Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Musharaf and pro Pakistan Kashmiris

Musharaf and pro Pakistan Kashmiris
Dr Shabir Choudhry 24 December 2007

Strategically important and resource rich State of Jammu and Kashmir was important to both India and Pakistan in 1947, and in year 2007 when the State is still forcibly divided and source of tension in the region, its importance to them has not declined.

Both countries worked out their strategies to acquire Kashmir even before they became independent themselves, and this struggle to wrest Kashmir created mayhem in which people of Jammu and Kashmir suffered immensely. The suffering and miseries of the people has not ended although tension and rivalry between the two countries has reduced due to internal and external pressures leading to various confidence-building measures.

Both have different reasons to capture Kashmir. India claims Kashmir on the strength of provisional accession, which was never ratified. Pakistan claims it because Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, even though Kashmir was not part of demand for Pakistan and the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States including Jammu and Kashmir.

Whether the accession was legal and final or not, India is not prepared to let Kashmir go, as in their opinion it strengthens their secular credentials. Of course apart from that point, India has other strategic and economic reasons for getting Kashmir, and they have made it part of their constitution. And no government, even if they wish, can muster enough political support to make changes to the constitution.

Pakistan, unlike their declared policy on Kashmir has economic and strategic aims in Kashmir. Also it is believed that their Kashmir policy provides justification for establishment of Pakistan, and this requires constant anti India stance, which must promote policies of communalism and hatred between the both countries. Pakistani governments have advanced this policy successfully under the cover of Kashmiri peoples right of self – determination.

Pakistani agencies articulated their Kashmir policy with care and dedication, and despite their exposed designs on Kashmir, many Kashmiris till recently believed that Pakistan was serious and sincere in getting them ‘liberated’. Their persuasive skills hoodwinked many Kashmiris in believing that Pakistani governments seriously wanted to promote the Kashmiri cause and fundamental rights for the people, even though these rights were denied to the Kashmiri people in areas under their control.

One might rightly say that Pakistan had edge over India as majority of the Muslim population had a soft corner for Pakistan. Also Pakistan had a Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja of Kashmir, which provided legal access to Pakistan in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, but thanks to Pakistan’s military activism this advantage was lost after failed tribal invasion.

This military activism brought trouble, destruction and misery for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and left bad taste in their mouths. The State was forcibly divided between India and Pakistan, and efforts of both countries to make Kashmir part of their nation added to problems of the people of the State. Not only they were sandwiched between the two rival neighbours, their sense of belonging and loyalty was also divided.

Leaders of both countries claimed to speak for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and represented what they thought were wishes of the Kashmiri people at the UN and other international meetings. While right of self – determination of the Kashmiris, and future of the State was being debated Pakistani government ensured that the people of Kashmir were deprived of this fundamental human right.

In its place Pakistani government proposed and which was accepted in the UN Security Council that the people of the State should get a right to accession to either India or Pakistan. Perhaps the people of the State were not deemed fit to enjoy fruits of independence. However when the Pakistani leaders realised that they might lose vote in future referendum they refused to honour pledges made in the UNCIP Resolution on 13 August 1948.

The main reason for this was the fear that with Sheikh Abdullah, the most popular Kashmiri leader as head of the administration in Kashmir, they might not get the required votes to legally get Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah had no allusions about the Pakistani designs in Kashmir and did not want to become part of Pakistan because of ideological, political and personal reasons.

Part 2, section A, of this resolution demanded government of Pakistan to withdraw ‘‘its troops from the State.” And paragraph 2: “ The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.”

The resolution also demanded government of India to ‘withdraw the bulk of their forces from that State in stages to be agreed upon with the Commission’, once the government of Pakistan had completely withdrawn its troops, the tribesmen and other Pakistani nationals who went there for the purpose of fighting.

Events of mid 1950s changed the whole scenario in Kashmir and South Asia. Sheikh Abdullah was deposed and imprisoned leading to anti India demonstrations. Pakistan joined Western military alliances of SEATO and CENTO, and subsequently the Kashmir dispute became a part of the ‘Cold War’ politics. It must be noted that the Soviet Russia changed its policy on Kashmir after 1955 leading to use of its first veto on a resolution on Kashmir in 1957. Prior to that, by and large, Soviet Union was neutral on the issue of Kashmir.

Some people might agree with this view that anti India feelings and alienation of Kashmiris was manipulated to wage a ‘proxy war’ against India. Some even believe that the main purpose of this exercise was to keep ‘India engaged’ and ‘bleeding’, and ‘liberation’ of Kashmiris was never on the agenda. However one might accept that up till mid 1992/3 the majority of people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to join Pakistan.

This trend started to change when people of Jammu and Kashmir began to understand the game plan. This trend was hastened especially with the return of ‘mujahids’ back to the Valley. They explained their experiences and stories to unravel this myth that Pakistan was their well- wisher and sincerely wanted to help them to ‘liberate from clutches of India’. People of Jammu and Kashmir started to analyse what Pakistan had to offer to them should they join them. Also they started to understand what Pakistan has given to the people of the State living under Pakistani control.

People of Jammu and Kashmir were extremely annoyed with human rights situation in Kashmir. They, like any other nation, wanted to live in peace and enjoy fruits of democracy and independence. They felt they were let down and used by both governments to advance their national interest in which people of Jammu and Kashmir suffered. The oppressed and divided people could not see light at the end of tunnel, and this added to their frustration and resentment.

Majority of the people agreed that the Kashmir dispute was political in nature and religion had no role in it, although attempts have been made to ‘Islamise’ and ‘Talibanise’ the Kashmiri society and polity in order to get the desired results. People of Jammu and Kashmir have always been split in three political camps namely, pro Pakistan, pro India and Pro Independence.

With time vote bank of pro independence camp dramatically increased and pro Pakistan camp has decreased, especially after the rise of Musharaf factor. Entry of Musharaf in the Kashmiri and Pakistani politics came with the Kargil fiasco. His army failed to invade Kashmir, but once again, relying on the rich past experience invaded his own capital and trampled democracy and human rights.

Musharaf, no doubt has added another dark chapter to history of Pakistan. He and his forces have trampled human rights, silenced opposition, attacked and muzzled media personnel, dishonoured judiciary, humiliated honourable judges, and what adds to the tragedy is that he still feels proud of his deeds.

Apart from that he was unequivocal in his message to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that he was not interested in their fundamental rights including right of self- determination (how can he be if he is not interested in rights of his own people why should he be concerned about rights of those who are not yet Pakistanis), he was more interested in prolonging his rule and division of the state that he could boast he had added to the territory of Pakistan.

His policies and proposals on Kashmir exposed whatever cover was there to hide true agenda of Pakistan, and that was not liberation of Jammu and Kashmir and get people their fundamental rights. All his proposals lead to division of the State, possibly on communal lines, and no Kashmiri could accept that. Whatever the future of the State people of Jammu and Kashmir think the state must remain as one political entity and must not be divided.

Musharaf factor is important in the context of Kashmir. He has transformed pro Pakistan Kashmiris in to ‘Pro Independence’ and ‘Pro Kashmir’ Kashmiris. This is something we have been working for so many years and have always faced uphill struggle, but Musharaf has done it within few years. Thank you very much.

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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