Friday, 30 May 2008

Kashmiri struggle and Pakistan’s ‘principled stand’

Kashmiri struggle and Pakistan’s ‘principled stand’
Shabir Choudhry, London

After the events of 11th September Pakistan found it convenient to ‘dump’ the Taliban government which was, at one time, a corner stone of their foreign policy. Many with vision and analytical experience forecasted that Pakistan, one day will make a U Turn on Kashmir as well, but they were strongly criticised for this as it was considered that Pakistan has a ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir, and no way Pakistan can make any compromise on Kashmir.

But now it is widely believed that Pakistan has made a big shift in its Kashmir policy, some even say that Pakistan has ‘dumped’ the Kashmiris, and its much talked ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir has changed. Despite lofty claims of ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir, Pakistan has changed Kashmir policy many times. We need to analyse Pakistan’s Kashmir policy since 1947 by leaving emotionalism and rhetoric aside, and see what lessons could be learnt. We need to put facts before the people, facts which have been clouded by constant and continued propaganda and emotionalism. Those who, intentionally or unintentionally try to hide historical facts and confuse the Kashmir issue because of their emotionalism or fantasy are not helping either Pakistan or the Kashmiris. In light of historical facts, let us briefly analyse the Pakistani stand on Kashmir.

Mr Jinnah supported independent Kashmir

After the 3rd June announcement in which the division of British India was accepted on the bases of Two Nations Theory, Princely States were asked to take decision on future of their States. As the principle of Two Nations Theory was not applicable to the Princely States, it was agreed that they could take decisions according to their population and geographical proximity. People like Mohammed Ali Jinnah strongly believed that like Kashmir other Princely States have right to either accede to one of two countries or become independent States. Qaaide Azam in a statement on 17th June said:
‘That after the lapse of paramountcy the Indian States would be constitutionally and legally sovereign states and free to adopt for themselves any course they wished. It is open to States to join Hindustan Constituent Assembly {or Pakistan Constituent Assembly} or to decide to remain independent’.

So that was first principled stand of Pakistan on Kashmir. Pakistan also supported right of Nizam of Hederabad to become independent even though there was non Muslim majority in the State; and also supported Nawab of Junagradh to accede to Pakistan despite the fact that State had non Muslim majority, and had no land link with Pakistan. When the Maharaja of Kashmir refused to accede to Pakistan (he had already refused to accede to India as he wanted to become independent ruler), Pakistani authorities encouraged tribal invasion in order to punish Maharaja and get Kashmir.

Earlier Pakistan concluded a Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja of Kashmir on 12th August; and despite this Agreement Pakistani authorities encouraged tribal invasion to get Kashmir instead of trying to make a deal with the Kashmiri leaders or the Maharaja of Kashmir. This, one could say, was the first shift in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. It is ironic that Nehru advocated right of people to determine future of States; but Mohammed Ali Jinnah opposed it and said that this power should be with Ruler of each State. And finally it was agreed that Ruler of each Princely State would determine future of his State.

The Maharaja’s decision to accede to India was clearly against the will of the people, but question is who gave him that right or power to do so. His decision, however wrong and illogical it was, got ‘legality’ given by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Of course Pakistan did not like the decision and opposed it; and similarly Nehru despite lofty claims of peoples right of self determination and democracy, refused to give this right to the people of Kashmir when he thought that decision could go against him.

Change at the UN

Of course India also wanted to get Kashmir and was applying all the tricks in her armoury. After encountering problems in Kashmir, India took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations, and it was known as the Jammu and Kashmir Problem. Pakistani government did not like the matter to be discussed as a problem related to Kashmir or Kashmiris, so on Pakistani governments request it was changed to India and Pakistan Problem. The Security Council Commission for India and Pakistan passed its first resolution on 13 August 1948, which stated ‘that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people.’

As the future status implied an independent Kashmir, Pakistani Foreign Office requested that the phrase Future Status should be changed to ‘The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India and Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.’ It must be noted that at the time of passing the second UNCIP resolution, 5th January 1949, Qaaid e Azam was not alive, and his successors did not find it difficult to change the Pakistani stand on Kashmir. So one can see a policy shift between the first UNCIP resolution passed on 13 August 1948 and the second resolution passed on 5th January 1949. As it would be difficult to count all twists and turns in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, I will just make a brief mention of the events to refresh memories of readers.

After death of Qaaid e Azam in November 1948, not only Kashmir policy was changed but serious attempts were made to make Pakistan a theocratic state. Unlike Qaaid e Azam’s stated stand that Kashmir could become an independent state, people after his death claimed that Kashmir was ‘sha rug’ of Pakistan, and without Kashmir Pakistan could not survive. It must be noted here that Kashmir was not part of demand for Pakistan and nowhere Qaaid e Azam and Muslim League demanded Kashmir during campaign for Pakistan.

From then onwards Pakistan wanted whole Kashmir to be part of Pakistan, and vigorously worked for it; but surprisingly as early as in mid 1950s, Pakistan showed interest to the partition of the State. But by late 1950s, despite serious dispute with India over Kashmir, Pakistan offered a joint defence to India. And when Manzoor Qader was Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, there was even a serious consideration of accepting Kashmir as an independent Kashmir.

As a result of neutrality during Sino Indian war, Pakistan was ‘rewarded’ with offer of talks on Kashmir with India. These talks were held at Foreign Minister level and Pakistan was represented by Zulfqar Ali Bhutto and Sardar Sawarn Singh represented India. There were five rounds of talks and once again Pakistan agreed to accept a partition of the State despite her ‘prinicpled stand’ on Kashmir.

Pakistan was disappointed as nothing came out of these talks. Partition plan put forward by India was not acceptable to Pakistan and similarly Pakistani plan was rejected by India, as India did not want ‘Internationalisation’ of the Valley. After failing to get the desired results in these talks which were based on the partition of the State, Pakistan ventured to get all of Kashmir through half cooked Gibraltar Plan which ended up in a direct India and Pakistan war.

Kashmir becomes a bilateral dispute

Up till the war of 1965, Kashmir was an international dispute and its appropriate place for discussion was the floor of the United Nations Security Council, but after the war and the Tashkent Agreement, Kashmir dispute was turned into a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan, which was not to be discussed on the floor of Security Council.

Before boarding a plane to Tashkent and negotiating under the supervision of Soviet Russia which was not friendly to Pakistan mainly because of Pakistan’s role in support of America’s ‘crusade’ against Communism, Pakistani leaders of the time should have realised what consequences it would have on Kashmir. People like Qudrat Ullah Shohab, who was an Ambassador of Pakistan to Holland, cautioned Ayub Khan that going to Tashkent is tantamount to taking Kashmir dispute out of the Security Council.

Ayub Khan and his team conveniently forgot that by Pakistan’s role in SEATO and CENTO {anti Communist alliances} Pakistan has not won hearts and minds of Russians, especially when events of U2 spy plane were fresh in their minds, they could not have ‘rewarded’ Pakistan. Considering India’s close alliance with Russia and Pakistan’s role in anti Communist alliances, one with average common sense could have seen that Russia could not have been completely impartial in their dealing with India and Pakistan.

In many ways the Simla Agreement sealed fate of the Kashmiris, and fears of Qudrat Ullah Shohab proved right, Kashmir has become a bilateral issue which is not to be discussed on the floor of the United Nations Security Council. At Simla, Pakistan once again changed its Kashmir policy; and that was a deadly blow to the Kashmiri peoples right of self determination. The UN resolutions on Kashmir provided a limited right of self determination to the Kashmiri people, which if exercised provided them with option to decide between India and Pakistan, hence denying them right to independence.

The Simla Agreement even took away that limited right {given to the Kashmiri people in the UN resolutions} from the Kashmiri people, and authorised the governments of India and Pakistan to decide fate of Kashmir bilaterally. The UN resolutions and the Simla Agreement are opposed to each other and yet respective governments of Pakistan and Pakistani leaders claim that they are seeking solution of Kashmir in the light of UN resolutions and the Simla Agreement.

Consequence of the Simla Agreement was change of Cease Fire Line in to Line of Control. After the war of 1965, forces of both countries moved back to peacetime positions, but this did not happen after the 1971 war. India refused to vacate areas of Kashmir captured in the war, but agreed to return areas which were legally part of Pakistan. Indian plea was that Kashmir was legally part of India, and any Kashmiri territory captured in the war could not be returned to Pakistan as it is Indian territory. So India insisted that Cease Fire Line should be changed to Line of Control, and Pakistan under that given situation agreed to it.

It is alleged that Zulfqar Ali Bhutto also agreed to accept the LOC as the permanent borders, and promised to implement this unwritten agreement by which areas of Kashmir under Pakistan would be merged with Pakistan. During 1970s, especially when Bhutto was ruler of Pakistan, certain measures were taken which clearly suggested that he wanted to merge areas of Kashmir, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, with Pakistan. That in turn implied that there was some kind of deal between Indra Gandhi and Zulfqar Ali Bhutto.

After Simla Agreement Pakistan put the Kashmir dispute in deep freezer, and this policy continued even after Bhutto’s government. When India occupied Siachin Glacier, which is in State of Jammu and Kashmiri, General Zia Ul Haq, who was ruler of Pakistan, was criticised for his inaction. He later said, why this hue and cry over this. It is a wasteland covered with snow, and not even grass grows on it. This demonstrated attitude of the Pakistani establishment of the time to the Kashmir dispute. Now we know that for many years Pakistan is engaged in a war in Siachin, and there is big cost in money and human life.

More changes in Kashmir Policy

Kashmir dispute remained in this deep cold storage for many years. It looked that the Pakistani government had called it a day, and settled for LOC. However events of late 1980s saw another change in the Kashmir policy of Pakistan. New phase of the Kashmiri struggle which started in 1988, had support of the Pakistani authorities. And even during these thirteen years long struggle one can clearly see shifts in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, despite its ‘principled stand’.

At the beginning of the struggle Pakistan supported the idea of an independent Kashmir, and when the struggle for independence was at its peak and destination appeared to be around the corner, Pakistan decided to divert that support in favour of religious groups. These religious groups opposed independence of the State, but believed in accession with Pakistan. This change resulted in fighting between the groups and moreover it changed the complexion of the struggle from a freedom struggle to a ‘fundamentalist struggle’.

This change also introduced Jihadis from various countries and the Kashmiri freedom struggle was changed into a ‘fundamentalist movement’ with little or no tolerance for those who disagreed with their interpretation of Jihad and the struggle. Thus it provided a big propaganda stick in the hands of the Indian diplomats and politicians to persuade the world opinion that it was not a Kashmiri freedom struggle, rather it is a ‘fundamentalist movement’ supported by Pakistan to ‘export terrorism’ in India and elsewhere.

We strongly opposed this ‘change’ and cautioned about its obvious dangers, but no one in position of power was prepared to listen. All those who criticised this ‘change’ were branded as ‘anti movement’. Now at least they can see outcome of that policy and dangers it has brought not only to the Kashmiri struggle but also for Pakistan and Pakistani civil society.

Pakistani authorities 1990s appeared to be very confident that once again situation was such that all of Kashmir would fall in their lap like a riped fruit. It didn’t fall in their lap in 1947 because of wrong policies, and I was confident that based on their Kashmir policy of 1990s, history would repeat itself and Pakistan won’t get all of Kashmir.

In consistent with their Kashmir policy, Pakistan made another shift in Kashmir policy in Lahore Declaration. According to famous Pakistani columnist, Nazir Naji who was close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at Lahore both Indian and the Pakistani Prime Ministers agreed on the partition of the State. By this agreement Pakistan would get Gilgit and Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and some areas from Jammu province; and India would get Ladakh, and non Muslim districts of Jammu and the Valley of Kashmir would get some kind of autonomy. In view of this where is the much talked ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir; and Kashmiri peoples right of self determination.

This policy of division of Kashmir, wrong as it was, saw another change when Kargil plan was executed; and many analysts believe that Kargil was started to sabotage the Lahore Agreement. After Lahore and Kargil another opportunity came at Agra, which in a way was continuation of the Lahore process. At Agra there was no agreement between Musharaf and Vajapayee, but one wonders if it was a continuation of the Lahore process then why sabotage the process in first place.

Despite that Pakistan continued with support for the Jihadi groups, even though attempts were made to get the dialogue on Kashmir going again. India insisted that before there could be another dialogue on Kashmir, Pakistan must stop its support to Jihadi groups and must stop what India called ‘cross border terrorism’. It was unfortunate that apart from India other big players in the international politics started making similar demands on Pakistan, and Pakistan found itself in a box with very little room to manoeuvre, hence came another change in Kashmir policy.

Although Pakistan was facing tough opposition to its Kashmir policy, but to be fair to Pakistan, events of 11th September has not helped her. India has cleverly used the situation to her advantage, and despite gross human rights violation and death of more than 70,000 people in the Indian side of Kashmir, India has won sympathy of the international community; and Pakistan is forced by circumstances to make compromises, but the question is for how long this would continue and what is the bottom line.

There would be many to criticise me for writing this, and might even brand me as anti Pakistan. I have never been anti Pakistan and nor I will be; but we need to distinguish between being anti state of Pakistan and being anti Kashmir policy of Pakistan. And my article is not for those who cannot differentiate between the two as their tunnel vision and myopic knowledge of history fails them to see another perspective. I have analysed the Kashmir Policy of Pakistan with honesty and based on historical facts, but as a student of history I will welcome constructive criticism.

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