era of peace, friendship and prosperity.
"We Kashmiris have complaints from both India and Pakistan; and each region of Jammu and Kashmir have complaints against each other. Dr Choudhry said,
complaints and differences can only be resolved if concerned parties sit together and listen to each other; and with that in mind the JKLF has decided to hold the peace conference in Mirpur on 19-20 February 2005," Dr Shabir said.
Dr Choudhry said since the announcement of this conference in October we have completed our elementary work and a number of senior leaders from Jammu, Ladakh
and the Valley have agreed to participate in this conference.
He said governments of India and Pakistan have shown keen interest in resolving this conflict peacefully, and Mirpur conference will be a test for their sincerity, as we need cooperation and goodwill of both governments to make this event a successful one. We want to support their peace process, and we need their support in getting the necessary travel documents and visas ready for the conference.
Dr Choudhry said people of Jammu and Kashmir have finally realised that they cannot be silent spectators to the gun culture which has torn apart the civil society of the State, and brought death, imprisonment and suffering to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
"We all know causes of this gun culture and how and why gun was introduced, but politics of blame game is not conducive to peace talks and friendly environment which is prerequisite to any peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute," the JKLF leader said in a statement from London.
In the past all three parties to the dispute were engaged in the politics of blame game which only embittered the relationship and helped only a small number of the people who benefited from the continuation of this conflict.
Dr Shabir Choudhry said, all three parties have made mistakes in the past, but past is past, and we can not afford to let follies of the past hold hostage future of Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia. We have to move forward and for that we have to show political maturity, tolerance and wisdom.
Dr Choudhry said it will be a good gesture if leaders from Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir travel by road to participate in this conference. NNI
18. JKLF wants a joint strategy of Kashmiris
London, 18 December 2004
Executive Council of JKLF UK & Europe met in Birmingham, England, to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was presided by the JKLF President Abbas Butt.
Chairman Diplomatic Committee Dr Shabir Choudhry briefed the Executive Council about his meetings with different people, and also presented a report about the IKA International Kashmir Conference held in Canada. The Executive Council expressed its satisfaction on the successful IKA conference and important role JKLF leaders played in this.
The Executive Council said it is important to have more conferences where people of Jammu and Kashmir can exchange views and build understanding among other fellow citizens who have been forcibly divided for the past 57 years.
The Executive Council declared that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute, and that we will support every organisation which believes in a peaceful resolution. It also declared that India and Pakistan must work out a mechanism that true representatives of the people from Jammu and Kashmir could become part of the peace process.
JKLF leaders said that Pakistan and India must accept the ground realities that the Kashmir dispute is not a territorial or religious issue, and it cannot be resolved through bilateral talks no matter how sincere both governments are.
The Executive Council said more confidence building measure need to be put in place to make further progress on this bumpy road to peace, and the JKLF suggests that there should be a cease fire inside Jammu and Kashmir soon that lives could be saved and people get a relief from years of fear and intimidation.
The Executive Council strongly opposed the controversial extension of the Mangla Dam and cautioned the concerned authorities that this forced and illegal project could have far reaching consequences on relationship between Kashmiris and Pakistan. People of Mirpur will not let Pakistani authorities drown graves of their love ones for the second time in order to meet energy requirements of Pakistan.
JKLF leaders said we can understand concerned authorities desperation to start this illegal project because it will provide them an opportunity to embezzle money, and uproot people of Mirpur.
JKLF President Abbas Butt updated the Executive Council on the progress of the JKLF Conference in Mirpur. The Executive Council expressed its satisfaction on the progress, but decided to appoint Dr Shabir Choudhry and Zubair Ul Haq Ansari as directors of the conference to make all the necessary arrangements.
The following addressed the Executive Council meeting: Abbas Butt, Mohammed Nazam Bhatti, Ehsaan Ansari, Mumtaz Mirza, Asim Mirza, Sarwar Hussain and Dr Shabir Choudhry.
JKLF vows to continue peaceful struggle for independence
BIRMINGHAM Jan 24 (NNI): Central Committee of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front UK & Europe has reiterated to continue its struggle for unification and independence of the Kashmir.
In a meeting held in Birmingham (England), the JKLF also said that all political and diplomatic avenues to strengthen the process of dialogue will be explored, as there is no military solution to this dispute and violence has to end in order to create appropriate environment that people of Jammu and Kashmir can interact with each other and make a positive contribution to the peace process.
The meeting was held to discuss the issues related to the Kashmiri struggle and the organisation. Mr Abbas Butt, the elected President of the party, presided the meeting in which different reports were presented and scrutinised.
Central Committee of JKLF UK & Europe met in Birmingham (England) to discuss the issues related to the Kashmiri struggle and the organisation. Mr Abbas Butt, the elected President of the party, presided the meeting in which different reports were presented and
Dr Shabir Choudhry, Chairman of Diplomatic Committee presented report of his interaction with different political and diplomatic circles. The Central Committee, after hearing the report directed Dr Choudhry to initiate a process of dialogue with diplomats of those countries who occupy the State of Jammu and Kashmir, as peaceful dialogue is the only way forward to resolve the complicated dispute of Kashmir.
The Central Committee said violence whether it is taking place in Kashmir, Jammu, Gilgit or any other part of the State can only exacerbate the situation and add to the misery and suffering of the people. The JKLF oppose this violence and request different groups and the relevant authorities to create culture of tolerance and coexistence.
A report about the progress of the JKLF international Kashmir conference in Mirpur was also presented to the Central Committee. The CC expressed its satisfaction to the hitherto progress and directed Zubbair Ul Haq Ansai and Dr Shabir Choudhry, Coordinators of the Conference to reach out to the all Kashmiris leaders and those Pakistani leaders who sincerely support the Kashmiri struggle for independence.
The Fund Raising Committee for the Conference reported that former Birmingham City Councillor Nazam Bhatti and Proprietor of Dadyal Cash and Carry, a chain of food stores, to pay half of the total costs of the Conference. Abbas Butt on behalf of Butt and Co Accountants agreed to pay two thousand pounds, and other CC members also agreed to make some contribution.
The Central Committee requested both India and Pakistan to facilitate this conference by providing passports and visas that Kashmiris could meet inside the State to formulate a policy to support the peace process which could ultimately lead to peace and stability in the entire region.
The Central Committee said some people are using the JKLF name to further ‘secret’ agenda and to confuse people by forwarding wrong views about organisation’s policies. One such group recently had meet meetings in Islamabad where pro Pakistan leaders were presented as
leaders of the Kashmiri people; and they even asked the government of Pakistan to set up Kashmir Desk inside Pakistani diplomatic missions abroad to ‘project the Kashmir cause’.
“One wonders which ‘Kashmir cause’ these ‘Kashmir Desks’ are going to ‘project’ and who will benefit from this. That aside it shows true intentions of this group and where its loyalty laid. As a nationalist
organisation our loyalty lies with unification and independence of the State and interest of the Kashmiri people is paramount to us; and all those who are more concerned about welfare of our neighbours could not true representatives of the Kashmiri people,” a statement issued after the meeting said.
The Central Committee condemned recent riots in Gilgit and Baltistan and continued curfew there which greatly affected the everyday life there. The JKLF leaders
said these riots are engineered from outside in order to divide the local people and punish national groups who oppose the Pakistani rule there.
They further said these areas are part of the State, and no country has legal and constitutional right to be there and behave like an imperialist power. Those who treat the State as a colony should know that days of colonialism are long over and demands of the 21st century are different.
The Central Committee strongly opposed the illegal upraising of the Mangla Dam, and cautioned that if the authorities continued with their designs to uproot people of Mirpur in order to irrigate lands of Pakistani land lords then there could be a strong reaction which could be ugly.
The meeting was addressed by Abbas Butt, Mohammed Nazam, Masoom Ansari, Asim Mirza, Mumtaz Mirza, Sarwar Hussain, Choudhry Fazal Elahi, Waseem Ansari and Dr Shabir Choudhry. NNI
20. Jammu and Kashmir leaders may attend Mirpur meet
London, January 29 Hindustan Times
Omar Abdullah, President of National Conference, has reportedly agreed to attend a two-day International Kashmir Conference called by the JKLF (UK and Europe) in Mirpur, Pakistan. The conference has been scheduled to support the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and to formulate a Kashmiri strategy.
The JKLF official said leaders from all regions of state of Jammu and Kashmir have been invited at what will be the first conference of its kind to be held inside the Kashmiri territory. Top Kashmiri leaders have, he said, agreed to take part in this important conference.
Among those who have agreed to participate in this intra Kashmir dialogue, according to the JLF press release, include apart from Omar Abdullah, Professor Ghani Bhat, former APHC Chairman, Sajad Lone, Yousaf Tarigmi, Saleem Gilani, Javed Mir and many others from Jammu and Ladakh.
Omar Abdulla, while speaking to Dr Shabir Choudhry, Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and Coordinator of this conference, said it would be pleasure to go to Kashmir and take part in this conference. "It will give me an opportunity to meet my fellow Kashmiri brothers and discuss with them problems encountered by people of Jammu and Kashmir."
Dr Choudhry told HT UK online that Abdullah told him he would definitely submit his application with the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi to obtain a visa, and if visa were granted, he would proudly attend this conference.
Professor Ghani Bhat, Sajad Lone, Yousaf Tarigami, Saleem Gilani and Javed Mir also expressed similar sentiments about the conference and said they would take part in the conference and help to formulate a common strategy.
'I would love to take part in the conference if I get travelling documents', Professor Ghani Bhat said in a telephone conversation with Dr Shabir Choudhry. 'This conference will provide us with an opportunity to meet each other and discuss future of Jammu and Kashmir.'
Dr Choudhry added that other Kashmiri leaders also expressed their desire to take part in the conference but feared that authorities of both countries could sabotage it by not issuing passports or by refusing visas. "They said it was a test of seriousness and sincerity of both governments to composite dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute."
These leaders, according to Dr Choudhry, said " if Indian government does not provide passports to the leaders who wish to take part in the conference to support the peace process, it speaks volumes about their true intentions; and similarly if Pakistani officials refuse to issue visas it also expose them that they are not serious about peaceful resolution of the dispute".
21. Top Kashmiri leaders agree to take part in JKLF conference 27 January 2005
To support the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir and to formulate a Kashmiri strategy in these talks, the JKLF UK & Europe has called a two day international Kashmir conference in Mirpur Azad Kashmir.
The JKLF has invited leaders from all regions of state of Jammu and Kashmir; and this will be the first conference of its kind to be held inside the Kashmiri territory, and top Kashmiri leaders have agreed to take part in this important conference.
Invitation cards for the conference have been delivered to all important Kashmiri leaders in all regions of the State, and leaders from various political and ethnic backgrounds have shown great interest in this conference.
Among those who have agreed to participate in this intra Kashmir dialogue are, Professor Ghani Bhat, former APHC Chairman, Omar Abdullah, President of National Conference, Sajad Lone, Yousaf Tarigmi, Saleem Gilani, Javed Mir and many others from Jammu and Ladakh.
Omar Abdulla, while speaking to Dr Shabir Choudhry, Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and Coordinator of this conference, said it will be pleasure to go to Azad Kashmir and take part in this conference. It will give me an opportunity to meet my fellow Kashmiri brothers and discuss with them problems encountered by people of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said I will definitely submit my application with the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi to obtain a visa, and if visa is granted then he will proudly attend this conference and make a positive contribution that we can formulate a common strategy to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute.
Professor Ghani Bhat, Sajad Lone, Yousaf Tarigami, Saleem Gilani and Javed Mir also expressed similar sentiments about the conference and said they will take part in this conference and help to formulate a common strategy.
‘I would love to take part in the conference if I get travelling documents’, Professor Ghani Bhat said in a telephone conversation with Dr Shabir Choudhry. ‘This conference will provide us with an opportunity to meet each other and discuss future of Jammu and Kashmir.’
Other Kashmiri leaders also expressed their desire to take part in the conference but feared that authorities of both countries will sabotage it by not issuing passports or by refusing visas. They said it is a test of seriousness and sincerity of both governments to composite dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
These leaders said if Indian government does not provide passports to the leaders who wish to take part in the conference to support the peace process, it speaks volumes about their true intentions; and similarly if Pakistani officials refuse to issue visas it also expose them that they are not serious about peaceful resolution of the dispute. END
22. JKLF holds Kashmir Conference in Mirpur from Feb 19
MIRPUR Feb 06 (NNI): Preparations are in the final stage to hold a two-day International Kashmir Peace Conference scheduled to be held in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir from February 19 to 20.
The conference has been arranged to formulate a common strategy to resolve the vexed issue of Kashmir.
Being held under the aegis of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) UK and Europe, the Conference would be first of its kind to take place in Azad Kashmir.
Giving details a JKLF press release said here Sunday that prominent Kashmiri leaders have been invited from all regions of state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Among those who have been invited from Indian Held Kashmir to participate in this intra Kashmir dialogue are: Ommer Abdullah; Mehbooba Mufti; M Y Tarigami; Yasin Malik; Syed Ali Shah Gilani; Molvi Ummer Farooq; Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat; Molvi Abaas Ansari; Sajaad Gani Lone; Shabir Shah; Syed Saleem Gilani; Prof. Saif Din Soz; Ab Rashid Shaheen.M.P; Javid Mir; Bilal Lone, Hurriyat Conference; Naheem Ahmad Khan; Dr.Hameeda Banu Naheem; Bhim Singh, Panther Party; Dr. Nirmal Singh, President BJP; Dr. Rekha Choudhary Professor Jammu University; Mirza Abdul Rashid (Rajouri) Ex-Minister, Speaker, MP; Ch.Talib Hussian Ex.Minister And MP (Rajouri); Sajad Ahmad Kichloo (Doda District) MLA; Tahir Manhas, Leader/Human Rights; Pinto Narboo, MLA (Ladakh; Mian Altaf Ahmad, MLA, Gujjar Leader; and Maulana Iftikhar Ansari-Shia Leader; Bashir Manzar
Kashmir Images Journalist; Ahmad Ali Fayaaz, Excelsior Journalist; Manzoor Anjum-Uqaab, Journalist; M. Sofi, Srinagar Times; Parvaiz Majeed-Chattan
Zaheer-ud-din-Greater Kashmir; Zafar Iqbal Manhas, Journalist and Political Analyst; M. Aslam-Kashmir News Agency(KNS); Ved Bhasin, Kashmir Times Journalist; Balraj Puri Leader/Human Rights; and Arun Joshi, Hindustan Times, Jammu.
The JKLF statement said that time has come to say good bye to politics of violence and intimidation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and start a new era of peace, friendship and prosperity.
“We Kashmiris have complaints from both India and Pakistan; and each region of Jammu and Kashmir have complaints against each other. Complaints and differences can only be resolved if concerned parties sit together and listen to each other; and with that in mind the JKLF has decided to hold the peace conference in Mirpur From February 19-20,” the organizers of the conference said.
The organizers said governments of both India and Pakistan have shown keen interest in resolving this conflict peacefully, and Mirpur conference will be a test for their sincerity, as we need cooperation and goodwill of both governments to make this event a successful one. We want to support their peace process, and we need their support in getting the necessary travel documents and visas ready for the conference.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir have finally realised that they cannot be silent spectators to the gun culture which has torn apart the civil society of the State, and brought death, imprisonment and suffering to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
In the past all three parties to the dispute were engaged in the politics of blame game which only embittered the relationship and helped only a small number of the people who benefited from the continuation of this conflict.
“All three parties have made mistakes in the past, but past is past, and we can not afford to let follies of the past hold hostage future of Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia. We have to move forward and for that we have to show political maturity, tolerance and wisdom,” the press release said. NNI
A PRESS STATEMENT from Mirpur 6TH Feb
In view of situation in Jammu and Kashmir and geopolitical requirements of south Asia, it is imperative that we find a solution of Kashmir dispute which is acceptable to all parties, and which can bring peace and stability in the region.
With that in mind the JKLF UK & Europe which believe in a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, has arranged a two days international Kashmir Conferences on 19th / 20th February in Mirpur. Although some important conferences have been held outside the State to discuss the future of Jammu and Kashmir problem, there haven't
been such conferences inside the State.
JKLF is a nationalist party which strongly believes in liberal and democratic values, and which supports peoples right to determine their future and we want to take this initiative of holding the conference first of its kind to be held inside the State.
The JKLF has invited Leaders from all regions of State of Jammu and Kashmir and invitation cards for the conferences have been delivered to all important Kashmiri Leaders in all regions of the State, and leaders from various political and ethnic backgrounds have been shown great interest in this conference. Among those who
have agreed to participate in this intra Kashmir dialogue are Professor Ghani Batt, former APHC chairman, Omar Abdullah President of National Conference, Sajid Lone, Yousaf Tarigmi, Saleem Gilani, Javed Mir and many others from Jammu and Ladakh.
Other Kashmiri leaders also expressed their desire to take part in the conference but feared that authorities of both countries will sabotage it by not issuing passports or refusing visas. They said it is a test of seriousness and sincerity of both governments
to composite dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. If Indian government does not provide passports to the leaders who wish to take part in the conference to support the peace process it speaks volumes about their true intentions and similarly if Pakistani officials refuse to issue visas it also expose them
that they are not serious about peaceful resolution of the dispute.
JKLF requested both India and Pakistan to facilitate this conference by providing passports and visas that Kashmiris could meet inside the State to formulate a policy to support the peace process which could ultimately lead to peace and stability in the
Our struggle is for unification and independence of the State and that we will explore all political and diplomatic avenues to strengthen the process of dialogue. There is no military solution to this dispute and violence has to end in order to create appropriate environment that people of Jammu and Kashmir can interact with each other and make a positive contribution to the peace process.
Secretary General JKLF UK& Europe
24. Kashmiri leaders ready for a Mirpur conference: JKLF
LONDON Feb 08 (NNI): ‘All arrangements for the JKLF International Kashmir Conference have been finalised, and now the ball is in the court of India and Pakistan to provide the leaders travelling documents and visas.’
This was stated by Coordinator of the Conference and Chairman Diplomatic Committee Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front UK and Europe, Dr Shabir Choudhry while talking to NNI.
JKLF UK & Europe has called an international Kashmir Conference in Mirpur for which more than 38 leaders and journalists from Indian Held Kashmir have been invited. Most of the invitees have agreed to take part in this conference, and some of them have already submitted their applications for visas with the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.
Syed Saleem Gilani, a prominent Kashmiri leader and Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) from the Valley, while speaking to Dr Shabir Choudhry, said: “We have packed our bags and are ready to fly out as soon as we get our visas.” He further said: “it is imperative to get visas that we can take part in this important conference which could help us to formulate a policy on future of Jammu and Kashmir. It will also provide us with an opportunity to meet our brothers who live on the other side of the LoC.”
Dr Shabir Choudhry said, ‘Response for the conference has been very encouraging, and many liberal and nationalist leaders of Pakistan have also agreed to participate in this conference. Hasil Bizinjo, a nationalist leader from Balochistan, while speaking to Dr Shabir Choudhry said: “Although we have problems of our own as we are also fighting for democratic rights of the people, but we will attend the Mirpur Kashmir conference to show our solidarity with our Kashmiri
The Coordinator of the Mirpur Conference said that 38 leaders and journalists have been invited from Jammu and Kashmir. Many important leaders are very keen to attend this conference, and they have requested both governments to facilitate this conference. Apart from this prominent leaders of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are taking part in this important conference. NNI
25. Preparations in Azad Kashmir
There was a lot of enthusiasm in Azad Kashmir about the JKLF International Kashmir Conference, especially in Mirpur; and this was further boosted by positive media coverage. Many people, including some Pakistani leaders and political workers showed their interest about the conference.
Zubbair ul Haq Ansari, JKLF Secretary General and Cordinator of the organisation was in charge of the campaign over there; and he managed to muster support of many dedicated people from Mirpur and other parts of the Azad Kashmir. And this support was across the party lines. We don’t officially have our organisational structure there and yet we had support of nationalist groups and individuals who were willing to help us out in this mega project, as they knew it could play an important role in the Kashmiri independence movement.
Zubair Ul Haq Ansari set up various teams for the conference, for example, teams which would be responsible for media, publicity, transport, security etc. They had prepared different kinds of banners to project different messages and welcoming our distinguished guests. A media centre was set up that journalists could use it to project the proceedings of the conference.
As we were expecting guests from the Indian side of the divide, and it was possible that those who dislike the JKLF, its ideology or this conference, could stir up things or even attack any of the guests to divert the attention; or distort the facts, so we thought it appropriate to set up a team which will be responsible for matters related to security.
We also set up a team who would receive our guests from various ports of Pakistan and safely take them to Mirpur; and for this purpose we hired some vehicles as well. In other words a lot of work and money was invested to make this conference a unique event.
26. JKLF team reaches Islamabad
Although everything regarding the issue of visas was not satisfactory, yet we decided to go ahead with the Kashmir Conference, hoping that Pakistani High Commission will issue some visas. And if that did not happen, we thought we will still have presence of all Kashmiri nationalist organisations, all nationalist organisations from Gilgit and Baltistan, Nationalist leaders from Balochistan, Frontier, Punjab and Sindh.
With that in mind we asked Mr Shaukat Malik, Kashmiri journalist, to make arrangements for a JKLF Press Conference in Holiday Inn, Islamabad on 14th. Mr Abbas Butt, President of the JKLF UK & Europe was travelling with the main party on 13th February, but I left London on 12th, as I had to arrange certain things.
On reaching Rawalpindi I had meetings with Zubair Ul Haq Ansari, JKLF Secretary General and Chahudhry Sarwar Hussain, JKLF Vice President, who left with the advance party to help with the arrangements. Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain was accompanied by Shazada Allah Ditta who came to welcome us and who wanted to arrange some meetings for us. They briefed me with the hitherto progress, and we discussed and finalised matters related to our press conference, and the International Kashmir Conference.
In the evening we had meetings with Kashmiri journalists Maroof Khan, Bilal Dar and Rao Hamid. Later on that evening Basharat Mehboob, a senior Kashmiri journalist based in Islamabad, came with a 12 member delegation of Kashmir journalists, and had detailed discussion about various aspects of the International Kashmir Conference and the Kashmir dispute. They were kind enough to offer us their full cooperation.
Mr Zubbair Ansari was accompanied by Sabir Ansari, Shafiq Kant, Javed Iqbal and few other senior JKLF leaders and members, who came to receive some members of our team. The Kashmir Conference generated such a positive environment and enthusiasm that these people, even though belonged to another group of the JKLF, still decided to stay behind and support our press conference.
Time for our press conference was 12 noon, and we reached Holiday Inn at 11.30 am, where a number of our friends and journalists were already present. Shaukat Malik and Maroof Khan looked worried, and when they told me the reason, I and other JKLF colleagues also got worried. A number of things happened, which indicated that we could have uphill struggle here, for example:
1. All of sudden President of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Anwar Khan decided to hold a press conference in Islamabad at 11.30 am, and his team was phoning journalists to take part in that. Some of these journalists were with me until one o’ clock in the morning, and they knew nothing about this press conference. The reason for his press conference was the damage done by rain falls in Azad Kashmir. This damage was done nearly two weeks ago, and all of sudden he realised that he needs to hold a press conference on this issue;
2. In a newspapers column where ‘What’s on’ is printed, they by ‘mistake’ printed the time of the JKLF press conference to take place at 3pm;
3. On the hotel board where events of the day are publicised, it was written that the JKLF press conference has been cancelled;
4. After the press conference we discovered that our order for food for our guests and journalists has been cancelled.
It is hard to believe that all this was mere coincidence; anyhow we asked Shaukat Malik and Maroof Khan to contact their colleagues and use their influence. Of course they were already doing their best, and frantically phoning around. Outcome of their efforts was 40 journalists and three TV channels; and the hall was full.
From anyone’s standards it was a successful press conference, where the JKLF team performed extremely well, and confidently answered questions on various aspects of the Kashmiri struggle; and especially about the JKLF International Kashmir Conference and efforts of forging a unity among different factions of the JKLF.
Before the start of the conference a message was conveyed to me that Rathore Sahib has asked me not to be too ‘harsh’. Rathore is a code name used to explain ISI officer who controls political matters of Azad Kashmir government and the Kashmiri struggle.
For the past many months, as a result of a considered policy, we stopped ‘Pakistan bashing’ and ‘India bashing’, because we thought this will not help us to create conducive environment required for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. We thought we need friends in India and Pakistan, and we cannot win friends by strongly attacking their governments.
The copy of our press statement, produced below, shows that we were moderate in our criticism and positive in our approach; but when I got this message I could not stop strongly criticising wrong policies of the Pakistani government. I thought, unlike my previous press conferences, if I am too soft on Pakistan today, Rathore Sahib will think it was because of his ‘dictation’; and he could ‘broadcast’ this through army of his volunteers.
I know that there are many people who use the JKLF name, and they take direct orders from him, and get big rewards for that as well. But I wanted to send a message back to him that our JKLF will not accept dictation from anyone; and that we will not compromise on our ideological stand.
No doubt we want peace in Kashmir and in South Asia, but it should not be at the cost of our right of self determination. We are a nationalist organisation which is working for unification and independence of the entire state, and to us interest of the Kashmiri people is paramount; and we will continue with our programme even if that means annoying some powerful people.
27. PRESS Conference in Islamabad 14 FEBRUARY 2005
JKLF UK & EUROPE PRESS CONFERENCE HELD IN HOLIDAY INN ISLAMABAD ON 14th FEBRUARY 2005
As a President of JKLF UK & Europe I am pleased to welcome you here.
1. As an organisation which wants unification and independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and which believes in peaceful resolution of the dispute, we welcome the peace process and hope that despite problems over the issue of Bagliar Dam the process will continue.
2. We also hope that both India and Pakistan will abandon their traditional stands on Jammu and Kashmir as they have not provided any solution, rather they have become obstacle which hinder the progress.
3. They need to consider other options on Jammu and Kashmir in view of changed ground realities, and find a solution which satisfies wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and by doing so they will also enhance their standing in the comity of nations. This will also give sense of great achievement to leaders of the both countries, as it will lead to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
4. We hope that both governments are serious and sincere in resolving the Kashmir dispute peacefully, but we want to remind them that Kashmir is not a bilateral matter and it could not be resolved bilaterally. History of bilateral talks between the both countries also support our view, therefore we emphasise that a mechanism should be worked out that true representatives of the Kashmiri people are made part of this peace process.
5. The JKLF UK & Europe has arranged a two day International Kashmir Conference, first of its kind to be held inside the State; in which leaders from all regions of the State are invited, and they have agreed to take part in it.
6. Our aim is to provide an opportunity to leaders from different regions that they can build confidence, and work out a strategy to support the peace process. We are sincere in our approach, and a legitimate test for sincerity of both governments is to let people of Jammu and Kashmir meet.
7. We request government of India to provide travelling documents to those leaders who wish to take part in this conference from that side of the State; and we request government of Pakistan to issue them visas that they can travel to Mirpur.
8. As people of Jammu and Kashmir are denied of their basic human rights and they are forcibly divided by LOC, we request both governments to open all the possible routs that people could interact with each other which will lead to better understanding among different ethnic communities and could also help to build social, cultural and economic ties.
9. The areas of Gilgit and Baltistan are legal and constitutional part of State of Jammu and Kashmir, and we request government of Pakistan to allow people of these areas to enjoy basic human rights. These areas are not Pakistan’s ‘Northern Areas’, and they must be part of any future talks on Kashmir. People of these areas must be allowed to form their own government until that time the future of the whole State is determined.
10. We are also seriously concerned about recent turmoil in Gilgit and Baltistan which apparently was a result of Shia- Sunni clashes. We know the real cause of trouble in these areas is not communal; in fact communal tension is created to divert attention from other issues, and we urge the authorities to look in to this matter and satisfy genuine demands of the local people.
11. We appreciate Pakistan’s energy and water requirements but we want to emphasise that innocent people of Mirpur should not be made to suffer once again to meet water requirements of Pakistan. We are well wishers of Pakistan and want to see stability and prosperity there, but we suggest that people of Pakistan should also take active part in this by allowing construction of dams inside Pakistani territory.
1/Abbas Butt, President of JKLF UK & Europe
2/ Zubbair ul Haq Ansari, Secretary General
3/ Dr Shabir Choudhry, Chairman Diplomatic Committee
4/ Masoom Ansari, Treasurer
5/ Sarwar Hussain member, Vice President
6/ Mohammed Asim Mirza, Organiser
7/ Mumtaz Mirza, Publicity Secretary
28. Meetings with diplomats
On my arrival in Islamabad I once again contacted Mr Masood Khan, Spokesman of Pakistani Foreign Office, and talked about the issue of visas. He told me that he has talked with the concerned people and have recommended to them that visas should be issued. And that now the matter is being considered by another concerned section.
Also I arranged two meetings, one with two senior British Diplomats and the other with a senior American diplomat. The first meeting was with the American Political Counsellor, Larry Robinson who was accompanied by Mubashir Akram, Political Specialist; and we met at the Marriot Hotel. The JKLF delegation consisted of Dr Shabir Choudhry, Masoom Ansari, Sarwar Hussain and Mumtaz Mirza.
We have known Larry Robinson for many years, and have met him many times. He has always been very friendly, frank and honest with his opinion. Whenever I visited Islamabad he has always been kind enough to find time for me to discuss issues related to Kashmir and South Asia.
We discussed in detail about various aspects of the Kashmiri struggle and the peace process in Kashmir, and the likely problems it might face. We also discussed about the situation in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, especially recent Shia – Sunni riots.
Apart from that we gave them details of the proposed JKLF Kashmir Conference, and requested him to attend it. He was very interested about the conference, and assured us of American participation.
In a response to one question he said, America has no solution for the Kashmir dispute. We would like to see peace and stability in Kashmir and in South Asia, and urge the parties to find a peaceful resolution of the dispute; and in this regard would encourage more confidence building measures to be put in place.
The second meeting was after the press conference, and that was also at the Marriot. The JKLF delegation consisted of myself, Masoom Ansari, Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain and Mumtaz Mirza; and we met the British Political Counsellor, Peter Wilson and First Political Secretary, Peter Boxer.
Like the American diplomats I always had a very good relationship with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the British diplomats in Islamabad have always been friendly and cooperative to me. I met Peter Wilson in London before he left for Islamabad to take up his position, and found him very sincere and friendly person. It was my first meeting with Peter Boxer, like his predecessor Martin Cronin, he was also quite knowledgeable on the issue of Kashmir.
We had very friendly and frank exchange of views and, in nutshell there was not much difference in the message delivered by the British and the American diplomats. They were both totally against violence and fully supported a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute; and in that regard encouraged both governments to continue with the peace process.
We thought the JKLF and these diplomats had many things in common. Like them we were also against violence and extremism; and we also wanted a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. They also shared our view that Kashmir was not a religious issue; and that it was a political matter which could not be resolved by use of force by any party. They appreciated our commitment to democratic values and pluralism, which is a corner stone of JKLF UK & Europe’s policy
At the end of the meeting the British diplomats also assured us of their support in our peaceful struggle; and that their First Secretary, Peter Boxer, will attend our International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur. It was pleasant news that Islamabad based diplomats of important countries were taking interest in the JKLF Kashmir Conference.
As we didn’t have much time to stay in Islamabad, we didn’t arrange any more diplomatic meetings, but a number of invitation cards were given to diplomats in Islamabad by my friend and sympathiser to our cause Mr Mohammed Aslam, Chief Editor of monthly Liberty International. I was told by Mr Aslam that a number of diplomats have shown their interest in the JKLF Kashmir Conference, and they would like to attend it.
Before I left London I asked Mr Mohammed Aslam to arrange some meetings for us. And when I met him at Holiday Inn he said that he has planned some meetings with important people in Islamabad, but due to pressure of time we could not hold these meetings. I felt as if we have let him down in this, and we therefore assured Aslam Sahib that after the conference we will be at his disposal for these meetings.
29. A meeting with Raja Zafar ul Haq, Secretary General Muslim League (N)
As I like to organise my diary in advance I always try to make appointments to see people; and whenever we are in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, we try to ensure that our diary is full with appointments. So after the press conference Shaukat Malik, Raja Kafil Sahib, Tanvir Sahib and other journalists started their work to get us appropriate coverage in next days media, and we requested Maroof Khan to make some appointments for us.
Maroof Khan also had to despatch his story so we agreed to see him later on in the afternoon; and that suited us perfectly as we had to see the British diplomats after the press conference.
Maroof Khan arranged some panel interviews for us which were to be published a few days after the press conference. In the evening he arranged a meeting with Raja Zafar ul Haq. Abbas Butt and I accompanied Maroof Khan to Raja Sahib’s residence where he was waiting for us together with another colleague.
We explained to Raja Sahib who we were and what kind of Kashmiri struggle and Kashmir we believed in. We told him that we wanted Kashmir to be an independent state, and that the Two Nations Theory did not apply to Kashmir. We further said that ground reality has changed since the UN resolutions on Kashmir were passed, and that Pakistan needs to formulate a pro Kashmiri policy. We said that there was no military solution to the dispute, and that it was wrong to introduce non Kashmiris to this struggle as it changed the nature of our struggle.
Like all Pakistani politicians he also had his own views on Kashmir, and that clearly differed to our stand on Kashmir. It is strange that Pakistani politicians go out of their way to criticise policies of Pakistani governments, and even accuse the conduct of government officials as treacherous, but when a Kashmiri criticises the Kashmir policy of Pakistan that is taken as ‘anti Pakistan statement’.
And we are accused of treating both governments equally, and they argue, unlike India, Pakistan army has not killed thousands of innocent Kashmiris. But when some one points out that Kashmiris have not started an armed rebellion against the Pakistani rule on this side of the divide, so there is no reason for the Pakistani army to kill innocent Kashmiris. Like any other army, Pakistani army is also trained to obey orders and kill and injure when required, as they did in East Pakistan; and as they are doing in Wana and in Balochistan. Any argument on the above lines put forward to Pakistani politicians is tantamount to putting petrol on fire.
Even though we DID NOT use any of the above phrases, but soon it appeared that there was a disagreement in our approach on Kashmir, and a friendly exchange of views has turned in to a debate. Butt Sahib and I looked at each other and decided to wind the discussion down as there was no point to win a debate but leave bad taste in the mouths of our listeners, so we decided to cool off the temperature.
Maroof Khan also realised that things were not going in the desired direction and he intervened by saying that, ‘Sir we are here to invite you for the JKLF International Conference’. Raja Sahib also realised that we didn’t want to continue with the debate, and that we were there to make friends and didn’t wish to hurt anyone by strength of our views and commitment, so he also changed his approach.
He appreciated our efforts and agreed with us that there was no military solution, and that he will support a peaceful resolution of the dispute, where people of Kashmir are also part of the process. He promised us to look at his diary in the morning and try his best to participate in the JKLF International Conference.
During our short stay in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi we contacted many people regarding this conference; the list includes Hasil Bizenjo, Shafqat Mahmood, Pir Fazal Haq, Khalid Ibrahim, Sardar Atiq Khan, Javed Chaudhry, Mohammed Aslam, Dr Yasin Rizvi and some others. So before we left Islamabad we felt that all was in order, apart from the issue of visas which was still uncertain, although I was assured that some visas will be issued on 16/17th February, so I requested invitees from Jammu and Kashmir to go to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi on Tuesday.
30. Rule 144 imposed
Strange as it may look, but truth is that we learnt about the ‘cancellation’ of the Conference by a phone call from Srinagar. It was shock to us. According to the news someone sent it on the internet that the JKLF International Kashmir Conference has been cancelled. Also we learnt that a number of our invitees from Jammu and Kashmir phoned the hotel where the conference was taking place, and they were told that the conference has been cancelled.
As soon as Zubair Ul Haq Ansari heard about this dreadful news on the evening of 16th of February, he immediately convened an emergency meeting in Mirpur on 17th. Zubair Ansari briefed the meeting about the latest developments. Before us was a notification of Deputy Commissioner of Mirpur, banning all political activities in Mirpur from 8th Moharam to 3oth Moharam (18th February to 14th March).
If the ban was on the JKLF we could have defied it, but it was applicable to all hotels, halls and marriage halls; and if we had gone ahead with the conference the hotel could have been sealed off for six months, and its owner imprisoned. JKLF UK & Europe is a pro people organization, and wants to help people and does not want to create problems for citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, so we decided not to defy the order.
JKLF people approached the Deputy Commissioner for explanation about his orders and very humbly he said, he had no say in this matter and that he was ‘only following instructions of those above him’. By this he clearly meant that he had instructions from secret agencies to impose this ban; and that he had no choice but to issue this notification.
And when it comes to the issue of Kashmir we know which agency calls the shots. Deputy Commissioner is only a small official when it comes to power and influence of this agency, even Presidents and Prime Ministers of Azad Kashmir are totally helpless and they prefer to dance on the tune played by this agency rather than to oppose it and risk their positions. Some even say that top officials of Pakistan, like Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers, also prefer to follow instructions of this agency rather than oppose it, especially on the issue of Kashmir.
Rationale of this ban was the month of Moharam, but never in history of Mirpur rule 144 was imposed here. Mirpur has a very tiny Shia community and there has never been any problem in this area. Apart from this the conference was going to take place in a hotel hall where a selective audience would be present; and all the invitees were politically mature people with considerable standing in public life, and they were hardly the kind of people to start riots in Moharam.
Apart from this most of the participants were people who believed in liberal democratic values and were not the kind of people who were burning with religious fervor. So there was absolutely no chance of this conference upsetting the peace of this region in the month of Moharam.
It was also strange that authorities saw no risk in Mirpur in first eight days of Moharam, but envisaged a serious threat to peace of Mirpur in the remaining days of this month that it felt necessary to impose rule 144.
There is only one logical explanation for this ban, and that those who control Azad Kashmir as a colony, feared that this conference could provide impetus to the nationalism in this area. They also feared that it could help Kashmiris to formulate a joint strategy, which in practice meant that Pakistan’s monopoly over the issue of Kashmir could come under threat; and their claim that they were speaking on behalf of the people of Kashmir could be challenged.
So in order to perpetuate their control over Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan; and also in order to strengthen their control over the issue of Kashmir, they decided to sabotage the conference. This decision seriously hurt us in many ways. First of all it meant about 10 lakh (I million) rupees down the drain. It was eight of us who especially travelled from Britain to Azad Kashmir just for the conference, and cost of each person, including air ticket and other expenses is more than one thousand pounds. The list of JKLF leaders who came for the Conference is as follows:
1. Abbas Butt
2. Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain
3. Masoom Ansari
4. Ahesan Ansari
5. Mumtaz Mirza
6. Mohammed Asim Mirza
7. Dr Shabir Choudhry
8. Naheem Hussain
9. Zubair Ul Haq Ansari went to Azad Kashmir before the conference
31. JKLF will fight back
Financial loss aside it was a serious blow to our reputation. Financial loss could be recovered, but it is difficult to restore tarnished reputation. We are known as mature people with sound knowledge and many years of experience in organizing and managing events; and our ‘failure’ to arrange an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur has tarnished our reputation. Some people have accused us for being too complacent; and others say we didn’t do our home work properly. Some have even suggested that we should have defied the ban, and that could have led to a direct confrontation with the authorities which could have provided the flame needed to start the struggle on this side.
In our emergency meeting, we looked at many options, and as matured people took decisions which we thought were in the best interest of the Party and the nationalist movement. We could have confronted the authorities, but we didn’t want to be accused of disturbing ‘peace’ of Azad Kashmir on behest of ‘foreign hand’ when the peace process was on the way.
The experience of Ganga hijacking in 1970, and subsequent Pakistani crack down on leaders of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front, including Maqbool Butt, and inhuman treatment in different torture cells of Pakistan was still fresh in minds of our team. We also knew that the Pakistani officials in order to cover up their own inadequacies and blunders in East Pakistan, blamed the fall of East Pakistan on the Ganga hijacking, that it was a conspiracy to separate that area from the rest of Pakistan.
So we didn’t want to give the authorities any excuse to strike at the heart of our nationalist struggle in name of some conspiracy; and crush the nationalist leaders, especially our allies in APNA and GABNA, who have done tremendous work to support the nationalist cause.
We were mentally prepared for the Conference and had an action plan which we had to follow in order to achieve our targets in the conference. As we never visualized this sabotage we were not mentally prepared for it, hence no action plan for this situation. Managing these crises with minimum chaos and damage appeared to be more challenging.
We had to inform people about the situation, especially diplomats and notable leaders who were travelling from different regions of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. By this time it was clear that no one from the Indian side of the divide will get a visa. One can imagine the inconvenience and frustration of those who had their bags packed but didn’t know what to do, and especially those who were in different hotels of Delhi waiting for visas.
We had no way of contacting them from Mirpur. In our great region of Azad Kashmir, we are ‘azad’ (free) but we cannot make a phone call to Srinagar or Delhi. When I tried to make a phone call from a PCO to Zafar Iqbal, Tahir Manhas, Prakriti Gupta and others who were waiting either in Delhi or in Srinagar, I was asked with a funny look, ‘Oh you are trying to call India?’ And when I said yes, he asked me to produce my ID card. I asked him why he wanted to see my ID card.
He said, ‘Anyone who wants to phone India or Indian held Kashmir has to produce an ID card’. I told him that I didn’t have an ID card. At that time Mumtaz Mirza, who accompanied me to the PCO, offered his ID card. The phone operator said he wanted to see my ID card as it was me who was trying to call India not him. I asked him what happens if I don’t have an ID card and I make calls to India or Srinagar. He said, ‘I will get in trouble for this’. He requested us to leave as he didn’t want to get any problems from our ‘beloved Pakistani agencies’ stationed in Mirpur.
Anyhow we decided to hold an emergency press conference in Islamabad on the next day that our message gets to the maximum people. We requested Maroof Khan to arrange this press conference in Islamabad. It was a very short notice, but I knew Maroof Khan will be able to manage it because of his connections.
Apart from that I sent an email message about the ban on the conference to different diplomats, politicians and on the Kashnet. I know for sure that nearly all Kashmiri leaders and political activists are members of this forum, and I thought at least they will get a message.
The meeting decided that we will hold mini conferences in name of ‘meet the press’ in all cities of Azad Kashmir, and try to get our message across to the people that the authorities have been totally unfair to us, and that they have double standards. It is worth noting that on one hand people from all walks of life are encouraged to visit India and Pakistan; and on the other hand Kashmiri leaders are denied an opportunity to meet each other and hold a meeting or a conference. This is clearly violation of our right to travel and right to hold a meeting. This right is enshrined in the UN Charter and in UN resolutions on Kashmir, and both India and are signatory to these.
One can see the strength of support to the JKLF Conference that when I phoned Hasil Bizinjo, a Baloch nationalist leader, and informed him about the ban, he said, ‘Choudhry Sahib I am sorry to hear this, but this means I can go to my village now where there has been a serious flood; and I didn’t go there because of the conference.’ He didn’t go to his village to help and support his people because he was committed to attend this Conference. I and other JKLF leaders salute people like Hasil Bizinjo who chose to support us rather than his own people in time of need.
Some other leaders, diplomats and journalists also had other important business to attend on these dates, but they kindly agreed to take part in the JKLF Conference; and for that goodwill gesture we are grateful to all of them.
32. JKLF Press briefing in Islamabad Press Club
Generally for a press conference a written statement is prepared which is handed out to the journalists, but because of this ban and subsequent chaos it caused, we could not find time to prepare any statement. In any case we knew what we had to say; and the anger we wanted to demonstrate because of the ban is best shown in verbal communication.
We decided to leave Masoom Ansari, Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain and Naheem Hussain behind that they can look after those guests who despite the cancellation reach Mirpur; and the rest of the team, which included, Abbas Butt, Zubair Ansari, Ahesan Ansari, Mumtaz Mirza, Asim Mirza, Javed Iqbal and Dr Shabir Choudhry proceeded to Islamabad.
We reached there on time, and Maroof Khan and other journalists were waiting for us. Despite the short notice and despite the fact that it was a Friday, and people had Friday prayer and other important issues for their diary, Maroof Khan did a good job, and the Press Club was full of journalists which included print and electronic media.
Abbas Butt has held many press conferences in his life, but we saw his best performance in Islamabad. He presented his case very well. Of course Zubair Ansari and I also made valuable contribution to strengthen our case and explained certain things. Summary of our case is as follows:
• JKLF UK & Europe as a genuine party which believes in a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute wanted to support the peace process; and for this purpose wanted to have an intra Kashmir dialogue inside the State that people of Jammu and Kashmir could formulate a joint strategy which would have helped them to play an important role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute;
• At a time when people were preaching a military solution to the dispute we claimed that it was not possible and that we must start a peace process; and we said this many years before this peace process started. With that strong commitment to peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, we wanted to help both governments on this bumpy road to peace. We established contacts with both governments about the International Kashmir Conference, and after their green signal (because we knew without their support in issuing visas and travelling documents we could not hold this Conference) that they will support the Conference we went ahead with it.
• Right up till 14th February we were led to believe that some visas will be issued a few days before the Conference; and in any case they will not oppose the International Kashmir Conference, first of its kind to be held inside the State territory.
• Whereas both governments issue visas to people from every walk of life, even people who play drums, sing folk songs, dance, play ‘Kabadi’ or play any game and belong to any organization of civil society, are encouraged to get visas, and in some cases their visits are sponsored that they can visit India and Pakistan; Kashmiri leaders were denied to exercise their right to travel and right to assemble.
• They were denied of this right even though it was known that they could have helped the peace process, and this action has made a complete mockery of people to people contact, and cast a serious doubt on sincerity of the peace process.
• Government of India has not issued travelling documents to all our invitees, but having said that not everyone applied for a passport, and we condemn government authorities for not issuing passports to everyone.
• Those invitees who had passports and wanted to come to Mirpur to take part in the Conference, the government of Pakistan refused to issue visas to them; and we condemn government of Pakistan for denying the leaders of Kashmir an opportunity to meet their fellow countrymen. This is a clear violation of Pakistan’s commitment to UNCIP and the UN Charter.
• Government of Azad Kashmir, on instruction of a secret agency of a neighbouring country, imposed rule 144 in Mirpur in order to sabotage the JKLF International Kashmir Conference, and we condemn them for this undemocratic anti people and anti peace act.
33. Panel interviews with newspapers
We were pleased with the outcome of the press briefing, and for that we congratulated Maroof Khan who worked tirelessly for this conference. After the press conference, my nephew Khawar Ghafoor also joined the delegation and we proceeded to pre arranged panel interviews arranged by Maroof Khan.
Our first panel interview was with Daily Jinnah and Amar Sahib, as usual, received us with respect and looked after us. It was a very detailed interview in which all of us made contribution. He assured us that he will publish anything we will say, no matter how bitter or critical it was; and he was true to his words. He gave our panel interview prominence in the Daily Jinnah, and we were pleased to see it published on front page of the paper, with different titles and sub titles.
Our next appointment was with Daily Ausaf where we were greeted by Staff Reporter SM Zaman. Zaman Sahib was also very kind to us and extended full respect and hospitality. We were pleased to see the coverage he managed to get for us.
Weather was bad as it was pouring down, and it was getting late as well, so some members of the team were of the view that we should leave for Mirpur before the dark. They thought our presence was more needed in Mirpur after the press conference. They also thought it was prudent to leave the Pakistani Capital as soon as possible, especially after our strong criticism, because agencies could go to any length to teach us a lesson.
I, however, was confident that no agency will do anything against us; and that they have done what they wanted to do. For fear of dark and agencies we didn’t want to imperil our relationship with the media people, so some of us insisted that we must honour our appointment with Daily Islam, an influential Urdu daily.
We all proceeded to the offices of Daily Islam where we were greeted by Ijaz Abbassi and Tanvir – Ul - Islam Sahib. We knew both of the gentlemen and they were also very kind and accommodating. As noted else where we were impressed with the network of Kashmiri journalists in Islamabad, and most of them were very dedicated and pro Kashmiri; and they were very knowledgeable about the issues.
Apart from the sabotaged conference, salient points of the interviews were:
1. Issues related to the bus service which we supported, but we strongly emphasised that the procedure for selecting passengers should be simplified. For example if a person from Gilgit wants to visit someone in Leh, he has to first go to Muzaffrabad to get a form, and completed form goes to Islamabad, and after clearance from there it goes to Delhi; and when it gets clearance from Delhi then the lucky person is informed of his ‘success’.
2. The present system virtually gives right to agencies of both countries to decide who should board this bus; and this way many genuine people could be denied of an opportunity to visit their beloved ones. Also this system will give encouragement to favouritism and corruption as agencies will support application of those who are part of their political system.
3. We strongly urged that all traditional routes which existed before the partition should be opened that people can interact with their fellow countrymen who are forcibly divided by LOC;
4. We also strongly opposed that people of India and Pakistan should not be allowed to travel on this bus as the danger is that it might turn this in to another Wagha border - international border between India and Pakistan.
5. Another thing which was of concern to us and which we pointed out clearly was the stipulation that people travelling on the bus could be asked to pay custom if they were carrying goods above certain value. This implies a first step towards an international border.
6. We made it clear that we wanted an independent Jammu and Kashmir. We will not accept any dictation from Islamabad and New Delhi, as we wanted to be part of the peace process.
7. In a question to one answer we said that we want all Kashmiri parties to unite on common minimum programme, but it can only be done if parties think as Kashmiris, and endeavour to protect Kashmiri interest, rather than protecting the interest of India and Pakistan.
8. In reply to a question about the unity of JKLF factions we said, we want unity of all groups of JKLF but unfortunately over the years people like Amanullah Khan and Yain Malik have compromised their ideology under pressure from agencies and other compulsion of personal and political interests. These two leaders, who are wrongly considered to be leading the independence movement, have abandoned the ideology of Maqbool Butt. It is known fact that these leaders are sitting in lap of agencies and tell us when did Maqbool Butt preached this kind of struggle?
9. In view of this changed situation it is difficult for our JKLF to join hands with them, because we have no pressure, and there is no reason for us to compromise our ideology. In our opinion at this stage it is important to purify the ideology, to protect our ideology and to clarify the ideological lines which have been blurred over the years because of these leaders. And if you ask other nationalist parties they will tell you that we are the only JKLF group which still follows the original ideology of the JKLF; and we have gained this reputation through our hard work, and with clarity of thought and vision.
After the interview we joined staff of the Daily Islam in the Maghrib salat, and left for Mirpur in the rain. We had a breakfast in Mirpur and had no time to have lunch because we were so busy with our appointments, we were starving, yet we decided to proceed to Mirpur. The heavy rain slowed down our journey, and it took us two hours to reach Gujar Khan where we decided to stop to rest and eat.
While we were having food some unusual activity was noticed and some of us got concerned, and appearance of some uniformed policemen outside in heavy rain certainly increased this concern. Two men in civilian clothes came in and sat next to our table, and in a few minutes two uniformed policemen also joined them.
We were travelling in a car and a van, and it was decided that I should take my car and proceed to Mirpur with one group; and that others will follow me after settling the bill. We decided to keep in touch with each other on mobile phones. As we stood up to leave many eyes focused on us, but we ignored them and left the restaurant, where we saw some people in a car and two men were standing under a shade to avoid rain.
Five minutes after our departure from the restaurant my cell phone rang, and that increased my heart beat. I thought may be something has happened to the other party. When I answered the phone some one swore at me and said, ‘Can’t you afford a taxi?’, and terminated the call. I could not make any sense of this call.
The other party also left the restaurant without any problem but we feared that if they wanted to abduct us they might do it between Sohawa and Dina, as this area is hilly and unpopulated. All our fears proved unfounded and we all reached Jabeer Hotel in Mirpur safely.
May be the police were there for some other business, or may be they were there for our ‘protection’. I use the word protection because once during my visit to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan in 1990s, I was constantly followed and when I had an opportunity to meet some agency people I complained to them about this obvious surveillance. He smiled and said, ‘Choudhry Sahib don’t worry, this is for your protection. We want to make sure that no one harms you’.
I want to clarify one important thing here. It was Shaukat Malik who arranged our first press conference in the Holiday Inn. The second press conference was arranged by Maroof Khan in which Shaukat Sahib for some reason could not come, and a rumour was spread that we have given him two thousand American dollars and that he was avoiding us now.
I clarified this thing more than once during our stay there, and I want to do it in writing. I confirm that IT IS NOT TRUE. None of us gave any dollars to Shaukat Malik or for that matter to any other journalist. The rumour had everything to do with the local politics among the journalist community, and we are not party in this politics or controversy, and wish to have friendly relationship with all the journalists.
34. Dialogue with JKLF Yasin Group
We reached the hotel after10pm, and that is very late to travel in our part of the world because it is not safe to travel after dark. We were extremely tired but soon realised that our colleagues were furious with us because we did not keep in touch with them; and they were worried about our safety. Anyway we had a bit of explanation to do, and had to apologise for our negligence.
Our explanation could have continued if it was not for Sabir Ansari and Shafiq Kant who came to see us in the hotel. These two gentlemen are senior leaders of JKLF Yasin Group, and have been part of the negotiations which have been going on between Zubair ul Ansari and Yasin Group of the JKLF.
It is widely believed that Mohammed Younis and Majid Tramboo manoeuvred things to oppose Abbas Butt, elected President of the JKLF UK & Europe. As Abbas Butt was pursuing policies in accordance with the JKLF ideology and that did not suit secret agencies of Pakistan and Majid Tramboo, who were working on joint projects, which also had a strong financial aspect to it. In order to teach Abbas Butt a lesson and clear the way for Majid Tramboo a conspiracy was hatched to depose Abbas Butt.
Aim of this conspiracy was to tame the JKLF which will dance on tunes played by the agencies and support Majid Tramboo in whatever he was doing in name of the JKLF. Senior members of the organisation did not want this split, and it was decided that they will negotiate with Zubair Ansari, Secretary General of the JKLF UK & Europe, who was appointed by the Central Committee with full power to negotiate terms of the agreement.
To cut the long story short Zubair Ul Haq Ansari negotiated a deal with Sabir Ansari, Khawaja Pervaiz, Rafiq Dar, President and Secretary General of the Azad Kashmir Chapter of Yasin Group, Altaf Qadri, Shafiq Kant and Aftab Ahmed. Negotiations began in July and continued till first week of August 2004, and both sides agreed on the following:
1. All JKLF set ups will be disbanded and re-organsided under the new constitution;
2. New elections of all zones and elections of the Central leadership, including the Chairman to be completed before 31st December 2004;
3. Both groups of the JKLF in Britain would also be disbanded;
4. A committee of seven people under the Chairmanship of Mohammed Nazam Bhatti would be set up for Britain;
5. This committee will run the affairs of the organisation and make arrangements for the new elections;
6. This announcement was to be made by Yasin Malik from Srinagar
At the time of this agreement Yasin Group had no formal set up of JKLF in Britain, but they were in a process of having some kind of drama in name of elections, so it was stipulated that attempt should be made to announce this agreement before their ‘elections’. And should the elections take place before the announcement, it would not be accepted by Yasin Malik and the Head Office in Srinagar.
Their ‘elections’ were supposed to take place on 26th August, and once they heard that some kind of deal has been agreed between the two sides, they quickly brought the date forward by two weeks. Good thing about these elections was that candidates were allowed to bring anyone and one didn’t have to be a member of the JKLF in order to cast a vote. The organisers of this ‘elections’ were so generous, I heard, that even those people were allowed to vote who disagreed with the ideology of JKLF; and some of them were Pakistanis and members of Pakistan Peoples Party.
Mohammed Younis became a president of this team which went through an ideological somersault, and it was clear now that Majid Tramboo will have a free hand to manoeuvre things which suited him, as, according to political analysts, Younis Sahib will be merely a rubber stamp. Many people predicted that there will be no implementation on this agreement now, as it didn’t suit Majid Tamboo and Mohammed Younis; and they worked extremely hard to create this situation whereby he became President.
People were drawing parallels, George Bush won’t have a better man than Musharaf to rule Pakistan, and similarly Majid Tramboo won’t have a better person than Mohammed Younis to preside the JKLF in Britain, as the man came to Britain before he could pass his middle class from Azad Kashmir, and he gained no formal qualifications from the UK. One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand that uneducated President of JKLF, apart from Majid Tramboo, could suit agencies and many other concerned people.
It was necessary to give this background to familiarise the readers that they could understand the importance of this dialogue; and aim of this brief summary above is not to put anyone down, but merely to present some facts before the people that they know what had happened at a very crucial time in the history of JKLF and our struggle.
Sabir Ansari and Shafiq Kant wanted to know if we were aware of the agreement reached between the both parties. Our team consisted of the following: Abbas Butt, Zubair Ansari, Sarwar Husain, Asim Mirza and Dr Shabir Choudhry. Some how an impression was created that Abbas Butt and Dr Shabir Choudhry were not in favour of unity and any deal; and Sabir Ansari wanted to hear from us to ascertain our commitment to this agreement.
We were unequivocal in our support for the unity of the organisation. Apart from Abbas Butt and I, Sarwar Hussain and Asim Mirza also fully supported the deal negotiated by Zubair Ansari. We declared that we have full confidence in Zubair Ansari and any deal he negotiates will have our full support.
Sabir Ansari acknowledged that this deal was in the best interest of the JKLF and the Movement. He also agreed that there were some people with vested interest who want to sabotage this deal, and they have been creating obstacles to ensure that the deal could not be announced. He said that the deal should have been announced in August 2004, and that he and his colleagues have been working very hard to get it announced.
Sabir Ansari said he wanted to make slight changes to the deal. His suggestion was that it might not be possible to get the deal announced from Srinagar, but we can announce it from here. Zubair Ansari disagreed with this and said that there shouldn’t be any changes to the deal; but Abbas Butt and I were flexible on this, as in our opinion the main principles were still there – and it didn’t matter much where it was announced from as long as they all agreed to it.
Sabir Ansari also acknowledged that we were sincere with the cause of united and independent Kashmir, and that we were doing good work at the international level to project the Kashmiri interest. He requested us to agree to his suggestion that instead of Yasin Malik, Azad Kashmir and Pakistan Zone President Khawaja Pervaiz and others should hold a press conference and declare the deal. He assured us that it would not be opposed from Srinagar; and that he will be able to overcome opposition from other quarters.
Khawaja Pervaiz had undergone an operation to get his kidney removed, and he was still in hospital recovering from the ordeal. Anyhow we accepted the proposal and left it in the hands of Sabir Ansari and Shafiq Kant; but we requested that the announcement must be made while we were in Azad Kashmir. We also said that some people have been spreading totally baseless rumours against us, and that if anyone wanted to sit down and discuss these matters with us we were ready for this. We were assured that they know merits of these rumours; therefore there is no need to give any explanation. However they will try to arrange a meeting where all senior JKLF members could sit down and build some consensus.
When Sabir Ansari and Shafiq Kant left the hotel it was nearly 2 am. After they had gone we analysed everything, and thought there was nothing wrong with the proposal; and that we had nothing to lose. We all agreed that Sabir Ansari and his other colleagues were very sincere in their efforts; but we thought that like last time they may find it difficult even to get this implemented, because those who wanted disunity in the organisation were directly linked with the establishment.
One thing came out very clear from the agreement that despite all the propaganda against us, no senior leader held me and Abbas Butt responsible for any of the problems in the JKLF. If anything they praised our hard work and dedication, but they asked us to keep cool and not to retaliate if anything wrong is said from any quarter.
Also it became clear that our joining of International Kashmir Alliance was not the reason for problems in the JKLF, as it was portrayed by those who conspired to damage the organisation. If anything it was acknowledged that we have done some good work from the platform of IKA; and that we should not leave it.
At one time people like Majid Tramboo and Mohammed Younis argued that we have joined hands with Dr Nazir Gilani in IKA; and that Nazir Gilani had insulted Yasin Malik at one time and that is ‘unforgivable crime’. They said loyal members of the JKLF cannot tolerate anyone befriending those who insult our Chairman. It is interesting that same Majid Tramboo now takes pride in meeting same Dr Nazir Gilani; and praises his contribution on Kashmir.
While in Geneva during the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, many people noted that both Dr Nazir Gilani, who is Chairman of International Kashmir Alliance and Majid Tramboo had a number of meetings, some in open and some in private; and so called insult attributed to Dr Nazir Gilani was not an issue anymore.
We have no problem if Majid Tramboo wants to have meetings with Dr Nazir Gilani, and seek his support on issues or meet other people for that matter; but he must refrain from issuing sermons to others that they should not meet so and so person.
It would be pertinent to inform the readers that the agreement negotiated between Zubair Ansari and Yasin Group of the JKLF has not been implemented to date, even after our flexibility on some of the issue as discussed above; and there is hardly any chance of it getting it implemented now. This also indicates that those powers who want to divide the movement and the JKLF are very influential; and some Kashmiris are more than happy to play their game.
35. Informal meetings
As discussed earlier we were extremely unhappy by the imposition of rule 144, and we decided not to defy the ban, but to fight back in our own way. Other advantages aside, the conference would have only created one day news for us, and we thought we will create news everyday during our stay in Azad Kashmir. Also, we thought, we will have an opportunity to tell the people of Azad Kashmir that Pakistani governments are not sincere with the issue of Kashmir; and that Azad Kashmiri governments are merely there to rubber stamp decisions of the Pakistani agencies.
While seated in the restaurant of Jabeer hotel we were discussing the situation, and it was about 13/14 people around the table, and there were other people sitting on near - by tables and we were all angry and criticising the authorities. Someone among us whispered that we need to be careful what we say because some agency men are sitting near - by.
This was enough to blow my fuse, and I thought this was an opportunity to give them my peace of mind; and also get the message across to these people. So I decided to raise my voice and blast at the action of the authorities. Other colleagues also joined the attack. Whether some one likes it or not we always make sure that our message is loud and clear, and members of the establishment is aware of it.
We said that when we speak against the wrong actions of the Pakistani government it must not be construed as anti state of Pakistan. We are not against the state of Pakistan, but we have every right to criticise and oppose wrong policies of Pakistani governments which affect the Kashmir cause and our future.
It is strange that when a Pakistani speaks against actions of Pakistan or holds a demonstration it is taken as criticism on the government, but when a Kashmiri does the same thing he is accused of being ‘anti Pakistan’; and at times labelled as ‘pro India’ or an ‘Indian agent’.
We said what Pakistan is doing with the Kashmir dispute, and what they have done with us - denying us to have an International Kashmir Conference - is clearly violation of our right to express our political views and violation of right to assemble. And with that kind of attitude they should not expect us to sing laurels, if anything they deserve to be criticised and condemned.
Anyhow we had a few meetings like this in various places where we explained the situation to political activists and media people. We stayed in Mirpur for a few days and then dispersed that we can hold small meetings in our own areas and then start a tour of the Azad Kashmir on 22 February. Abbas Butt and Asim Mirza had small meetings in Kotli, and also they made arrangements for a bigger show in Kotli where all of us were to be present. I had similar kind of meetings in my local area, in district Bhimber; and Sarwar Husasin had similar meetings in Jatalan and Banni Saang.
36. A Press briefing in Dadyal
On morning of 22 February we all gathered in the Jabeer Hotel in Mirpur, where we met various political and community based leaders. Although some people were keen to discuss matters with us but we wanted to leave for Dadyal where people were waiting for us. Our entourage consisted of Abbas Butt, Zubair Ansari, Ahesan Ansari, Masoom Ansari, Sarwar Hussain, Naheem Hussain, Javed Iqbal, Asim Mirza, Mumtaz Mirza, and Dr Shabir Choudhry. We were also accompanied by Ashfaq Ansari who is not a member of the JKLF, but kindly agreed to support us and give us company to Dadyal.
His company was especially very valuable to me as he provided some good information about the proposed upraising of the Mangla Dam. The road to Dadyal is perhaps the worst one I have travelled on in my life. It is slow and bumpy ride all the way to Dadyal and one has to be really fit in order to survive the ordeal.
Ashfaq Ansari showed us where the work for the proposed upraising was being carried out, and we saw a temporary colony of new houses built for the workers west Kahalaqbad. We also saw a new road being prepared near Kahalaqbad which will be used for the traffic going from Mirpur to Kotli and Dadyal etc. We also saw convoys of vehicles carrying out various duties to upraise the Dam which will provide more water and energy to Pakistan, but in turn drown hundreds of Azad Kashmiri villages.
During our journey to Dadyal, Ashfaq Ansari told us that so and so village or hill top will go under the water as a result of this upraising; and we looked at these places with sadness and anguish. These are the hills of my motherland and homes and graves of my fellow countrymen which are going to go under the water to irrigate lands of Pakistani land lords and to provide energy to Pakistani industrialists.
It is interesting to note that many Pakistani people are least concerned about the water and energy requirements of Pakistan; and they have consistently opposed the construction of Kala Bagh Dam. Initial plans for construction of this dam were made in 1950s, more or less at the same time when plans for the construction of the Mangla Dam were put in place.
Mangla Dam’s construction, which was illegal and against the expressed will of the people, was completed in 1967, and its costs were recovered within ten years. Just because Pakistani people were not willing to allow the government to build the Kala Bagh Dam, the authorities decided to uproot the people of Mirpur once again. They know it is easy to intimidate and oppress them, as centuries of injustice and oppression has tamed them and they accept injustice without too much resistance.
And to rub salt in our wounds we are denied of the royalty for the Mangla Dam. We produce electricity and yet we are charged more money per unit of electricity then the people of Pakistan in Dina and Jhelum. If we complain against this exploitation we are labelled as being ‘traitors’ and ‘anti Pakistan’; and those Pakistanis who oppose the construction of the Kala Bagh Dam are still loyal Pakistanis.
The journey was a learning experience for some of us, and it was painful to see that a large area of Mirpur and Chak Sawari will go under the water of Mangla Dam. It was also shocking to know that Pakistan readily drowned Mirpur and adjacent areas to cater for Pakistani water and energy needs, but did not care to provide adequate facilities to the people of this area.
There was no bridge on the river Poonch and people of Dadyal and adjacent areas had no road link with people of Mirpur. Prior to the construction of the Dam these areas were at a short drive from Mirpur; and people even used to walk to these areas, but after the construction of the Dam this journey increased tremendously and even by car it is a few hours drive. On reaching river Poonch, these people had to go on boats or launches, and that created enormous problems for them. When hundreds of people died as result of accidents in the river then under pressure the government of Azad Kashmir built this bridge in 1974.
When we reached Chak Sawari we were told that Masoom Ansari has arranged a little reception in our honour. We had to apologise from Masoom Ansari because we were already late, and stop at Chak Sawari could have delayed us by another hour.
On reaching Dadyal we were greeted by dozens of people in the ….. Hotel. Arrangements for the press conference looked quite impressive. Apart form the journalists there were other notable people present in the hall representing a cross section of political spectrum. Also there was Asghar Malik, senior leader of Yasin Group of JKLF and President of Kotli Bar Council.
Mr Isahaq Mughal, who is President of Luton branch of JKLF UK & Europe, also came from Kotli to join the press conference in Dadyal and support us. Isahaq Mughal is a very dedicated member of the JKLF, and has supported us through thick and thin. Despite a lot of pressure from different quarters he decided to support the organisation, and said good bye to all those who supported politics of opportunism, tribalism and communalism. He said: friendship and personal relationship cannot force him to support those who have betrayed democratic and liberal ethos of the JKLF, and have harmed the cause because of personal gains.
It is strange that we were having these press conferences in protest because the Pakistani authorities did not grant visas to Kashmiri leaders who wanted to participate in our Conference in Mirpur, and also they imposed rule 144; and Asghar Malik, on the other hand, was on his way to New Delhi to take part in a conference, and government of India granted visas to him and some other Kashmiri leaders from Azad Kashmir to go to India.
It is also strange that government of Pakistan thought it necessary not to issue visas to Kashmiri leaders coming from that side of the divide to take part in the Kashmir conference in Mirpur, but saw nothing wrong with some Kashmiri and Pakistani leaders going to New Delhi and Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Anyhow after a bit of individual interaction with those who gathered there we started the Press Conference. The theme of the press conference was on similar lines so I won’t go in to details of this. Members of the ordinary public, political activists and journalists are all interested in one thing: why can’t the Kashmiri leadership unite; or at least the nationalist leadership or even groups of the JKLF could get together.
This question was raised again and again by people in various meetings. There is no simple answer to this question. In order to give a satisfactory answer to this question, one has to give reasons and background to differences which we have with other groups; and danger with this approach is one can take this as a personal conflict.
Even when we tried to avoid controversy we had no choice but to deal with it cautiously; and tell people that we had no personal conflict with anyone; and that different people are using the nationalist card to divide the ranks and confuse the people. One has to see track record of these people and see who has said what at what time; and if that is to support the nationalist cause or to support their pay masters.
In Dadyal Asghar Malik was very open and frank with his views and he asked us to be more open and tell facts to the people that they know what these leaders are doing in the name of independence and nationalism. He went to the extent of saying that he and all branches of the Kotli District have no hesitation to disassociate themselves from the Yasin Group of the JKLF who are not clear on their policy with regard to unification and independence of the entire State.
He gave example of Majid Tramboo and Altaf Qadari who were considered as special envoys of Yasin Malik, but they were doing special duties to promote the agenda of Pakistani agencies and everyone is aware of this. He said he is not hypocrite and could not remain silent on this open breach of trust.
He further said if Yasin Malik is a sincere leader with commitment to the cause of independent Kashmir then he should take immediate disciplinary action against these people in order to restore his own credibility; otherwise people will be justified in thinking that they are one and are promoting some personal interest.
It was agreed that when Asghar Malik returns from India we will sit down with other senior JKLF leaders and we will decide future course of action. As he proceeded to Srinagar from Delhi and could not come back on time, so we could not hold this meeting because we had to leave for United Kingdom on 7 March 2005.
We were very pleased with the press conference and the subsequent discussion which helped us to clarify a number of issues. It also helped us to win or convert some people who were willing to work with us, if and when, we were to organise or our own organisational set up. Another positive aspect of our tour was that entire team was upbeat and they confidently faced the media. Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain, Mumtaz Mirza, Masoom Ansari and Ahesan Ansari were also very confident in facing the media; and young member of the team Naheem Hussain was very enthusiastic as the trip had educational aspect to it. Also as a ‘professional’ photographer he took many photos using different cameras, which will help us to keep photographic record of the entire visit.
37. A visit to the grave of Master Majid
After the press conference and the meeting we had a lovely food especially cooked for us. The discussion on different aspects of politics continued while some enjoyed the food; and I happened to be among those who continued talking at wrong time.
We wanted to leave for Kotli as soon as possible because of the terrain and extremely bad road conditions; and as noted somewhere early on that it was not safe to travel at night, especially when you are at loggers head with the authorities. Some members of the team, wanted to pay a visit to grave of late Master Majid, who was a President of the JKLF and one of the pioneers of the JKLF and the present struggle.
Although some of us were not in favour of this ‘diversion’ to our agreed plan, but Masoom Ansari and a few others insisted that we must go there as late Majid Sahib made a lot of contribution to the JKLF. Some thought perhaps it was not desirable to go because of their religious views, as some Muslims do not approve of visiting graves of the dead.
JKLF is a non religious organisation, and we think religious beliefs are personal matter of each individual. It is up to our members to decide if they want to practise religion, and in what way they want to do it; and we as a party take no part in this. Anyway as a respect to services rendered by Master Majid Sahib to the cause of an independent, liberal and democratic Kashmir, we all decided to go there.
JKLF UK & Europe consists of rational people and we reach decisions by consensus. Even when issue at hand is as controversial as religious beliefs, we have skills and ability to build consensus.
The next problem was the location of the grave yard, as no one knew where exactly it was, and this resulted in loss of some valuable time. A side road from the city centre led to a small village and a grave yard, where we thought was his grave. Anyway we said ‘fatia’ in two near by grave yards, and prayed for everyone who was buried there. Our belief is that when ‘fatia’ is read out no matter where grave of the deceased is, blessing reaches soul of that person, and anyone else whose name is mentioned.
Graves of Hanif and Basharat
Near Chak Sawari is Pallaak where two young Kashmiri martyrs are buried here. I am referring to Hanif and Basharat who were shot dead by the British police in London. After the fall of East Pakistan, as we all know, more than 90 thousands Pakistani army also surrendered and were held prisoners of war in India.
These young men were also shocked by this incident and wanted to get release of these prisoners from India. They were young and immature and had no idea what to do to help the Pakistani prisoners. God knows who motivated them or persuaded them that they, together with another colleague, ended inside the Indian High Commission in London with toy guns and tried to hold the staff hostage, and demanded the release of the Pakistani prisoners of war and liberation of Kashmir.
As it happens on these occasions the police was called, and they came with real guns and shot these unarmed young men. Innocent Basharat and Hanif died on spot and their colleague was injured. These young men lost their lives but they could not help the release of the Pakistani prisoners of war.
They got heroes welcome when their bodies reached Islamabad and later on in Mirpur. Pakistani prisoners were freed after a few years of imprisonment, but Hanif and Basharat’s homeland is still occupied; and the JKLF team thought it was important to pay their respect to these brave young men. Abbas Butt, Asim Mirza, Isahaq Mughal and a few others visited their graves on their way to Mirpur when they came to attend the JKLF meeting.
38. A journey to Kotli
Early on I said that my journey to Dadyal was one of the worst one because of the road conditions. I was right from one point of view, no road in 21st century in a country where millions of pounds in foreign exchange comes every year, could be that bad, but I was proved wrong. Road to Kotli is perhaps the worst one, even though the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir also hails from the District Kotli.
Azad Kashmir is beautiful, and so were the views on our route to Kotli. Naheem Hussain, young member of the team was overwhelmed with the beauty of Azad Kashmir and made hundreds of photos. He said people of Britain and other Western countries spends thousands of pounds and travel thousand of miles to enjoy beautiful scenery like this. He said, ‘If this place was under the control of a Western country then tourists would rush to enjoy their holidays here.’
He was completely right. There is a great tourism potential, but no one in Azad Kashmir government has time or ability to develop this potential. Anyhow our journey to Kotli was very tiring and frustrating. Our anger and frustration increased with each jump and jerk. Signs on roadside that Sardar Sikander Khan, Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, has brought prosperity to this area and is rightly called Sher Shah Soori of his time, added fuel to our anger.
Sher Shah Soori was a 16th century ruler of India who constructed many roads, including the famous road from Calcutta to Peshawar. This road was built for horses and carriages and was more than two thousand miles long. It could rightly be called the first motorway of South Asia. On the model of modern motorways, Sher Shah Soori constructed services after every forty miles where people could have rest, eat, stay at night or seek help.
Anyhow our journey to Kotli on a road built by Sher Shah Soori of Azad Kashmir was nightmare and it delayed us by two hours because the driver drove in the second gear most of the time.
39. Minister of food
In Kotli our host was JKLF Organsier, Mohammed Asim Mirza. In Housing Scheme of Kotli, Asim Mirza had a Kothi of his own. Asim Mirza is a staunch advocate of united and independent Kashmir, and is best known for his administrative skills. He is also known as a Minister of food, because he is very good at arranging parties and always provides brilliant food.
At his house we were welcomed by Captain ® Mohammed Riaz, who was also head of our security team; Mohammed Qadeer Abid Hussain, Gulzeb Akhtar and Imtiaz Hussain were other members of the welcoming team, and they all looked after us very well. Soon news of our arrival reached people and they started coming to visit us. Unusual movement of cars around the housing block and across the road was noticed; and a few people in civilian clothes were also making their presence felt.
Those who came to meet us included Advocate Mohammed Ibrahim and Advocate Tariq Sahib, who were leaders of the JKLF Yasin Malik group. Like Asghar Malik they were also frustrated with what some people were allowed to do within the JKLF, and they also wanted something to be done about this. They even wanted us to declare our own set up, and were willing to cooperate with us.
Some local journalist also came to see us and they interviewed some members of the JKLF team. Also they wanted a separate appointment to see a group of people the next day. We had already chalked out a hectic programme for the next day; and were not sure if there would be enough time to meet them.
At Asim Sahib’s house there were more than twenty five people, like a little public meeting. He made an excellent arrangements, food was in abundance, and plenty of variety. Once again Asim Sahib proved his skills and management, and we were all impressed with his hospitality.
We kept on discussing various issues related to Jammu and Kashmir till late at night, and in the morning when we got up for a breakfast we were please to find that there were special arrangements for us. For the morning breakfast, apart from the normal breakfast, we were treated with payas and nans, and Qadeer Sahib was the one who made all the arrangements.
Anyway soon after the breakfast we left for the Kotli jail, where we wanted to meet Advocate Ashfaq Anjam, who is waiting trial for an alleged murder. Ashfaq Anjam was a senior JKLF activist, and many people believe that he has been framed because of his pro independent political activities. He has already been in prison for the past two years.
It was pleasure meeting Ashfaq Anjam. Despite being in prison for so long and despite the fact that his fate was hanging in balance, his morale was high and he still strongly believed in his ideology. When we asked him how he was, he said, ‘I am ok, but tell me how my JKLF, my struggle and my country is? He advised us to take certain measures in order to promote the JKLF ideology and forge some kind of unity among pro independent parties.
Some members of our team jokingly asked the Jail officials to release Ashfaq Anjam and take one member of our team in exchange. At that moment another member added that we can give Masoom Ansari as a bonus, and everyone laughed including the jail officials.
40. Press Conference/ Kashmir Conference in Kotli
From the jail we proceeded to the Valley View Hotel where the press conference was scheduled to take place. We were expecting about 40/45 people from various political, judicial and social backgrounds which of course included the journalists. But to our utter amazement we had ninety five people there, and we had to make special arrangements to accommodate them which also meant arrangement for food and drinks.
This press conference transformed in to a Round Table Conference on Kashmir with a title, Masla Kashmir Aaj Aur Kal (Kashmir dispute yesterday and today). The hall had people representing various schools of thought. As it was home town of Abbas Butt, many people specially came to see him and hear what he had to say on the issue of Kashmir and about the split of the JKLF.
This was more important to some people as another team came to Kotli about three weeks ago and they were also wearing the JKLF hat; or at least pretending to be projecting the JKLF ideology. Ordinary members of the JKLF in particular and the Kashmiri people in general were confused as they were not sure who was representing who.
In view of the above scenario we thought it would be only appropriate to let Abbas Butt take charge of the situation, and other JKLF leaders will only speak when there is need to clarify something or when there is need to provide different perspective on the matter.
Abbas Butt, without help of any notes, spoke with confidence for about 20 minutes. He elaborated in detail what had happened to our conference, and how government of Pakistan had sabotaged this opportunity where people of Kashmir could have met and formulated a joint strategy on the issue of Kashmir.
He also explained how government of Pakistan is playing with sentiments of the Kashmiri people, and that they have made a complete u turn on the issue of Kashmir; and people of Jammu and Kashmir feel being let down. He said both India and Pakistan are treating Kashmir as a territorial dispute and are working for the division of the State.
The audience liked what was said and they had no dispute over the points made, but their concern was disunity in the ranks of the Kashmiri leadership, and especially in the ranks of the nationalist organisations. We analysed the reasons for this disunity and explained that attempts were being made to unite these organisations, and platforms like APNA (All Parties National Alliance), GABNA (Gilgit and Baltistan National Alliance) and IKA (International Kashmir Alliance) are there to present pro Kashmir policies. We also said that attempts are being made to have closer working relationship between these alliances that the Kashmir cause could be presented more effectively.
One journalist said a few weeks ago some people came to Kotli, and they had a meeting here. They also claimed to be representing the JKLF; and you people also claim to represent the JKLF. Could you explain which the real JKLF is; and why you people cannot agree among yourselves, is it because of personality clash or some other issues.
Zubair Ansari whispered that he wanted to take up this question, we agreed to it, and he provided the following answer:
‘The real JKLF is sitting here, he said. The JKLF was formed in 1977 in Birmingham, England, and I am pleased to say that six of those founding members who helped to set up the JKLF are sitting on this table. We still adhere to the original ideology of the JKLF, and that is the unification and independence of the State from both India and Pakistan.
It is unfortunate that over the years some opportunists joined the organisation and they had personal agenda with them; and they have made some changes to the original ideology. They no longer talk of independence of the whole of the state; they don’t talk about rights of all people of Jammu and Kashmir. Some want to liberate only Indian parts of the State and others only want to pay lip service to the ideology; and their real aim is to make money in name of the struggle. Some of these leaders have no sympathy with the plight of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, plight of people of Mirpur, plight of Kashmiri Pandits and other minorities of Kashmir. This, I tell you, is not a JKLF ideology.
One such leader has openly written that he wants the UN resolutions to be implemented; and we all know that these resolutions negate the JKLF ideology. And if we follow these resolutions then what is the difference between us and the Muslim Conference? And the other leader of this group which is headed by Yasin Malik, went far beyond this and has advocated a division of the State. How these people could be members of the JKLF if they project these views?
And what has surprised everyone is the attitude of Yasin Malik. He has totally ignored these serious matters. Just imagine if a member of Muslim Conference advocates ideology of an independent Kashmir, don’t you think Sardar Atiq will expel him from his party; or at least will sack him from his post. What does this indicates to you- it means that these people have said good bye to the original ideology of the JKLF.
In view of this how could we have unity with them? They have different agenda to us. For us it is imperative to have the ideological clarity, we want to tell people that some leaders are projecting the agenda of the agencies, and their aim is to damage the cause of united and independent Kashmir.’
This explanation of Zubair Ansari was appreciated by the audience. I could not resist the temptation and gave details of these two leaders, and also gave details of these incidents where they in writing promoted an ideology which was totally against the JKLF ideology and constitution. They openly aligned themselves with the agencies and worked against the JKLF cause, and yet they still represented themselves as JKLF leaders. And it is unfortunate that some JKLF leaders of Azad Kashmir don’t understand their game plan, and those who understand them find it difficult to take any action against them.
At that time some one from the audience stood up and said: ‘I can confirm that these people are only promoting agenda of agencies. One leader of JKLF, Majid Tramboo had a conference in the Marriot hotel in Islamabad in which many lakhs of rupees were spent, and funny thing is that the JKLF leaders in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan were not invited. Even President of JKLF Yasin Malik group was not invited; and Dr Farooq Haider another leader of the JKLF left the conference because he was not happy with the proceedings.’
Also I can confirm that I saw the same Majid Tramboo in Kotli. He arrived here in a car of ISI which was driven by ISI driver; and with Majid Tramboo was sitting an officer of ISI with the rank of a Major. I know both of them well. In the meeting in Kotli they had 25 people in total, and this included drivers and waiters of the Rathore Hotel. Majority of the people either belonged to a pro Pakistani party or they had no interest in politics.’
This support from the audience boosted our confidence. One journalist from the audience also confirmed this story, and said we know some people in the Yasin Malik group of the JKLF are very close with the agencies, and it is an open secret. But what differences do you have with Amanullah Khan?
At this stage audience was explained some ‘good deeds’ of Amanullah Khan, which he did at crucial time in our history, and according to him, he did all this to project the ideology of JKLF. For example, he was the President when the first split in the JKLF happened in 1982. At peak of the present militant struggle, he announced the provisional government and caused a split in the JKLF in 1990, and this alone resulted in enormous damage to the JKLF and its ideology. In February 1992, in name of ‘border crossing’ he only fulfilled the agenda of the Pakistani agencies who wanted to ease the pressure of international community on Pakistan.
In October 1992, he illegally and unconstitutionally dissolved the biggest and most effective zone of the JKLF, Britain Zone. And to complete his hat-trick he also dissolved the JKLF Srinagar 1996 and caused another big split in the JKLF ranks. One cannot even imagine the damage caused by all these acts of Amanullah Khan, which he tells people, he carried out in order to promote the JKLF and its ideology.
Apart from this in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir area of Gilgit and Baltistan is most backward, unrepresented; and people of this area are most deprived, and lack even basic human rights. Amanullah Khan belongs to this area and yet he has shown very little care about the plight of this area, but wanted to liberate those people who were already enjoying better standards than us in 1989/9 when the armed struggle was started over there.
People know how many demonstrations he has held in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Rawalpindi to condemn the human rights abuse on the Indian side, and for rights of those people; but one wonders how many demonstrations he has held in Gilgit and Baltistan to support rights of these people? His critics point out that Pakistani agencies, who are his mentors and sponsors do not allow him to operate in Gilgit and Baltistan, because according to the agreement he had to operate in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, and focus his attention on the issues of the Indian side of Kashmir, while occasionally paying lip service to the rights of people on this side.
Another fact which people need to remember is that in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan there are other nationalist parties, and they have all united under the banner of APNA, All Parties National Alliance, and the only party which is not part of this Alliance is JKLF Amanullah Khan group. All Kashmiri nationalist parties do not regard Amanullah Khan and his group as nationalist.
Similarly in Gilgit and Baltistan there is an alliance of nationalist parties known as GABNA, Gilgit and Baltistan National Alliance; and even this alliance does not regard Amanullah Khan as a nationalist leader. It is because of this Amanullah Khan and his party is not part of this alliance either. This is enough to tell about nationalism of Amanullah Khan, and the damage he has done to the cause of united and independent Kashmir. Some critics even say that he is there to ensure that Kashmiri nationalists remain divided.
After listening to all this one young man, Zulfqar Malik, stood up, and started speaking without waiting for a permission to speak. I was bit worried because in our last press conference the same gentleman, a follower of Amanullah Khan, criticised us for raising some issues related to Amanullah Khan. I was getting ready to face some strong criticism, but what he said was music to our ears. Below is the summary of his contribution:
This JKLF activist said that we came to Kotli last year and said similar things, and he criticised us for this. He said after one year he acknowledges that he was wrong, and what we said was correct. Out of all JKLF groups, he said, your group is the only one which truly adheres to the JKLF ideology.
He referred to the visit of some members of the Yasin Malik group, including Majid Tramboo, a few weeks ago and said he was also present in the meeting. He said that he was the first speaker to address the audience, and as a JKLF man, openly spoke about the JKLF ideology, and expected to get some praise for it as well as it was perceived to be a JKLF gathering. But to his utter surprise, speaker after speaker bitterly criticised him for projecting the JKLF ideology.
After giving a few more details about our ideology and our commitment to the struggle, he said, but you people don’t understand problems we face here. Whether we like it or not, in Azad Kashmir there are only two prominent Kashmiri nationalist leaders and that is Amanullah Khan and Yasin Malik. You people are also known but you don’t have an organisational set up here. So in view of this, despite their weaknesses, nationalist Kashmiris have to either side with Amanullah Khan or Yasin Malik.
He further said, if we wanted to play some positive role and counter these people, then we must establish our own set up. He assured us that he will help us to set up 20 units in the Kotli district alone.
Speech of this young man completely changed the environment in our favour. There were other people who made important contribution in the debate and about possible resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Most people present there strongly criticised the role of Pakistani government and their stooges on both sides of the divide.
This session continued for nearly three hours, and we were very pleased with the outcome. Some people wanted us to announce a new set up. We explained to them that it was not possible to declare anything from here. Unlike some other groups we are a democratic party, and all decisions are taken by consultation. It will be wrong of us to take such decision without thoroughly discussing it in the Central Committee.
While the food was being served a group of journalists and some students wanted to have separate meetings. Some of us were lenient on this and were thinking to hold meeting with them, but I strongly opposed it on the grounds that we had to reach Rawlakot, and we were already behind our schedule.
Someone pointed out that you people failed to have a conference in Mirpur because of the government ban, but you have managed one in Kotli, although its level was not as high as one expected to have in Mirpur.
Although some members of the team still wanted to continue their discussions with different people, but we had to be strict on this and had to say good bye to them. From there we went back to Asim Mirza’s house to collect our belongings. There were some matters which needed urgent attention in Mirpur and in Rawalpindi, so it was decided that some members of the team should go back to Mirpur.
As a result of this Abbas Butt, Ch Sarwar Hussain, Naheem Hussain and I proceeded to Rawlakot. We decided to take Tariq as a driver with us as he was very reliable and knew the area well. During our last visit in February last year, Tariq provided us very good service. The other team was supposed to proceed from Rawalpindi to Muzaffarabad, where we agreed to hold a press conference together.
It will be appropriate to mention name of Isahaq Mughal who was one of our hosts in Kotli and worked hard to make arrangements for various things during our stay here. Most importantly he made financial contribution of thousands of rupees, which helped us to settle the food bill at the hotel where conference was held, and provided full support to the JKLF team.
41. Tata Pani
From Kotli we proceeded to Tata Pani which is on route to Rawlakot. As we reached at the top of the hills, the Kotli city laid down in front us, and with river on its side, it provided a splendid view. Naheem Hussain insisted that we must stop for some photos, and we had to agree to his request, but pointed out that he will see even better sceneries during our journey.
The journey to Tata Pani could be reduced considerably if a few bridges were built to link the hill tops, but that is perhaps too much to ask from Azad Kashmiri government who have difficulty in constructing roads in plains.
Tata Pani is famous for natural hot springs. From banks of the river Poonch hot water springs flow and joins the river. This water is so hot that if one puts some rice in a piece of cloth and puts it in water it will be boiled in minutes. This hot water is very good for health and people with health problems, especially rheumatic and joint problems travel from various places to have bath here. Although there are one or two hotels there but the place lacks proper facilities.
Naheem Hussain was so moved by this that he spent considerable time here making video and still photos. He had some business ideas about this place. He was of the opinion that this place could be a gold mine if it is developed as a tourist attraction. If pools of this natural hot water and cold water were constructed, one for male one for female and proper facilities were provided for tourists; and if properly advertised in Europe then this place could generate huge amount of money.
I agree with projects like this. If government of Azad Kashmir doesn’t have interest and the expertise to develop tourism then they should seek help and advice of specialists in this field, as there are many places in Azad Kashmir including Tata Pani which could help to make the area a tourist paradise.
We stayed in Tata Pani longer than planned, and we left for Rawlakot after praying Asr at Tata Panni. The heavy rain fall, which started in Tata Panni, made our journey more difficult and hazardous. We reached Hajeera by Maghrib time and it was still pouring down. After praying Maghrib and taking a cup of tea in Hajeera we proceeded to Rawlakot.
42. Press conference in Rawlakot
Weather had already changed, and on the way we saw remnants of the last snow fall which fell 8/9 days ago. Long and difficult journey was having its impact. We were all tired and felt cold as we approached Rawlakaot. It was about 9 o’ clock at night when we checked - in at the Rawlakot International Hotel.
Rawlakot in February is cold, and we felt that very much as the hotel didn’t have appropriate heating arrangements. Hotel management kindly provided us with electric heaters but we still felt cold. We were cold and hungry, and for some reason it took them ages to prepare food for us. The much waited food when arrived was very disappointing; and we complained it the hotel management for this. Anyhow they tried to make it up in the morning by providing us an excellent breakfast.
Sardar Qadeer Khan was supposed to meet us here, but may be because we were late and weather was bad as well so he went home. In the rain no one was willing to go to his house which was a few miles away from the hotel, as the road condition was bad. We also expected Maroof Khan to accompany us from here to Bagh and Muzaffarabad. For some personal commitment he could not make it either.
From the hotel I contacted some friends in Islamabad and was told that our trip is being closely monitored by agencies. My friend was specifically told that we were still angry and making Pakistan target of criticism. His advice was to cool it down now, as anything could happen in these areas of Azad Kashmir.
Also I contacted a Kashmiri leader who is based in Islamabad. While we were in Kotli at Asim Mirza’s house, this leader phoned and expressed his desire to speak to me. I was surprised to receive a phone call from him at Asim Sahib’s house; and wondered how he knew that I was staying at his house. And moreover how did he get Asim Sahib’s home telephone no, as this number is not known in political circles.
Anyhow he talked to me about our tour and what response we were getting from the people. I asked him how he found out where we were staying. He laughed and said it was not difficult at all. I phoned him from Rawlakot and asked him if he knew where we were tonight, and without any hesitation he said in Rawlakot.
Anyway the press conference was scheduled to take place in the hotel, and we decided not to trouble our friends in Rawlakot, and went ahead with it on our own. The local journalists, seven in total, came to the press conference and in rather cold hotel hall we started the press briefing.
This press conference was no different to the ones we had in other places. For more than one hour we talked to the journalists, and in this conference Ch Sarwar Hussain also made useful contribution. Journalists of Rawlakot were no different to other journalists; they were also quite informed people and asked us many questions regarding the Kashmir struggle and our role in it.
We thought we provided quite comprehensive and satisfactory answers. Towards the end one journalist said something very important and this is a summary of what he said:
It is nice of you to come to Rawlakot in this cold weather, and put up such convincing performance, but what is the use of all this. You said what you had to say, but we cannot write everything you have said, or what we want to write. I was told about this conference by agency people last night, and I had to meet them this morning to get their brief before listening to your press briefing. After I have written this I have to show it to him to get his clearance, and then send it to Islamabad. Once it reaches Islamabad, office of a Pakistani paper, a desk officer will make changes according to his thinking or paper line; and when it is published it might not be what you have said.
You people despite all your resources and hard work could not even have one daily newspaper. We have no media of our own to publish what is in the interest of our struggle and we have to rely on the Pakistani press. It is they who decide what goes in the paper, and anything which is against their interest they take it out or change it to suit their needs.
What he said was supported by others as well, was true. People of Azad Kashmir and Gigli and Baltistan don’t have any daily papers of their own. The entire media network is closely controlled by Pakistan, and when it comes to the issue of Kashmir, controlled by the agencies; and we still claim to be ‘AZAD’ meaning free and the Indian side of Kashmir which has many daily papers and other media, being ghulam, meaning occupied.
We knew situation was bad in Azad Kashmir, and especially in Gilgit and Baltistan, but we didn’t imagine it to be so bad that the journalists have to take briefings from agency people and show their reports to them before despatching them to newspapers. This revelation was an eye opener to us; and we wondered if this is not ghulami (occupation) then what constitutes ghulami? Even in occupied territories people are allowed to have their own media network as it is the case in Palestine.
People of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan have been bombarded with the Pakistani propaganda for more than 57 years, and it surely had its impact. This one way propaganda has resulted in people not getting a different perspective on different issues; and majority of them find it difficulty to distinguish between azadi and ghulami.
Soon after the press conference I went to my room to get something where I was told by the hotel manager that some security men are here to see us. I told him that we have no desire to see them. The hotel manager requested me to see them otherwise there could be problems, for him if no body else. I told him not to worry, and that I wanted to discuss with my other colleagues before taking a decision on this.
Tariq Sahib asked other colleagues to come to the room where we discussed this matter and decided to face them. First I went to see them. It was two of them. I introduced myself and they also introduced themselves. They belonged to two different secret agencies, and their role was to ‘keep an eye on people like us.’
While we were introducing ourselves Abbas Butt also joined us. I introduced Butt Sahib to them. They asked us why we were here. We told them that it was our homeland, and that we had every right to go where we liked. Despite arrogance in our tone they remained polite, and asked in friendly voice about the press conference. We very briefly told them about the press conference and suggested that the rest could be read in the paper; and that we were busy.
At that time Ch Sarwar Hussain also joined us. They asked us where we were going to go. We said that we haven’t decided yet, and we would probably stay here tonight and leave for Muzaffarabad tomorrow morning. We decided to leave Ch Sarwar Sahib with them who was really geared up to give them a lecture on the JKLF, its ideology and the Kashmiri struggle.
Back in our room, Abbas Butt and I reviewed our programme. According to initial itinerary we were supposed to spend the day in Rawlakot. It was part of our programme to meet nationalist leaders here, then proceed to Bagh next day for a press conference; and spend a night there and leave for Muzaffarabad the following day. But we decided to cut short our programme because of three reasons:
• The weather was getting bad. There was still snow on roads and it continued to rain since yesterday. Weather like this results in land slides which disrupt traffic for days, and we didn’t want to be stranded in this cold weather.
• Activities of secret agencies were also a cause of concern. Hitherto they were quietly monitoring our activities and now they decided to come face to face. It was not too difficult to stage an accident in these remote and mountainous areas. Every now and again we read that a car crashed with a lorry or a tractor on a sharp bend and fell down in the valley killing all passengers. We were on a political tour and wanted to make news of our trip, but not the kind of news just explained above.
• Since our arrival in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir we never had any chance to rest, and this trip completely exhausted us.
So we decided to leave Rawlakot straightaway and have a press conference in Bagh in the afternoon, and then leave for Muzaffarabad in the evening. We spoke to Master Ishtiaq Hussain in Bagh and requested him to make arrangements for the press conference.
By the time we packed our bags Ch Sarwar Hussain had also finished his briefing. The agency men left the hotel believing that we were staying in Rawlakot tonight, but we left the hotel minutes after their departure, or before they could make some other arrangements for our surveillance.
43. Journey to Bagh
From Rawlakot there are two roads which go to Bagh. We decided not to take the generally used road to Bagh, and travelled on a road which is not used much in the winter weather. We thought our ‘friends’ if they do come after us would probably take the other road, and we could carefully travel on this road which people have to drive through a tributary of a River Poonch.
We were told that this road could have land slides or blockages at certain places, and that this tributary of River Poonch, locally known as a ‘nalla’, could also be problematic at times as there is no bridge over it.
Our driver, Tariq, as pointed out earlier, is very experienced driver and knows the local area like back of his hand. He assured us that he will safely take us to Bagh on time even on this route. We reached the tributary without any problem. The flow of water was quite swift, but it didn’t look deep; and despite Tariq’s best efforts we got our van stranded in the water.
Water was a couple of feet deep and extremely cold as it was snow which melted from mountain tops. Tariq Sahib took off his shoes and went out to see how bad it was. Young Naheem Hussain was excited, he took off his trainers, rolled up his trousers and stepped outside to push the van. It didn’t work, as tyres were getting deeper in the mud/sand. Naheem Husain complained of bitter cold water, but he kindly put some stones in water that we can step outside the van without getting wet.
The water here was split in to two streams and we were standing on some stones in the middle of this small river wondering what to do next. We saw some people on both sides looking at us and some were laughing at our fate. While we enjoyed sunshine and fresh air in the middle of this small river, we wondered what if it was raining, which could have added to our problems and possibly more water in the river.
Tariq went across looking for help. He was lucky to find another driver who had a tractor. He kindly agreed to help us, and with some effort he managed to tow the van to the other corner. There was no serious damage to our vehicle so after paying some money to the tractor driver we continued our journey to Bagh.
On our way to Bagh, Naheem Hussain asked us to stop at few places to make some more photos. He was really enjoying his trip. Again and again he asked, uncle why our governments don’t develop tourism industry - our country is beautiful and could be developed as a tourist heaven. He said he is making these photos and slides, and will hold shows in universities/colleges and encourage his friends to visit Azad Kashmir.
While we were taking some photos an old gentleman asked for a lift. Some of us were not happy to take a stranger with us, anyhow we asked him to take a seat. Ch Sarwar Hussain started conversation with him. Probably because we were well dressed and appeared to be ‘educated and officers’, he suspected us of being some government officials, and was reluctant to speak out.
Ch Sarwar Hussain was not prepared to let him off so easily. He asked if people of this area were pro Pakistan or they supported an independent Kashmir. He looked around and cautiously stated that everyone here supported Pakistan, and that no one here supported an independent Kashmir. We said we have heard there are many people who supported an independent Kashmir. At that time he cautiously said, yes there are some but they are not important.
We asked him what his personal views on this matter were. His reply was that we should join Pakistan as it is better for us. Pakistan can look after us, and we can trade with Pakistan and so on and so forth. We told him that if we were independent then we can trade with the entire world and that is in the best interest of Kashmiris. He looked uneasy and perplexed.
At that time Ch Sarwar Hussain told him that we belonged to the JKLF and that we were from the UK; and we were here on a political tour. To our surprise his whole attitude changed. In no time he came open with his views. He was a retired army man, and now strongly supported an independent Kashmir, but he didn’t want to speak his mind to strangers as it could have affected him. His pension was the only source of income, and didn’t want any problems with it. With in minutes he was giving arguments in support of an independent Kashmir; and that itself spoke volumes about the thinking of the local people.
This further confirmd our belief that if the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan know that there is UN or internationally supervised plebiscite/election where they are given three choices about the future of the state they will surely vote in favour of an independent Kashmir. In local elections which are held to elect/select Assembly members to run local matters, then of course they will support those people who are in best position to provide them with roads, electricity, water etc.
44. Press conference in Bagh
Despite our problem in the river we managed to reach Bagh on time where Master Ishtiaq was waiting for us. Ishtiaq Sahib is a known nationalist political leader and a journalist. When we spoke to him from Rawlakot with a request of arranging a press conference, he assured us that he will be happy to do this for us.
Before the press conference we had an opportunity to have informal discussion with local leaders of Muslim Conference and some political activists of other parties and lawyers. Here issues related to future of Kashmir, peace process and IKA conferences came under discussion. We robustly defended IKA, its plans and its international conferences; and those present there really appreciated our point of view and had better understanding of the IKA and its policies.
Press Club in Bagh was good, an indication of good management. We were later told that Master Ishtiaq was President of the Press Club. The hall of the Press Club was nearly full, and unlike other press conferences Master Ishtiaq made an introductory speech, which was followed by one more welcoming speech in our honour.
We were pleased with the welcome and thanked Master Ishtiaq and others for organising this. This press conference was different to others we had on our tour. Of course we highlighted the problems related to the JKLF International Conference, peace process and the bus service; but we also discussed issues related to Kashmiri alliances and unity among the nationalists.
We had to explain our policy with regard to APHC, IKA, APNA, GABNA and unity among Kashmiri nationalists. With regard to APHC we reasserted our stand, summary of which is as follows:
APHC does not represent national interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a baby of secret agencies and has always protects their interest. They have done enormous damage to the cause of Kashmiris because they had no strategy for independence of Kashmir and always looked over their shoulders for directions from across the border.
APHC was not representative of the Kashmiri people. They did not represent people of Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan; and they only represented some sections of the Muslims of the Valley. They were highly over - rated and pretended to be voice of the people, because this is what suited the Pakistani media and Pakistani agencies, and this is how they presented them to the people.
We elaborated the international role of IKA and its pro people and pro peace policies, and gave examples of two wonderful and unique conferences it organised in London and Toronto. The policies of IKA and its role came under discussion. We defended IKA policies and explained that agencies were against this Alliance because it formulated policies on Kashmir without consulting them.
Apart from their monopoly on Kashmir, their wisdom and strategy on Kashmir was also challenged by the IKA leadership; and those who have made this struggle a business enterprise started a campaign against us. They knew that our campaign of accountability and transparency in Kashmiri politics could prove to be disastrous for their business.
We appreciated activities and politics of APNA and GABNA; as they were promoting Kashmiri nationalism, and projected liberal and democratic politics in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. As they also spoke for rights of all Kashmiris irrespective of social, religious and cultural background, IKA had no problem in having some kind of working relationship with them.
In this press conference, apart from the journalists other political activists took part in the discussion which gradually changed from a press conference to a debate on current politics of Jammu and Kashmir. We put forward our point of view and answered questions related to militancy, peace process and bus service.
It was healthy discussion and was appreciated by those present. We thanked Master Ishtiaq for his cooperation. He wanted us to stay the night in Bagh or at least have a meal with him, but we were getting late so we had to apologise and leave for Muzaffarabad.
According to our original plan Zubbair Ansari and other colleagues were supposed to meet us in Muzaffarabad, and address the press conference together, but we had to change our programme so we informed him not to come to Muzzafarabad. We asked him to wait for us in Islamabad and we shall see him there.
On our way to Muzaffarabad we stopped for food and as’r namaz, at a small road side restaurant which served us with delicious food. When we reached Muzaffarabad it was past eight o’ clock at night. The rain and darkness made our journey more difficult and unpleasant; and to add to our misery we could not find a suitable hotel and it took us more than an hour to find a suitable place to stay the night.
Abbas Butt’s brother Dr Bashir Butt had arranged an evening meal for us at his residence but we were so tired that we apologised and didn’t go, however Abbas Butt had no choice but to go because his brother and his family were angry. We settled for some chips and decided to relax.
Our press briefing in Muzaffarabad was arranged by Mr Wahid Butt, and it got quite good coverage next day. Wahid Butt Sahib is very active and dedicated man and it was pleasure meeting him. As points discussed in the press briefing were no different to the previous press conferences, so it is not appropriate to give details of it again. However we were grateful to Wahid Butt and other journalist and left for our next appointment which was with PNP leaders.
46. Mrs Shaukat Maqbool Butt
In the morning we had a meeting with Mrs Shaukat Maqbool Butt and Mir Sahib. Shaukat Sahib is the son of Shaheed e Kashmir Maqbool Butt, and he heads Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front. He was at that time visiting Britain where we had meetings with him. He is also a prominent leader of All Parties National Alliance.
His wife, Shazia Afroz Gul, is also politically very active woman, and is among only a few Kashmiri women who have stamina and courage to campaign for rights of the Kashmiri people. She is politically mature leader who has ability to express her views effectively.
She had an invitation to take part in the proceedings of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and our meeting with her was with regard to this invitation. We thought she will be a good ambassador for people of Jammu and Kashmir and especially Kashmiri women.
In Geneva we see some women who go from Azad Kashmir to take part in the proceedings of the UN Commission, but it is generally believed that they don’t go there to advance cause of the Kashmiri people or Kashmir women, but to protect interest of Pakistani agencies. And one doesn’t have to be a genius to understand that interest of the Pakistani agencies is different to the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Anyhow we advised her to apply for a visa for Switzerland, and told her that our friend Aslam Sahib will help her with getting application forms and visas etc. On reaching Islamabad I discussed her case with Mohammed Aslam Sahib, and requested him to get an application forms for the visas and send them to her in Muzaffarabad that she doesn’t have to visit Islamabad just for this.
A friend in Islamabad told me that she will probably not get a visa because of who she was. Her nationalist views are well known, and her being a daughter - in - law of a Kashmiri hero, Maqbool Butt Shaheed, put her in a special position. It was obvious that authorities will not allow her to go to Geneva to take part in the proceedings of the UN Commission on Human Rights, because her views will be flashed around in the Kashmiri circles.
But I disagreed with this assessment. In my view political climate was changing and with that attitude of agencies was also changing; and above all visa had to be issued by the Swiss authorities and not by Pakistani government. So I thought she had a good chance of getting a visa because the invitation was from a reputable NGO who wanted her to take part in proceedings of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
My friend however said, ‘Bholay Badsha, this is Islamabad. All the diplomatic missions have local Pakistani staff including interpreters; and these interpreters, when asked by ISI will do exactly what they are told to do.’ His view was that Pakistani agencies do influence the visa issuing process in Islamabad, and she stands a very little chance to get a visa.
This friend gave me an example of IKA conference in London and said, ‘You know what happened, and how ISI tried to sabotage your conference’? British High Commission gave visas to a number of participants, but passports only reached them after the conference, practically denying them an opportunity to take part in this conference which was organised without their blessing.
The staff of courier service which is employed to take passports to the High Commission and deliver them back to passport holders was used to do the trick. Visas were issued on time and yet passport holders did not get their passports until the end of the conference. The passport holders kept on knocking at the door of this courier service, and they were told that passports were not there, and that they were not issued visas yet. Whereas some visas were issued on 21st May and the conference was on 29th, and the passport holder was also living in Islamabad, and yet he didn’t get his passport on time.
Anyhow we assured her that she should get a visa and that we will see her in Geneva, and support her in every possible way. We later learned that my friend was correct and that Mrs Shaukat Maqbool Butt didn’t get her visa to take part in the UN Commission.
47. Human rights abuse in Azad Kashmir
After the press briefing we met PNP leaders Iqbal Manhas and Tariq Chughtai. Not only they looked after us, and respected us, but they discussed with us different aspects of the Kashmiri struggle. They also assured us of their full support if we were to hold any conference in future. They, in fact, offered us to hold a conference in Muzaffarabad, and they will see that no one dares to ban it.
These two leaders gave details of the Pakistani oppression in Azad Kashmir and especially in the border areas. It was horrifying to hear some of the tails; and what was more disturbing was that no one on the Pakistani side of the divide was willing to accept this or speak against it because of reprisals.
Everyone wants to speak about human rights abuse on the Indian side of the divide, but no one dares to say anything about any abuse on the Pakistani side. Sometimes people accept that where ever there is concentration of army social problems and some abuse takes place. Prime example of this abuse is that of Bengalis of East Pakistan in 1970/1, at the hands of Pakistani army; and what adds to misery is the fact that both victims and perpetrators were Muslims and belonged to same nationality- Pakistani.
When we were in Islamabad some journalists told us a story of an Azad Kashmiri girl who suffered abuse at the hands of Pakistani army men. According to the story on one Thursday a thirteen years old girl was abducted by some army men and gang raped all night. In the morning she was thrown near her house where she died. Poor father of the girl was shocked about this, and he took dead body of her daughter to local mosque.
After hearing the story of this unfortunate father local people got angry; and decided to hold a demonstration against the army atrocities after the Friday prayer and namaz e janaza. This demonstration could have created problems for the army in the area or at least created bad feelings, so before the prayer a rocket landed on the mosque which killed many innocent people and injured dozens. Very skilfully news was spread that the Indian army has fired a missile which has landed on the mosque and killed innocent people. The demonstration did take place but now it was against the Indian army, and all the anger was also directed against the Indian army.
The poor father was taken by the army officials and tortured at various torture centres. His other family members also had go through very difficult period where they could have preferred death than this kind of life. The poor father due to excessive torture and shame lost his sense and was declared as a mad man.
This story was confirmed during our tour of Azad Kashmir by more than one independent persons, but they requested us not to reveal their names otherwise their family will have to pay heavy price for this courage.
Another incident which came to our notice was related to another Azad Kashmiri man who gathered information about wrong doings of one Major of Pakistan army; and in one public gathering presented this data before a Colonel of army and requested him for some action. The Major tried to shout him down and pleaded to his superior that he was lying. The data before the Colonel Sahib was so detailed and convincing that he told off the Major, and promised the people to take appropriate action.
Colonel Sahib requested the people to go home and let him take the complainant and the army officer concerned with him that official action can be taken. Innocent villagers were so pleased by this action that they chanted Pakistan Zinda- bad and Pakistani army zinda –bad, meaning long live Pakistan and long liver Pakistan army.
Colonel Sahib left with the complainant and the culprit in his jeep and after reaching a lonely place away from the public eyes, asked the man to get off the car. He asked the Major Sahib to get off as well, and ordered him to teach him a lesson that he doesn’t complain against an army officer again. The poor villager was mercilessly beaten by both officers and was threatened to keep his mouth shut and not to complain to anyone.
This violation of human rights in Azad Kashmir, whatever its scale, is highly condemnable, and we must find courage to oppose and condemn it. We were told that situation in Gilgit and Baltistan is even worse, but no one has courage to speak about it or collect data about it.
I could be criticised for highlighting these incidents, and critics could point out that much worse abuse is taking place on the Indian side, and we should concentrate against that rather than diverting attention away to Azad Kashmir. I just want to inform my readers that I have highlighted human rights abuse on the Indian side in four different booklets; and as a nationalist leader feel compelled to speak against abuse on both sides of the border.
Above two stories were told to us in Islamabad, and they were confirmed by other people during our tour of Azad Kashmir. The following sad story was told to me during my visit to Islamabad in 2000, and it is confirmed by this email sent to me by a friend from Islamabad. I decided not to correct mistakes in the email, and produce it as it was sent to me.
----- Original Message -----
From: patriot pakistani patriot pakistani
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 7:56 AM
Subject: your required matter
Hello Dr. Sahib
Hope you will be fine. I am sending you the required stories of atrocities committed by ISI on the people of Kashmir.
This is the story of Umar, age 16, son of a Barber (Hajjam) Noor Ali, belong to far flung area of district Bagh Azad kashmir. Umar was the only son of his parents. In april 1998, he passed the examination of ninth class, but he lost the interest in studies because of the company of Jahadi Boys, who open their office in the village near to LOC.
One day in the evening Umar did not return to his home. His Father searched him here and there. No sooner he got the clue that he is taking part in the training of Jihad. After the training of fifteen days, he went to Indian held Kashmir along with 9 friends. After a week a delegation of Harakat-ul-Mujahideen came to that village and made an announcement of his martyrdom of umar from the mosque of the village. After performing the Ghaibana Namaz Jinaza, they visited the home of Noor ali and told him the story of bravery that shown by his son during an encounter with Indian army. They told Noor Ali that his son killed 20 Indian soldiers. At the end he received the bullet on the chest. They get two and half lakh rupees for each shaheed from ISI, and they also pay 50 thousand rupees to Noor Ali as compensation.
A month later Noor Ali received a letter, which was from the Umar. There was a different story written in the letter. Umar wrote: I left the training camp in the evening. A jahadi guide or senior MUJAHID along with us. Near the LOC he took back the weapan from us, and said I will hand over to you after crossing the loc. He gave us signal to cross the line. We have all the attention towards Indian army. Suddenly from behind our guide open the fire from automatic weapon. I fell in a ditch and other nine on me. Luckily I was unhurt, but all friends died. After the fire of our guide, fierce firing started by Indian and Pakistani armies. Before the dawn when both sides stopped the firing, I managed to come out from the ditch. As I was afraid and half unconscious, I was puzzled what to do. I stared to walk towards a nearest population. After an hour I reached in a village. I went in a house and told the story to residents. They informed me that you are in the Indian held Kashmir, but they were Muslim they declared me guest, and advised me not to tell any body about yourself. I am living with this family since last one month. They asked me to write you people. They hand over this letter to any Mujahid who is returing home. He will post this letter to you from muzafarabad. Noor Ali took the letter to the school teacher of the village. He read for him. As he was the teacher of Umar he recognized the writing and told him that your son is alive and do not tell any body he kept it secret but inform the nearest police station. After some days office of Mujahideen closed. Umar came back home, he told whole story to his friends and relatives. Mujaid threaten him to remain tight lipped. In November 1998, one night house of Noor Ali attacked by rocket ignited. Umar Noor Ali his wife and 2 daughters burnt alive. PTV telecast that Indian army fired on civilian population near LOC and killed four person.
Ok sir next event tomorrow
There could be more stories like the one explained above, but who in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan has the courage to investigate these incidents and project them. Such a person will disappear from the face of earth, and most likely his family will also suffer in many ways.
48. A meeting with Asif Khan, INP Chief
Journey back to Islamabad was not that bad. Like hills in Ralwlakot, hills of Muree were also covered with snow; even road sides had a couple of feet snow which looked like a white wall. Naheem Hussain was really pleased to see that, and wanted to stop to take photos. It is unfortunate that we could not stop in Muree as we were getting late.
Before we left Muzaffarabad we requested Maroof Sahib to make some appointments for us in Islamabad. Our first meeting was with Asif Khan Sahib, Chief of INP, Independent News of Pakistan. We met him during our last tour of Pakistan, and found him very polite and friendly person. In this meeting we explained to him what government of Pakistan did to sabotage our conference. There was bitterness in our tone and used some harsh words even though our listener was a Pakistani.
Asif Khan was sympathetic to our cause and said to us that most Pakistanis are good people and they feel pain for the people of Kashmir. People of Pakistan have also suffered because of their support to the cause of Kashmir. Therefore when you criticise Pakistan you must also keep this fact in mind, and do not say anything which will create misunderstandings, as you and your struggle needs friends and one cannot make friends by using harsh language.
Also he explained important role of the media, and advised us to have friendly relations with the media people as they can support and highlight the Kashmir cause. We already fully understand the role of media, yet we very carefully listened to Asif Khan Sahib, as whatever he was saying it was in our interest. He himself was owner and Managing Director of an important media institution, and very kindly projects our cause. On many occasions INP has circulated news about our JKLF and our activities, for which we are grateful to him and his staff.
We asked Naheem Hussain to take our photos with Asif Khan and other members of his staff, but unfortunately none of the photos came clear otherwise it would have been appropriate to produce these photos here.
49. A meeting with Sardar Khalid Ibrahim
Sardar Khalid Ibrahim is a son of Sardar Ibrahim Khan, first President of Azad Kashmir. He holds very strong views and calls himself a Pakistani rather than a Kashmiri. Sardar Khalid Ibrahim is among rare breed of politicians who still hold principles dear to them. One can disagree with his views but still respect him for his sincerity, dedication and politeness. It is because of these characteristics of his personality that whenever we visit Pakistan we always pay him visit.
Like last time we asked Maroof Khan to make an appointment with Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, and he kindly agreed to see us on a very short notice. Our delegation now consisted of Abbas Butt, Ch Sarwar Hussain, Naheem Hussain, Dr Shabir Choudhry and Maroof Khan.
Sardar Khalid Ibrahim welcomed us all with a big smile on his face, and treated us with respect. While we were discussing various aspects of the Kashmiri politics we were served with tea, biscuits, cake and samosas.
We explained to him about the sabotaged JKLF International Kashmir Conference. Sardar Sahib gave reasons for not participating in IKA London conference, and told us that he was ready to take part in the Mirpur conference. He also felt that there was no need for the authorities to react in the manner they have reacted.
Khalid Sahib also gave details of his interaction with other Kashmiri leaders. Like us he was also concerned about the peace process, and absence of Kashmiri leadership from the negotiating table. He agreed that no decision should be imposed on the people of Kashmir and that the Kashmiris should be a part of the process.
Sardar Khalid Sahib was not happy with certain measures taken by the government of Azad Kashmir; especially he was angry about the ‘election/selection’ of the President Anwar Khan. He was of the view that no one should be above the law and people should be appointed or elected to serve according to the law of the land, and not according to political expediency.
He assured us that in future if we organised some political event or conference he will be happy to participate in it. We also assured him of our cooperation, and emphasised that we Kashmiris have to agree on a common minimum programme and present a united front.
The meeting continued for about an hour and we said good bye to him, and proceeded to the hotel to meet other members of our team which was waiting in Rawlapindi for us.
50. Amanullah Khan
As we told Zubair Ansari not to come to Muzaffarabad and wait for us in Islamabad, he, with other members of the team, Masoom Ansari, Mumtaz Mirza and Javed Iqbal was waiting for us. While we were meeting other leaders they decided to call on Mr Amanullah Khan, as he always met Zubair Ansari whenever he visited Mirpur.
Amanullah Khan, of course, was happy to receive them. More than once he expressed his desire to Zubair Ansari to work together. In other words he wanted us to join his JKLF and accept him as a Chairman with all the baggage he is carrying over the past years.
Amanullah Khan always had soft corner for Masoon Ansari, he was particularly happy to see him; and while discussing various issues regarding to struggle and unity, he said to Masoom Ansari: ‘For your sake I am prepared to take all your colleagues back in the JKLF.’
As I was not in the meeting I don’t have full details of the meeting; in any case it is prudent not to write too much on this topic otherwise I will be accused of something else. We, however, discussed this offer of joining JKLF Amanullah Khan and rejected on the grounds that we have clear ideological differences with him; and in any case it is too much to carry the baggage he is carrying. Someone from the team commented that he is a ‘kartoos’ which has been fired more than once (used shell), and does not carry much weight although he is projected by the establishment as important.
As discussed somewhere earlier that other Kashmiri nationalist leaders do not regard Amanullah Khan as a nationalist leader, because of his alleged compromises with the establishment, and in view of this joining JKLF Amanullah Group was a bitter pill to swallow for many of us.
We analysed the whole programme of the JKLF and looked at our strong and weak points. After considerable time discussing various things about the JKLF and our role in the struggle we ended the tour, but that didn’t mean end of political activities. All it meant was that we will not go every where as a team, but will continue our work where ever it was possible.
Next major event was the launch of my new book, ‘Different Perspective On Kashmir’, and it was decided that we will launch it in Mirpur, and try to make it like a Kashmir Conference rather than a mere book launch. We all agreed that Abbas Butt should Chair the function, and for that he and other colleagues were requested to come to Mirpur on 4th March 2005.
50. A meeting with Sardar Atiq Khan
We also tried to see Sardar Atiq Khan, but he was out of Islamabad so we could not see him as a team. Some members of the team left for Mirpur at night, and Abbas Butt and I decided to stay behind. In the morning I left for Mirpur with the driver, and on the way I phoned Sardar Atiq Khan who was in Sawawa where he was invited for annual ‘khatam’ of some Peer Sahib.
I have met Sardar Atiq Khan many times and always found him very friendly and accommodating. When I phoned him he was about to eat lunch together with other guests, and when he heard that I was on my way to Mirpur he asked me to stop at Sawawa, and did not eat until I reached there. He was waiting for me on the main GT Road and was giving me instructions on the mobile how to get there. Of course he was surrounded by other people and extended full respect and honour to me.
One can disagree with Sardar Atiq Khan’s politics but his manners (Akhlaaq) are second to none. I was really impressed by his hospitality and protocol he gave to me. His staff also looked after Tariq, driver who was taking me to Mirpur. Like last time we discussed various aspects of the Kashmiri struggle, and especially the peace process and the bus service.
Even though we belonged to two different schools of thought but on the issues of peace process and the bus service we had similar views. We agreed that:
• Division of Kashmir must be opposed;
• No decision should be imposed on the people of Jammu and Kashmir;
• Kashmiri leadership must be part of the peace process;
• Kashmiri leaders must be allowed to meet that they can work out a strategy for resolution of Kashmir;
• All traditional routes of the Jammu and Kashmir should be opened that people can interact with each other;
• The travel system should be simplified and this facility to travel on bus should not be extended to non Kashmiris.
Even in our last meeting I realised that his views on Kashmir were not static, and his vision on Kashmir appeared to be different to other Muslim Conference leaders who are more rigid. He has courage and stamina to face criticism, and politely put forward his views without insulting anyone.
Like Omar Abdullah on the other side of the divide, he is also liberal and forward looking leader. Fathers of both these leaders played a leading but controversial role in their respective parts of Kashmir; and I can visualise these two playing an important role in years to come.
51. Meetings in Bhimber
I live in district Bhimber of Azad Kashmir, and Bhimber is my local town, but it is strange that I hardly go there. Bhimber is an historic town, and Mughals used this route to go to Kashmir. It has not developed much over the years and despite getting the status of being a district headquarters it has little to offer to its citizens.
District Bhimber may be important for local politics of Azad Kashmir, but it does not appear any where on the radar of nationalist politics of Kashmir. However there are small units of some national parties and there are individuals who support the concept of an independent Kashmir. Politics here is conducted on tribal lines and main tribes or clans are Choudhry and Rajputs, and at times there is tension between them purely on tribal lines.
Whenever I go to Azad Kashmir I tend to spend more time in Islamabad and Rawalpindi where one could do more to promote the cause of an independent Kashmir. And it was only during my last visit that I spent some time in my village and in Mirpur, and my relatives and colleagues often said to me that I should spend some time in the village and in Bhimber as well, because it is important to familiarise with the local people. So I decided to visit Bhimber during this visit, and my first political meeting was with Tariq Farooq.
Tariq Farooq is a Minister for Development in Azad Kashmir government, and is our local member for the Azad Kashmir Assembly. Tariq Sahib and my brother Sabir Hussain were class mates, and we have family contacts with him. He also knows me personally.
He is very courageous and friendly person who doesn’t hesitate to speak out his mind. In his political and personal life he has, on many occasions, taken risks because of his beliefs, but with luck and hard work he always managed to come on top.
My cousin Farooq Ahmed and I went to see him at his home which he uses for weekly surgery to see his constituents. There were about 30 people at his place, some were waiting outside in the garden and others were inside. We told his secretary that we wanted to see him, and he asked us to sit down and offered us tea.
We waited there for half an hour and it looked as we could be there for a long time, then I asked his secretary to take my card to him. This worked, and we were called in within few minutes. Already there were three people sitting in the room where he greeted us. We talked about politics of Azad Kashmir and his clash with the Prime Minister in which he and his colleagues emerged victorious.
Then I turned the topic to the Kashmiri struggle and the peace process. I also explained to him that his government banned our International Kashmir Conference, and we had to tour Azad Kashmir to protest against it. He smiled and said, he has been following the news, but it was not our government which banned the conference.
At that time one Choudhry Sahib who was also sitting there, asked him who I was.
Farooq Sahib told him that I was a senior JKLF leader and has worked for independence of Kashmir for a long time. This Choudhry Sahib was from Tehsil Barnaala and he kindly extended invitation to hold a public meeting in my honour. I could not accept this invitation as I had to come back to England.
As Farooq Sahib is a Development Minister I also had to request him to do something for roads in our area. This shows why local people have to vote and support these leaders because they have to rely very heavily on these leaders and their parties. The social and administrative system is set up in such a way that the citizens have no choice but to seek help and guidance from them; and without their support they feel helpless.
Chaudhry Sobhat Ali
Another cousin of mine Cohudhry Abdul Qayyum, who is close to the family of Choudhry Sobhat Ali, arranged a number of meetings for me. First meeting was with Chaudhry Sobhat Ali, who played very important role in the politics of this area for many years. He is best known for fighting for the rights of Chaudhry community in this area. He was elected member for the Azad Kashmir Assembly many times, and twice became minister of the Azad Kashmir government.
We have some family relationship with the Choudhry Sahib, and my father also has good friendly relationship with him. At one time he offered me to fight election for the Assembly from his platform, and that with his support, and support of Chaudhry clan, it was possible for me to get elected.
As my politics was different to his politics I could not accept this offer. I have always maintained some distance because in politics of Kashmiri nationalists, people do not hesitate to label you for treachery or accuse you for making some financial gains even if you meet your relatives or friends who happened to be pursuing a different political agenda.
Choudhry Abrar Ul Haq and Pervaiz Ashraf
During the meeting I realised that he has become too old and has serious problems in remembering things, so we decided to pay him our regards and go to the next meeting which was with his son, Choudhry Abrar Ul Haq.
Politics of Choudhry Sobhat Ali has been taken over by his nephew Pervaiz Ashraf, who is a sitting member and served as minister as well; and the other constituency is controlled by Tariq Farooq, who is the main political opponent now.
Abrar Ul Haq is groomed up to challenge Tariq Farooq, and possibly win the seat back, but analysts say it is unlikely to happen in near future. Abrar Ul Haq is young man with some political maturity. He was open and frank in his admission that his politics was different to our politics; and that he could not say the kind of things we say and survive in Bhimber.
He said his agenda was local and more a personal one and that is to get elected for the Assembly; whereas we, the JKLF people, were pursuing a national agenda which only brings problems. He accepted that it was not possible for everyone to pursue the agenda of nationalism and face wrath of agencies. He said it was not possible for him to stand shoulder to shoulder with us and speak about Kashmiri nationalism, as we have too much to lose if we fall out with the establishment.
This open and frank admission speaks about the dilemma of leaders and ordinary people of Azad Kashmir. They know that if the establishment turns the screw then they will lose everything, and there will be nothing left for them which they have inherited from their parents.
Abrar Ul Haq also pointed out that I was saying all this because I had British Passport, which provided me protection and confidence. He further said that I had financial independence and had no worries that the government will cancel a contract or sack me from the job.
There was a lot of sense in what he was saying, but there are people in Azad Kashmir, who despite all the problems act according to their conscience and face the music of the establishment with courage and determination.
My next meeting was with Pervaiz Ashraf. He is a sitting MLA and a former minister. He had defeatist attitude and was in no mood to even talk of nationalist politics. His view was that we people were living in fools paradise and that we were completely detached from the real life. According to him we Kashmiris have no role to play, as everything is done by Pakistan; and without Pakistan we will not survive.
His view was that he is happy with the status quo, as Kashmiris (they) enjoyed many benefits. If Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan or becomes an independent then we will lose all this. He said we will be grateful if Pakistan leaves the present status quo intact otherwise danger is that we could be forcefully merged with Gujrat and Mirpur could be merged with Jehlum etc.
And you know in Azad Kashmir, an area which could be controlled by a Deputy Commissioner, we have President, Prime Minister, and many ministers, Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners and so on, and all this will go over night. It is best that we try to retain what we have got rather than be ambitious and lose out everything.
I tried to put forward an alternative view but soon realised that it would be a total waste of time and energy. Pakistan has worked hard to groom these people; and with this kind of attitude how Pakistani establishment will listen or entertain an alternative view.
This also confirmed our contention that these people are there to protect Pakistani interest and not the interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir; and it is because of this attitude that these people should not be there to represent the people of Kashmir in any future dialogue.
We can very easily identify these people on both sides of the LOC, and they are there because respective governments of India and Pakistan wish them to be there. These are the right people to protect interests of India and Pakistan, and this division suits them as well. We therefore demand that in any future negotiations only those people should be present who are pro Kashmir and who have ability and will to protect national interest of Jammu and Kashmir.
Some other friends of mine wanted to arrange my speech at the Bhimber bar council, but due to time constraint it was not possible. I promised these friends that it will be honour to address the bar, but I will do it during my next visit to Bhimber.
52. A meeting with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain
A friend of Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain, Shazada Allah Ditta, arranged a meeting with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who is a former Prime Minister of Pakistan and a President of Muslim League (Q), but due to its timing we could not take part in it. However Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain, Vice President of JKLF, met him on behalf of the Party.
Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain explained to him about the JKLF and its sabotaged International Kashmir Conference. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said he also wants to see a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute, and for that if JKLF wants to hold a conference he will help us to get visas for participants of the conference. He said he should be given details of the invitees a few weeks before the conference and he will ensure that all possible help is extended to you.
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is a key player in the present politics of Pakistan, and is generally known as a ‘King Maker’. If he sincerely and seriously tries to push an issue in certain direction then more than likely he will have his way. So it was welcome news that he will support the JKLF in any future conference we may hold in Azad Kashmir. During this meeting Syed Mushahid Hussain was also present.
When rest of the team came back to England Chaudhry Sarwar Hussain stayed on, and he continued with his activities to project the cause of an independent Kashmir. Apart from the above meetings he had two press conferences in Jatlan and put forward his views regarding the Mangla Dam and programme of the JKLF. He strongly criticised the upraising of the Mangla Dam and demanded that the work should be stopped as it will uproot more than hundred thousand innocent people of Mirpur. He said that the dam should be handed over to the Azad Kashmir government. Also he emphasised that our JKLF is the only party which has adhered to the original ideology of JKLF.
53. Book launch in Mirpur
In September of last year Khawaja Rafiq published my book, ‘Kashmir Dispute as I see it’, and when he found out that we were holding an International Kashmir Conference, he tried to get my new book ready that it could be presented to honourable guests.
He worked hard and produced my new book, ‘Different Perspective On Kashmir’, which has more than 500 pages with hard cover. Anyway we decided to hold a book launch ceremony on 4th of March 2005. Some friends suggested that we should use the book launch ceremony as a conference where nationalist leaders of Azad Kashmir could express their views, and expose governments of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
There was danger that the authorities might stop us having this function as well. The legal team advised us that because of the ban we can’t have this function in any hotel or hall until 15th March, and we had to leave for England before that. In view of this we were advised to hold this ceremony in the Mirpur Press Club, as the ban did not apply to this.
This function was arranged by Khawaja Rafiq Chief Executive of Kashar Publishers. Khawaja Sahib is very well known for his ability and experience in organising such functions, and despite some pressure and fear of uncertainty he worked hard to arrange this function. His efforts resulted in having notable people coming from as far as Rawlakot, Muzaffarabad, Kotli and Bhimber. The hall was full and there were some people standing as there were no seats left, in total there were 110 men and women.
In the function, apart from professors, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, there were leaders of six political parties present. We had Abdul Majid Malik, President of Liberation League, Arif Shahid, Secretary General of JK National Liberation Front, Professor Khaleeque, President of JK National Awami Party, Azeem Dutt, JK Plebiscite Front, Abbas Butt, President JKLF and Zubair Ul Haq Secretary General JKLF. Representatives of Peoples National Party and National Students Federation were also present.
Chief Guest of the function was Professor Khaleeque whereas Abbas Butt chaired it, and compering was done by Professor Abida Chaudhry. There were a few lady professors, one from Azad Kashmir and one from Srinagar who also addressed the audience and exposed some aspects of the ‘Jihad’ in Kashmir. A number of speakers spoke about different aspects of the book and the articles in it. … Bhatti Sahib, Registrar of the Azad Kashmir University, said title of each article is such that there could be a seminar on each one of them.
Professor Rafiq Bhatti, Humayun Mirza and Zubair Ansari also spoke in detail about the book and its importance. Zubair Ansari said: our occupiers deliberately wanted to teach us wrong history, and deny us knowledge of our glorious past. At a crucial time in our nationalist struggle Dr Shabir Choudhry decided do counter these forces on the literary front, and we as a party fully supported him despite pressure from some quarters.
Similarly Professor Rafiq Bhatti and Abdul Majid Malik emphasised the importance of books and knowledge, especially those books which encourage nationalism and supports peoples right of self determination. They said Dr Shabir Choudhry has made an important contribution on literary front in order to project the cause of Kashmiri peoples right of self determination.
Other leaders also made very good speeches; especially the speech of Azeem Dutt was very much appreciated by the audience. Main emphasis of his speech was wrong policies of Pakistan, and how it hurt the people of Kashmir. He also very strongly spoke against the upraising of Mangla Dam, and demanded that the dam should be handed over to government of Azad Kashmir.
Speech of Arif Shahid was also liked by the audience. He not only spoke about the book but also its value in relation to the nationalist struggle. He emphasised the Kashmiri nationalism and exposed policies of those who occupy us. Also he spoke against the Mangla Dam upraising and stated that it is exploitation of our natural resources.
Khawaja Rafiq, as a Chairman of Kashmir International Friendship Club, presented a shield to Dr Shabir Choudhry in recognition of his work on the issue of Kashmir, especially in highlighting the cause of nationalist struggle. The text of the shield says: ‘Presented to the voice of conscience the son of soil, Dr Shabir Choudhry for his historic service rendered in promoting the freedom struggle of Kashmiries both at national and international level.’
The audience really appreciated this gesture of Kashmir International Friendship Club and congratulated Khawaja Rafiq Sahib for encouraging a writer who has devoted his life to the cause of Kashmir.
Professor Khaleeq, as the Chief Guest spoke about the importance of books and congratulated the author and Khawja Rafiq for publishing this book. Dr Shabir Choudhry thanked every one for supporting him and specially thanked Khawaja Rafiq and his team for publishing this book. He also thanked Professor Rafiq Bhatti, Professor Nazir Anjam, Arif Malik and others for supporting Khawaja Rafiq in producing books on Kashmir.
He extended special thanks to Abbas Butt for writing an introduction of the book and Chairing this function. Also he thanked Professor Khaleeque for writing appreciation for the book and agreeing to become a Chief Guest for this function. Apart from that he thanked Khawaja Rafiq and International Kashmir Friendship Club for presenting him a shield, which, he said was a great honour to him.
Abbas Butt as a President of the JKLF and Chair of this function explained the close working relationship he had with the author, and that he felt proud to write an introduction to this book where he clarified some historical points related to the JKLF. He said JKLF struggle is for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, and not for implementation of the UN resolutions as indicated by some JKLF groups.
He said accession could only take place between two independent states and cannot take place when we are still divided and occupied. He said if accession or confederation takes place while we are still occupied it is tantamount to marriage of under age girl with an adult, and that is against law and against Islamic Shariat.
He thanked every one for their cooperation and, especially colleagues who travelled from far away, people like Professor Khaleeque, Zahoor Butt (brother of Maqbool Butt Shaheed), Isahaq Mughal, Asim Mirza, Zulfqar Malik, Ch Sarwar Hussain and others.
This function, according to some analysts, boosted morale of the nationalist forces; and has also provided JKLF response to the authorities for banning the International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur. Although it was a book launch but it looked a JKLF show where all the nationalist forces played an important role.
The following article was written about the JKLF Kashmir Conference in March, as it explains salient points of the whole affair, I think it is appropriate to include it in the book that people get a summary of the events at the end. This article was published in newspapers in England, Srinagar, India and Pakistan.
54. Kashmir Conference in Mirpur 15 March 2005
Dr Shabir Choudhry
When last year International Kashmir Alliance, after observing positive developments taking place in South Asia, announced International Kashmir Conference to be held in London, in which leaders from all regions of Jammu and Kashmir were invited, it opened a ‘flood gate ‘ of public meetings held in name of international Kashmir conferences in different capitals of the world.
And when JKLF announced the International Kashmir Conference, first of its kind to be held inside the State territory, it unnerved people in certain quarters and they rushed to announce conferences. We don’t envy them. They have their agenda to follow which is set up and controlled by non Kashmiris, and we have our own agenda which is pro people, pro Kashmir and is set up by Kashmiri nationalists who believe in unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir.
Distinction of our conference was that we invited leaders, journalists and human rights activists from all regions of the State, and have a policy of providing a platform to even our political opponents. Whereas in other public meetings and seminars only those Kashmiri leaders are invited who believe in accession of the State with Pakistan.
Announcement of Kashmir Conference in Mirpur generated tremendous interest from political leaders, human rights activists and journalists on both sides of the LOC; and many names were added to the original list when more and more people requested invitation for the conference.
Rationale of the conference
We carefully analysed world opinion on conflict resolution and closely monitored geo political developments in the region, and came to conclusion that there is no military solution to this dispute; and that we must work out a strategy that the dispute could be resolved through a process of dialogue in tripartite or trilateral negotiations.
Both India and Pakistan have their strategies worked out and they sit at the negotiating table to safeguard their national interest, and irony is that they decide future of us Kashmiris who are not represented in the peace process. Their policies are not pro Kashmir; they are either pro India or pro Pakistan, and harm the interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
It is unfortunate that we Kashmiris don’t have a strategy on future of Jammu and Kashmir; and it is partly because of this we don’t have a seat on the negotiating table. Some of us want to be part of Pakistan, some want to be independent and others are either happy with the status quo or want to be part of India. And what hurts us more is our eagerness to either eliminate those who disagree with our opinion or declare them as traitors.
We in the JKLF thought before we can ask India and Pakistan to include Kashmiris in the process of dialogue we need to formulate a strategy. We have to agree on a common minimum programme that we can protect national interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir. We cannot wait for a miracle to happen; and cannot continue with the present policy of wait and see while innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to die, and they continue to live under fear of oppression and intimidation.
With this background and with Jammu and Kashmir forcibly divided in to various regions, we decided to hold this Intra Kashmir dialogue; and we didn’t want this conference to be just another conference. We wanted this conference to reach some decisions and formulate a policy which is agreeable to majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistani response to this conference
Before announcing this conference we contacted the Pakistani officials and they assured us that there will be no problem with the visas if India issued the passports. In fact Pakistani officials liked the idea of this conference and showed keen interest; and asked us if we wanted any help and advice, which we politely turned down.
Indian government did not issue passports to all Kashmiri leaders, and to be fair, not all Kashmiri leaders applied for the passport and they use this issue to score political points. However, more than twenty invitees had passports and they expressed their desire to travel to Mirpur to take part in this conference.
Despite all assurances and talk of peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute, and lofty claims of supporting Kashmiri peoples rights, the government of Pakistan refused to issue visas to the Kashmiri leaders, journalists and human rights activists who wanted to take part in this conference. I was told by a friend that the foreign office, with whom we had contacts, did its best to get the issue of visas resolved, but they were over ruled by secret agencies.
Of course we had no contacts with secret agencies, and those Kashmiris who did and hold seminars in Marriot and other Western capitals of the world persuaded them that this conference must not take place as it could help Kashmiris to formulate a policy; and that could be a big blow to their commercial interests which are best protected with the present status quo.
A reliable source told me that one Kashmiri visited Islamabad in first week of February to lobby against this conference; and requested secret agencies to use their influence to stop this conference taking place as it will harm ‘Pakistan’s Kashmir policy’. He was right: if people were allowed to travel from all regions of the State and express their views then it could have exposed Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, and commercial interest of those who have made this struggle a business enterprise.
Action taken to stop the Conference
On one hand Pakistan claims to supports Kashmiri peoples rights and cry out about UN resolutions, which clearly support Kashmiri people right to travel within the State; and on the other hand refuse to grant visas to those Kashmiri who wanted to travel to Mirpur for the Conference.
Hypocrisy is further exposed when we note that only a few days after banning the JKLF Conference Pakistan allowed a number of Kashmiri leaders to travel to India to take part in a conference in New Delhi. Apart from that people from all walks of life including film stars and musicians are allowed to visit India and Pakistan, but genuine leaders of Kashmir were not allowed to travel to take part in a conference which could have helped to formulate a strategy for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
This shows true designs of those who are in charge of the Kashmir affairs, and people of Pakistan in general and people of Jammu and Kashmir in particular need to take note of this hypocrisy because after all it is they who suffer.
When the authorities realised that despite their refusal to grant visas the conference would take place in which Kashmiri leaders, especially Kashmiri nationalists from Azad Kashmir and Giligit and Baltistan, and pro peace and nationalist leaders from Balochistan, Sind and Frontier would take part, they decided to impose Rule 144.
According to this rule we were banned to hold any meeting or conference in any hotel, conference hall, and marriage hall from 18th February to 14 March. Rationale of this notification was the month of Moharram. Mirpur has a tiny Shia community and never in the history of Mirpur was such notification issued before.
Even pro Pakistan politicians agreed that a conference of politically mature leaders with a selective audience inside a hotel could not have disturbed peace of Mirpur It was clear to every one that the target was the JKLF Conference.
The conference generated a considerable interest within the State, in Pakistan and in diplomatic circles that a number of diplomats were prepared to travel to Mirpur; and authorities knew that outcome of the conference could expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, and business interest of some people.
The conference was banned and our efforts to formulate a Kashmiri strategy were sabotaged, but one wonders if they are winners in this game because by this kind of treatment they have not won mind and hearts of Kashmiri people especially Kashmiri nationalists.
Writer is a Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books and booklets. Also he is a Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org