Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Kashmir dispute and Asif Zardari

Kashmir dispute and Asif Zardari
Dr Shabir Choudhry 08 March 2008

Asif Zardari, Co Chair of Pakistan Peoples Party has made a statement on Kashmir and that has upset many Kashmiris and Pakistanis. His message was that his government would maintain good relations with India, and would not let the Kashmir dispute become obstacle in friendly relations between the two countries. He further said, "We can be patient till everybody grows up further", and leave the Kashmir dispute for the future generations to resolve it in ‘atmosphere of trust’.
Many people wonder why so many Kashmiris and Pakistanis are annoyed with this statement, is it because they don’t want ‘atmosphere of trust’ and friendly relations between India and Pakistan? Or they didn’t like straight talking of Asif Zardari?

Perhaps these people are so used to listening to duplicity and lies that frank statements are not appreciated; in fact they are criticised and opposed. I am no fan of Asif Zardari or Peoples Party for that matter, but why people forget that late Benzir Bhutto during her premiership removed even signboards of Kashmir when Indian Prime Minister, Rajiev Gandhi visited Islamabad.

And her father late Zulfqar Ali Bhutto signed the Shimla Accord with India, which changed cease- fire - line in to Line of Control, and agreed to divide Kashmir; not to mention his six rounds of talks in 1963 with his counter part Sardar Sawran Singh, Foreign Minister of India to divide State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Other Pakistani leaders and officials have not been any better. They have always played with sentiments of the people and used Kashmir for their politics and power. Various Pakistani governments have put Kashmir aside in order to establish friendly relations with India, and Pakistani and Kashmiri people don’t appear to be upset over that. One can write a book on history of this duplicity and ‘treachery’, but I wonder if there is need for this.

If Asif Zardari and his future government wants to have friendly relations between India and Pakistan then what is wrong with that? He believes once ‘atmosphere of trust’ is established and both countries have friendly and cordial relations perhaps they would be in a better position to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Perhaps those who criticise Asif Zardari believe that they can resolve the Kashmir dispute by having atmosphere of confrontation, and without having friendly relations with India. They forget that various Pakistani generals have tried this only to add to the problems of the divided and oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir.

If some in the Pakistan army and their sympathisers in public still believe that they can resolve the Kashmir dispute by promoting violence and hatred, then that is a bad news for the people of Kashmir in particular and people of South Asia in general. Furthermore it is also a bad news for all those who want to have cordial relationship between India and Pakistan that they can resolve all their disputes through a process of dialogue, and start a new era of peace and tranquillity in the region.

General Musharaf and his government declared ‘Pakistan first’ and improved relations with India. Also Pakistan and India reciprocated certain confidence building measures which helped to establish friendly relations between the two countries and also helped people of Jammu and Kashmir in many ways.

Those Kashmiris who only like to criticise others and have no wish to put their own house in order, need to know that whenever there is tension, hostility and atmosphere of mistrust between India and Pakistan, we people of Jammu and Kashmir suffer most. So are these critics saying that they want continuation of tension and hatred between the two countries that people of Jammu and Kashmir together with people of India and Pakistan suffer, and that there could be no peace in the region?

No matter which government takes over in Pakistan this peace process and friendly relations will continue. This agenda of ‘peace’ is above party politics and has international dimension. Powerful forces are behind this ‘peace process’, and the present Pakistani government and the future one will not be able to stop it even if they wished.

Helplessness of Pakistani government could be seen from this fact that they are killing their own people, destroying their houses, even mosques and madrassas in various parts of the country in fighting some one else’s war. And instead of learning from past mistakes they openly declare that this war will continue until all ‘terrorists’ and ‘shar -pasands’ are killed and their links and safe houses are destroyed.

Irony of this tragedy is that Pakistani agencies mastered in the art of training these ‘terrorists’ and exported them with success for a number of years to create chaos in target areas of some countries. During those years this process of training and exporting violence and terrorism was hailed as a big success, and those who opposed it or criticised it were castigated as anti state and anti jihad.

These Kashmiri leaders who blindly follow Pakistan and its agencies must put their own house in order. Why they have given a free hand to Pakistan to behave as an advocate of the Kashmiris? Why they cannot tell them that we will not accept their dictation on Kashmir. And instead of becoming a ‘b team’ of Pakistan, they must think as Kashmiris and protect and promote the Kashmiri interest.

It should not be our concern how to defend Pakistani interest. Some Kashmiri leaders are more concerned about the interest of Pakistan, and have little care or concern about concern of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. At a time when Emma Nicholson’s Kashmir report was opposed by Pakistanis and pro Pakistan Kashmiris one leader of Amanullah group of JKLF said, we are opposing it because it damages Pakistan’s interest.

A Kashmiri political activist, Javed Inayat, while criticising Pakistani policy on Kashmir notes it like this: ‘Now Kashmiris should not be waiting for any one to come and liberate them from occupiers. It was wrong and false perception, which was created by Indian and Pakistani agents in Kashmir… If Kashmiris really want to be liberated, then they have to replace these fake leaders and have to come out of dreamy world… Kashmiris have to grow up and think for their Nation and how to liberate it from foreign occupiers. Kashmiris have to do it by themselves, no body can do it for them. As for as Pakistan is concerned, its leadership will never be able to support IOK any more. Majority of Pakistanis are also not concerned with Kashmir any more because they think that Pakistan will never be able to get entire Kashmir and also growing demands in POK areas are also opening eyes of most of Pakistanis. How Pakistani state has been treating people from POK and POGB it has not been secret any more for common Pakistanis’.

Let us hope that the new government in Pakistan will make Pakistan more stable and democratic, where rule of law will prevail and benefits of that will also reach areas of Gilgit and Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Let us also hope that the policy of getting or snatching Kashmir will stop and Pakistani government will support our right of self - determination and not insist on right of accession.

Also I hope that common sense will prevail in Pakistan and policy of supporting violence and hatred, and exporting it to other places will immediately stop. And those who promote peace, rule of law and liberal democratic rights will not be castigated and targeted.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

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