Friday, 30 May 2008

My visit to Islamabad and Mirpur (unpublished book)

My visit to Islamabad and Mirpur (unpublished book)
Shabir Choudhry

This is a text of my unpublished work titled: ‘In defence of united Kashmir’ which was based on my visit to Delhi, Srinagar, Islamabad and Mirpur in 2001. Due to political situation of that time Yasin Malik and some other leaders advised me to hold its publication.

Later on it was decided that I should divide it in to two parts and publish them separately, one explaining experience of Delhi and Srinagar, and the other explaining the experience of Islamabad and Mirpur.

Due to other commitments I could not get it published. It might be of interest to some who like to know what the political situation at that time was.
Dr Shabir Choudhry



At a time when Kashmiri struggle is going through very crucial stage, and there is talk of negotiations and possible resolution of the Kashmir dispute, it is important that there is clarity of thought and unity in our actions. At present, whether we accept it or not, we are a divided lot. We take more interest in demeaning our political opponents, whether within our organisations or outside; and take pride in scoring personal points. If we continue with what is happening now, then I am afraid we would not achieve our goal of independence, hence greatly disappoint Kashmiri people and waste sacrifices made by the people of Kashmir.

The freedom loving people of Kashmir, knowing full well consequences of their action, jumped in fire in order to support the Kashmiri struggle for independence. If we fail, God forbid, it would not be due to lack of sacrifices or support of the masses, but lack of vision, clear goal, tolerance and sincerity of those who assumed the role of leadership.

I often get in hot water due to my direct talking and "undiplomatic approach". My friends tell me that I have to be careful with what I say and how I say it, especially when I write something as this provides evidence, and is used against me in various places. I appreciate sincerity of my friends like Mr Abbas Butt, Mohammed Asim, Liaquat Ali, Mohammed Sarwar, Zubbair Ansari and many others who have helped me out when I am in trouble. But I have a mission and that is to bring facts to the people, facts which must not be hidden from those who need to know. And in doing this I make enemies, even though I don't need any, as I believe in making friends.

In other words choice is very simple - stop writing and avoid criticism and animosity. And if I have to write than I should write on non-political and completely non-controversial matters. Before I started writing on political matters I had two Urdu novels published, and since 1984 I have only written on political matters related to Kashmir. One friend has seriously suggested that I should start writing novels again.

I appreciate sentiments of this friend who sincerely wants me to avoid more problems, but I have duty to my conscience and the Kashmiri nation. I know I won't be nominated for any awards for my political writings and political work, yet I feel I have contribution to make in political matters. On one hand I am at the receiving end and those under scrutiny criticise me, on the other hand I do get appreciation on my analyses from people who like to know the alternative viewpoint, especially nationalists of Kashmir.

When I went to Pakistan I had no intention of writing anything on my visit, even during first two weeks of my stay there I had no such plans, even though certain things were irritating. When situation did not change and certain people continued with their campaign against me for holding strong views on united and independent Kashmir, I decided to fight back in defence. This fight back was not to provide some kind of defence to what I was doing or not doing in Pakistan, but to defend my ideology which I adopted even before JKLF was formed in 1977.

The ideology of united and independent Kashmir is very close to my heart, and I will continue to project it in its right perspective and in doing so if I get criticism or allegations, I will accept that as my reward for it. I have only two choices - either call it a day and stay at home; or fight back with chin up and leave it for others, especially the next generation, to decide who was wrong.

After 28 years of association and hard work for the Kashmir cause, it is difficult to go for the first choice, which means I have to fight my corner irrespective of the outcome. Some of my friends tell me that I am fighting a losing battle, as powers in the other camp are far too strong and organised; so it is prudent to show some flexibility and make some kind of compromise. I am fully aware of my vulnerability and weakness, and I acknowledge strength and resources of others, but sometimes principles involved are more important than a "win".

It is immaterial whether I win or lose, my fight is not to win anything but to provide information to the people, and if I am successful in doing that then I will regard that as a win. It is information and knowledge that provides strength and help organisations and individuals move forward. I hope that all those who believe in Kashmiri nationalism would support my endeavors to project ideology of united and independent Kashmir; and expose those who are using it to further their own interests.

I completed this booklet based on my experience and work in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir in April 2001, and by time it is published and reaches my readers who knows what situation I would be in. In any case I would like to have some feed back on this and would appreciate your comments, as this would help me to improve my writing and help to refine ideas.

Tel. 0044 (0)20 8597 4782 mobile: 0044 (0)7941 295327

1. Introduction
In January 1991 I went to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir with a view of settling there. Kashmiri struggle at that time was at its peak, in fact, it was taking a new turn. At that time I was still General Secretary of the united JKLF ( JKLF UK Zone was unconstitutionally disbanded by Mr Amanullah Khan in October 1992), and during my stay there I witnessed many things which I will discuss in future sometime. In this booklet I only want to deal with matters related to this trip.

I want to differentiate the split of JKLF which took place in 1992, with the one which took place in June 1990. (Please don't ask me total number of splits in the JKLF). This split took place after Mr Amanullah Khan declared a "Provisional Government" of Kashmir in June 1990, and controversy this started led to a division of the JKLF at a time when we needed unity to control the Kashmiri freedom movement. The JKLF leadership demonstrated that we are not even fit to lead and control this organisation, let alone controlling and leading the Freedom. Movement.

Anyhow until 1996 I visited Azad Kashmir and Pakistan every year, and each visit was motivated by political matters, and I could hardly spend one or two days in my home village. Then after 1996 because of different reasons I could not visit Pakistan and Azad Kashmir until January 2001.

I returned back from my visit to Srinagar in December 2000, and matters with regard to the resolution of Kashmir were moving at a remarkable speed. Everyone talked of APHC delegation's visit to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. I had some personal matters to sort out, and I thought it would be good thing to kill two birds with one stone. I wanted my visit to be a private and personal one, but it is difficult to draw a line, especially when one has a track record of high-level participation in many aspects of the Kashmiri struggle.

At the time of the visit, apart from being the President of JKLF UK & Europe, I was Director of Institute of Kashmir Affairs, (organization which helps research and provide literature on Kashmir); Director/Trustee of Kashmir Foundation International, (a registered charity which endeavors to help victims of the struggle) and Director of International Council for Human Rights. Whether one likes my writings or not, but I am a known writer and an author with many published books on Kashmir, and two Urdu novels.

So it was difficult to keep the visit exclusively personal. There was some political or diplomatic activity which was not overt, and hardly anyone knew if I had involved myself in any activity. I am known as a politically active person, and when there was no apparent political activity associated with me, that arouse people's curiosity, and they wondered what was going on. Some even spread the rumor that Shabir Choudhry is 'frightened', and that is why he is keeping a low profile.

They didn't spell out what I was 'frightened' off, but after hearing this I extended my stay in Islamabad. There were two reasons for doing this:

· To do some overt political activity to demonstrate that I was still 'alive and kicking', and still have contacts in political and diplomatic circles;

· To tell concerned people that I was not 'frightened' and there was no reason for being 'frightened', and if I was then I should have brought my date of departure earlier instead of extending it.

Although I was confident that I have not done anything wrong to be frightened off in Islamabad, but at the same time I knew it is Pakistan where anything could happen. If authorities wanted to "punish" me for something or "teach me a lesson", I could be taken in for "drug dealing, theft, corruption, adultery" list is endless. So to be on a safe side, I discussed this with Aslam Sahib.

He was concerned to hear this, not because he feared my arrest, but because some people have gone to this extent of disinformation to intimidate me and to create unfriendly environment for me. He said, "Choudhry Sahib, it looks that there are people who take you as a threat to their personal interest, and that is why they are spreading these rumours. Their aim is very clear, they want to damage your political standing and create doubts about you".

We discussed and analysed the whole scenario and in the light of that I planned my future strategy. I came to the conclusion that in defence of JKLF and its ideology, I had to fight my corner. My commitment and loyalty is with the ideology of united and independent Kashmir, and come what may, I had to fight at every level in defence of this. Opportunists and people with "business" mentality could not be allowed to exploit sacrifices made by thousands of people.

Aslam Sahib said whatever motive of these people they have not been successful in tarnishing your image and reputation. You have been two weeks here, and have done everything openly, and there haven't been any suspicious activity to suggest that your movements are monitored. If agencies here had any negative view of you then they would have monitored your activities.

This was later confirmed by one of Aslam Sahib's friend that there is no reason to monitor Choudhry Sahib's activities; we know he is committed and dedicated to the ideology of an independent Kashmir. He is here on a visit; he can enjoy his time in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, and do what he likes.

I must appreciate Aslam Sahib's role in this. He did not show any kind of reservation, and fully supported me through out the visit. Also I want to bring it on record that in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, I did what I liked and there was no restriction, harassment and intimidation of any kind. My stay there was free of all political pressures, and there was no sense of insecurity at all.

2. My host or hosts

As it was a personal trip I did not inform any of my political colleagues, and even did not inform any of my relatives who also live in Islamabad. I asked a friend, Mohammed Aslam, Chief Editor of Monthly 'Liberty International', to receive me at the airport.

Soon after my arrival at his house I decided to visit Mr Altaf Qadri who lived nearby in Islamabad. Mr Qadri is a JKLF representative in Shadow APHC, and currently is General Secretary of this platform. Even though he is from Srinagar, but I still regarded him as one of my potential host, as he has lived in Islamabad for the past five years, and it was me who was on visit to Islamabad.

Other potential hosts were local JKLF leaders in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Whenever I visit Azad Kashmir and Pakistan I stay in Islambad, as my home village, Panjeri, is far away in District of Bhimber, and is not suitable to conduct any political activity. On previous visits to Pakistan, between 1992 and 1996, we didn't have a branch of our JKLF, so I used to live in various hotels.

After making an appointment to see Mr Qadri, Aslam Sahib and I went to his house in I-9/4. Qadri Sahib welcomed us and took us to his lounge. Qadri Sahib is educated and cultured young man who speaks in low tone and does not show any aggressiveness, even when he is unhappy. He shows his unhappiness in a subtle way, generally by giving examples. It was colder than normal that evening, so we sat near the fire. After the initial welcoming exchanges, Qadri Sahib paid more attention to his old radio, which had very bad reception, than what we were saying.

I was impressed with his skills, he was listening to radio as well my story and experience in Srinagar and Delhi. I told him and Aslam Sahib about the Delhi Conference and what I saw in Srinagar. Also I told them about my interaction with different Kashmiri leaders including Mr Yasin Malik. After about fifteen minutes he had to switch the radio off, probably because I kept on with my story and impression, and there was no switch off button on me

When I praised Yasin Sahib and his modest house and way of life, Qadri Sahib commented that it is his modesty which is our strength. People know he is sincere and strongly committed to the liberation of Kashmir. We talked about various aspects of the Kashmiri struggle and agreed that the peace initiative should be given a chance. There can be no solution by use of force only.

As it often happens on these occasions, during the conversation role of Pakistan also came under discussion. We expressed our views from different perspectives, and had some positive and some negative comments to make. I said, "Pakistan is a strange country, a land of plenty, but where people are poor; and where anything and everything can happen. It is Pakistan where army likes to run the country instead of defending its borders, where an elected Prime Minister could be hanged; other elected Prime Minister was put behind bars and then sent to Saudi Arabia. It is Pakistan where a leader of Choudhary Zahoor Elahi's stature could be put behind bars on a petty charge of taking someone's buffalo".
They both laughed and agreed with my comments, bitter as they were.

We also talked about the proposed visit of the APHC leaders to Pakistan, and thought it was a good move provided the parties concerned were sincere and seriously wanted to make progress on the peace process. We thought these leaders, when they come here, should visit all areas of Kashmir on this side of border, especially Gilgit and Baltistan. We agreed if other leaders for whatever reason don't visit Gilgit and Baltistan, at least, Mr Yasin Malik should go there.

I told Qadri Sahib that I would be staying with Aslam Sahib and that I could be contacted there. I also asked him to tell others that I was here. We thanked him for tea, and left his house, hoping that he would make arrangements for the next meeting.

3. My new book

In the past Aslam Sahib published a book titled, "Kashmir and 1965 War" for me; and he was making arrangements for the publication of my other books. One book in Urdu was almost ready, and one of the reasons for my visit was to sort out matters related to the books.

After spending one day in the village I came back in Islamabad, and spent most of my time on proof reading and dealing with other matters related to publication. Aslam Sahib was extremely helpful in this, and I was impressed with his sincerity, dedication and professionalism. Despite being ill and occupied with other commitments, he was available to complete different tasks, when and as required.

When I reached Islamabad I thought I would spend a few days at Aslam Sahib's home and then move out. If my other "hosts" did not offer anything or for whatever reason ignored me, I will stay in a hotel, like I used to do on previous occasions. But Aslam Sahib's wife and other members of the family were so friendly, caring and accommodating that I decided to stay there during my stay in Pakistan.

They all looked after me like a "peer", like a guru. Everyone, including 7/8-year-old Bilal, was so caring that at times I felt uncomfortable, as I thought I was giving them problem. When I had food poisoning, after eating a chicken burger from Supper Market, all members of the family were sitting around my bed at 3am. They got medicine for me a few times and twice called doctor. It looked as someone very close to them, someone with blood connection was sick, and they were all extremely worried about it. I must admit it was due to this care, affection and love that I recovered so quickly. The way I was looked after during my illness really impressed me, and I will remember that for the rest of my life

My illness delayed our progress and we had to make changes to our schedule. I personally did not like to have my photo on a cover page of the book, "Kiya Khud Mukhtar Kashmir Eik Sazish Hai", but Aslam Sahib said it is a new trend, and in his professional opinion there is nothing wrong with it. Apart from this book he wanted to bring out my new book in English and two small booklets in English.

Title of one booklet was "K of Pakistan", and it was published while I was there. The small booklet is based on my article which explains where does "K" of Pakistan comes from, and if it was taken from Kashmir or not. The other booklet is also based on my articles on Jehad and violence.

4. Dr Walid Rasool

During this time I had meetings with some people, as they were not for public consumption there was no need for me to "broadcast" them. My "friends" in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi, and some outside Pakistan were concerned about my apparent lack of activity. They did not have courtesy to see me or even to ask how I was recovering, but they phoned everyday, some times more than once, to find out what was I doing and whom I have met.

This 007 like activity further annoyed me; it certainly annoyed my hosts as they were put under very difficult position of "spying" on me. They never imagined that in life they would have to "spy" on their guest, a guest who had done no harm to them. At times I was sitting right next to Aslam Sahib when Kashmiri James Bonds phoned and enquired about my activities.

If anyone were interested in finding out whom I met and what was discussed, I would have happily shared that information, as there was nothing secret about it. I don't live a double life, and there is nothing to hide. My politics, my thinking and my ideology, whether some one likes it or not, is very clear. I have always worked for a united and independent Kashmir. This ideology is a part of my political faith. I firmly believe that united and independent Kashmir is the way forward to have peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia. And those who want peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia should help and support this movement rather than oppose it.

One gentleman, perhaps who was not a part of this "spying ring", came to see me. This was Dr Walid, who is from across the border and now lives in Islamabad. I found Dr Walid very friendly, honest and freedom loving person. He was not very happy with what was going on in the name of freedom struggle, and bitterly opposed some of it. It was because of his criticism and direct approach that many people do not like to confront him.

Dr Walid also gave me some medicine and had detailed discussion with me on many aspects of the freedom struggle. He had read my books and articles and wanted to meet me. I soon found out that we had many things in common, and had more or less same approach on the present situation. Like me he also thought the struggle for independence has become a lucrative business for some people, and that is why they wanted to perpetuate it. He was courageous man with mind of his own, and did not hesitate to make criticism when needed.

During our conversation, I said to him that when Kashmiri leaders, whatever their political standing or value, go abroad we welcome them. We feel it is our duty to meet them and try our best to accommodate them and hold meetings in their honour. And in a polite and friendly manner I complained that some of them only live near by and they know I am sick, and yet they don't have this courtesy to visit me.

He laughed and said, "Choudhry Sahib Nokeri kay be kuchh taqaazay hotey hain". What he said was that these people are employed to carry out certain tasks and they would not do anything without permission. Of course there are some obligations of this employment, either they leave this employment and find another job or they follow the line.

He further said you are a known person with some political standing and value. Also you are a writer and whether people agree with what you write or not but they do read you. Because of your writings and rigid stand you may not be very popular with certain quarters, and these people do not want to annoy them.

I told Dr Walid that I had no interest in creating hurdles in the way of someone's employment, and deprive him of his bread and butter. Dr Sahib told me what he was doing for Kashmir; I was impressed with his work and dedication. He was connected with media and was instrumental in arranging many important interviews on Pakistan television. I thought the meeting with Dr Walid was very interesting and informative.

5. Meeting with JKLF leaders

Altaf Qadri was the first person I met, and I thought being a senior JKLF man he would inform other JKLF leaders, and if there are any programmes or meetings to be held they would jointly make arrangements. But to my surprise he didn't tell anyone about my arrival. May be he thought it was not his duty to tell others about my arrival or make any programmes. Despite this we have friendly relationship and whenever we meet we show mutual respect and care for each other.

Anyhow I decided to contact JKLF leadership of Azad Kashmir/ Pakistan directly. When I phoned Dr Farooq Haider, President of JKLF in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, he was on his way to Lahore to attend a wedding. We agreed to have a meeting on his return. Raja Latif Tahir liaised between both of us and arranged this meeting at Dr Sahib's house.

At Dr Sahib's house, apart from Raja Latif Tahir and Dr Sahib, I also met Qasim Khokhar, JKLF Organiser in the USA and two members of Central Committee, Zahid Hussain, and Tariq Nadim Durrani. I met Qasim Khokhar during my visit to America and found him quiet but sincere gentleman. He is kind of person who seems to have no political ambitions and is always ready to serve his party and ideology. It was my first meeting with Tariq Sahib and Zahid Sahib. In the meeting they did not participate too much, but whatever contribution they made it was positive and demonstrated their sincerity and maturity.

I had meetings with Dr Farooq Sahib in the past. He is simple man with desire to see Kashmir independent. Even when we were in different JKLF groups we had mutual respect for each other. He is a busy man but still finds time for organizational activities. He has done this for a very long time and that shows his commitment to the cause of an independent Kashmi.

Raja Latif Tahir is a young and dedicated man who currently holds the position of Publicity Secretary of JKLF Azad Kashmir. I had met him in the past but did not have detailed discussion with him on the issue of ideology and organisational matters. I was quite annoyed with some matters and wrongly assumed that Raja Latif was also part of this "spying ring". So in the meeting I was quite assertive and aggressive. Both Raja Latif and Dr Sahib listened to me patiently.

When they explained their position on the issues I raised, I soon realised that they had same concerns on the issues of ideology and organisational matters. If anything they were more concerned as they felt this time and again in their dealing with different people. Also my apprehension that there could be some kind of collusion between the "employees" and some people within JKLF ranks in Azad Kashmir proved erroneous.

I found Raja Latif Tahir, Dr Farooq Haider, Qasim Khokhar, Zahid Hussain and Tariq Nadim Durrani very sincere, dedicated and hard working people. They agreed with me that the freedom movement had been hijacked and that efforts were being made to hijack the JKLF. We all agreed that we have to work together to fight all those who want to harm the ideology of the JKLF; or in any way endeavour to reduce the role of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.

We further agreed that freedom struggle based on liberal and democratic ideals could keep the State united, and could lead to unification and independence of the State. And any attempt to move away from this by "Islamisation" or "Talibanisation" of the movement is not in the interest of the Kashmiri people. If this trend went ahead without check this would divide the Kashmiri people on religious, ethnic and possibly on regional lines.

We thought for some people the freedom movement has become a lucrative business, and because of their personal interest they want the struggle to continue without ever reaching its logical conclusion. It is in the interest of this vested interest that the status quo remains, and the Kashmiri people remain forcibly divided. They want the suffering of the people to perpetuate that they can continue to benefit from this situation. We all agreed that we have to fight these elements as well, as they are not friends of the struggle or the people.

During this meeting we worked out a future strategy to fight back. It was agreed that a clear message should be sent to all concerned that we cannot and will not compromise on the unification and independence of the State. Also that people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan could not be ignored in any negotiations on the future of the State.

Dr Farooq Haider and Raja Latif Tahir briefed me on the developments with regard to the situation in Gilgit and Baltistan. They were concerned about the closure of K2 newspaper and the arrest of journalists and some political leaders there. They said when we talk of human rights violations in the Indian occupied Kashmir, at the same time we need to mention about the situation of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.

They said for the first time in the history of the struggle, nationalist of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan have come together to form a united front in the name of All Parties National Alliance. We must support this alliance, they said. They also asked me to form a similar alliance with like-minded organisations in Britain, and Dr Farooq Haider later wrote me a letter regarding this.

Also it was agreed that I should prepare a letter to be sent to Mr Yasin Malik, Chairman of JKLF, and express our concern to him about certain matters. It was agreed that Dr Farooq Haider as President of JKLF Azad Kashmir, Qasim Khokhar as an Organiser of America and me as a President of JKLF UK & Europe would jointly sign the letter. Contents of the letter were agreed by all three of us and signed.

It was agreed that we should hold a press conference to project the issues we were concerned with. We also agreed that if APHC leaders came to Pakistan we would ask them to visit Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan to demonstrate that we all believed in the unity of the State. Raja Latif Tahir was asked to make arrangements of the press conference. Dr Farooq Haider also arranged a luxurious evening meal for all of us. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the discussion on Kashmir.

6. Press Conference

As noted earlier I was impressed with Raja Latif Tahir's sincerity and dedication to the cause. But I was not aware of his organisational skills and public relations. He was asked to make arrangements for the press conference, and when I asked him where he wanted to hold it, he said in Akbar Hotel, Rawalpindi.

I was not too pleased to hear this. I thought Islamabad was the best place to hold Press Conference as most of the newspapers were based there. Also my journalist friend, Mohammed Aslam, expressed his fear that many journalists may not come as they like to attend press conferences in places like Marriot and Holiday Inn.

I worked hard to prepare a balanced statement for the Press Conference, and thought I should be ready for all the eventualities. I knew people are aware of my political views and some of them find them controversial, so it was possible that some of my political foes or some "officials' might attempt to disrupt it.

As I made my way to the Akbar Hotel, I said to myself whether journalists come or not at least I am fully prepared and full of confidence. My colleagues, Dr Farooq Haider, Raja Latif Tahir, Qasim Khokhar (who especially travelled from Mirpur to participate in the Press Conference), and others were present. But those who were most needed- journalists- were only few in number, and I was bit concerned about it.

To my pleasure, before I started the Press Conference, the hall was full with more than twenty people from media. Dr Farooq Haider sat on my left side and Qasim Khokhar on my right. Raja Latif introduced us to the journalists. The Press Conference went on very well. Dr Farooq Haider also spoke about the situation in Gilgit and Baltistan, and endorsed the points made by me. I responded to all questions with confidence and supported my points with historical facts.

After the Press Conference a luxurious dinner was given to all present. We were all very impressed with the arrangements made by Raja Latif Tahir. My journalist friend, Mohammed Aslam, was also impressed, and he commented that these journalists have come because of personal contacts of Raja Latif. He said that everything was better than what he had expected.

During the dinner we continued with some of the topics discussed in the Press Conference. Some journalists wanted to talk to me privately after the dinner, and others wanted to have a detailed interview with me. Those who wanted exclusive interviews, I asked them to contact Raja Latif Tahir, as he was going to manage these interviews. And those who wanted to see me for other reasons I had separate sittings with them. Some of them complained that I should have had more time that other journalists and political activists could have had separate discussions with me on national issues. Text of the Press Conference is as follows:

Press conference held by Shabir Choudhry, President JKLF UK and Europe, in Rawalpindi on 30th January 2001.

Kashmir dispute has become at top of the international agenda, and there are many reasons for this. Nuclearisation of South Asia, sacrifices of the Kashmir people and changed international scenario are of the reasons.

Everywhere talk is about the resolution of Kashmir, but without specifying what they mean by Kashmir. It is unfortunate to note that even some Kashmiri leaders themselves are not very clear on this. When they are asked what do they want, they generally say liberation of Indian held Kashmir. If they are asked about areas under Pakistan they are not only vague, but also they try to avoid the question.

On behalf of JKLF I want to make it crystal clear to all concerned that our struggle is for unification and independence of the State, and that includes Ladakh, the Valley, Jammu, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. We are not interested in any kind of autonomy or any kind of cosmetic changes, which might result in the division of our beloved homeland.

Also I want to make it clear that Kashmir is not a religious or territorial dispute. It is not a war of one religion against the other. It must be remembered that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is multi-religious and multi-cultural and we must maintain this unique character of Kashmir. Any attempt to divide the State on religious or ethnic lines would have far reaching consequences; and it might even destabilise the whole region of South Asia.

Apart from the above I want to emphasise that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. India despite huge military might and oppression could not crush the militancy, Pakistan has many of her own problems and is not in a position to wage war against India to liberate Kashmir. And rhetoric aside militancy on its own could not provide solution; at the best it could continue creating problems for the Indian forces, and keep India bleeding. In view of this it is imperative that all the parties to the dispute, namely Pakistan, India and the Kashmiri people find a solution through a process of dialogue.

I believe that this is the only way forward. This process of dialogue should be multi track some people like to call it triangular talks:

Intra-Kashmir dialogue
Kashmir India dialogue
Kashmir Pakistan dialogue
India and Pakistan dialogue leading to a trilateral dialogue

This process must be started without any delay, and for this India must provide travel documents to all the APHC leaders. By not providing documents to all leaders India is practically selecting the APHC delegation, and this could not be allowed as the right to select (the delegation) is with the APHC. The APHC may not be representative of all the Kashmiri people, but it is the most dominant political group. I hope that the APHC will broaden its sphere of influence and take other regions and minorities in confidence.

Many people have high hopes and they think that the resolution of Kashmir is just around the corner. I don’t want to disappoint anyone but in my view there is a long road ahead of us, especially if we want a united and independent Kashmir. We have to play our role properly, and move forward by building bridges of confidence. People of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan must be taken into confidence; and they must have a role in the negotiations. Similarly people of Jammu and Ladakh must be taken into confidence.

International community feels that it is only the people of Valley that are unhappy with the situation and they are asking for freedom. In their view people of other regions of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, by and large, are happy with the prevailing situation in their respective regions. Because of this false assumption, it is feared that the solution people have in mind is only related to the Valley of Kashmir. I want to make it clear that the division of the State, in any form or shape, would not be accepted. Any forced division will lead to further bloodshed, disturbance and destruction; therefore, it is imperative that the future of Kashmir, which existed at the time of partition of India, is decided according to the declared wishes of the people.

Unlike some regional leaders, JKLF Chairman, Mr. Yasin Malik is a national leader and has a popular following and appeal for his work, ideology and dedication. He has a great role to play in determining the future Kashmir. I hope that he would be allowed to travel to Britain and America for medical treatment and that he would be given appropriate visas for this purpose.

I also hope that the common sense prevails and we can bring the sufferings of the Kashmiri people to an end; and in doing so we must remember that peace and stability of South Asia is linked with peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir. I sincerely hope that we can all come to some amicable and acceptable solution of Kashmir that resources could be used to alleviate illiteracy and poverty in South Asia.

I also want to make the following points:
· In liberation movements' military leadership always follow the political leadership, in Kashmir it is different, and that is a hurdle not a plus point for the movement, and I hope that military chiefs will change their position in the larger interest of the Movement.
· People of Gilgit and Baltistan must not be victimised for demanding their basic human rights. All those political activists imprisoned, for example people like Amir Amza, must be released.
· Ban on “K2” newspaper must be lifted and journalists released, and other civil liberties restored.

7. Sardar Aashiq Hussain

I was pleased with the importance given to me by these journalists. As I had only two more days in Islamabad and practically half day for meetings as Aslam Sahib had already made an appointment to see some people in the evening, I did not have enough time to see everyone who wished to interview me. So with help of Raja Latif Tahir I planned some sittings.

The first sitting was with Chief Reporter of Kashmir Press International, Sardar Aashiq Hussain. I found Saradar Aashiq very friendly and informed person. He asked me questions on the current situation of the Kashmiri struggle, and some of the questions were sensitive. Before I responded to him I asked for his assurance that he would not take anything out of context, and only present things the way I have explained.

Many journalists have this habit of putting things out of context to create wrong and negative impression. My ideology and thinking was very clear but it had many enemies who could use some of the things out of context for propaganda purposes. I have habit of calling spade a spade, which is not good thing in politics, and this at times annoy many people. I have always had this policy that facts should not be hidden from people for the sake of political expediency. This policy has landed me in hot water many times, but I cannot stop myself speaking truth.

Anyhow Sardar Aashiq Hussain Sahib assured me that nothing would be taken out of the interview; he said it is also his duty to ensure that people are made aware of the prevailing situation. We spoke to each other in presence of Raja Latif Tahir for more than two hours, and covered every aspect of the Kashmiri struggle. I told him how I saw things, and to large extent he agreed with my observations. I requested him to present things in a positive manner.

Although I have not seen the published interview, I was told that Sardar Aashiq Hussain kept his promise and to large extent, presented the interview positively. I hope he doesn't have to pay a price for this.

By the time we finished with this interview there was no time left for other meetings. But before I could leave to attend the next meeting arranged in Islamabad, Sradar Zafar Iqbal from JKLF Rauf Kashmiri Group came to see me.

Zafar Iqbal is a young man with matured approach to politics. I have known him for many years and have had many meetings with him. At one time when we had political problems with Mr Amanullah Khan, and Yasin Malik was still a President of Amanullah Khan's JKLF in the Indian held Kashmir, we thought of having some kind of alliance with JKLF Rauf Kashmiri group.

At that time veteran freedom fighters Azam Inquillabi and late Dr Ghulam Ahmed Wani were also in Pakistan. We had a number of meetings together and refused to follow "Sarkari line" of Pakistan. At that time out of nationalist organisations, Amanullah Khan was considered as a "Sarkari man with Sarkari policy". We all had strong political differences with Mr Amanullah Khan, and perhaps that was one reason why we all got together.

Sardar Zafar Iqbal complained that why I did not inform him of my arrival. He said there were many people who wanted to see you. He said after reading about my press conference some nationalist Kashmiri leaders have phoned him to locate me that we could have a meeting. I told him that I came to Pakistan with this intention that I would not involve in any political activity, but situation here demanded that I should have some overt political activity. I also told him that I have only a few more days in Islamabad, and Raja Latif Sahib knew how busy I was. I stayed there for some time to discuss some issues but politely declined meetings with other people.

8. Hard Facts

A lot is happening in the name of the Kashmiri struggle and Jehad, and I know most people are honest and sincere with their approach to Kashmiri struggle. What they are doing and the way they are doing is questionable, and could even be wrong, but they sincerely believe it to be correct. In order to do what they perceive it to be correct, they scarify their lives. Even though I disagree with what they do in name of the Kashmiri struggle and Jehad, I still respect them for their honesty and dedication.

Whereas I have respect for the people in the above category, I am totally against those, who are using the Kashmiri struggle for their personal gains. It is immaterial which ideology they adhere to; to me they don't have an ideology. Their ideology is money, power and leisure, and they are using the Kashmiri struggle and Jehad as a lucrative business to achieve the above.

Another journalist, I can't name him for security reasons, told me some harrowing facts. He said because of danger to his life, he could not speak -out what goes on in the name of our struggle and Jehad. And that he has heard about me as an outspoken and courageous man, so he is taking it off his conscience and leaving it to me to do this Jehad of speaking truth in this difficult situation. In humorous manner I said to him, so you have found in me a scarifying lamb. He said, "No. This is not the case. You have a political platform to defend you and also you live in London, and it makes a lot of difference".

I knew there were some people who used the Kashmiri struggle and Jehad for personal gains, but I could not imagine anything as bad as what he told me. It was shocking to say the least. What he told me is summarised below:

Some groups recruit young men, generally students and unemployed people. Provide them with basic arms training. So there was less emphasis on training and more emphasis on paper work to prove that x amount has been spent on recruitment and training.

After very basic training they are taken to a border, and are told to reach to x point where they would be given arms and other directions. Once on the other side of Line Of Control they are shot dead by their own people. They come back and make claim with their paymasters that x number of people have embraced martyrdom, and we have spent x amount on them. On each dead body they receive 250,000 rupees, out of which 50.000 is paid to the family of the deceased person, and 200,000 is a profit from one "martyr".

This harrowing account of the events came to light when one such recruit from District Bagh in Azad Kashmir survived the murder attack. A known "Jehadi" group recruited him, and after some training he crossed the border with other colleagues. On their way to x point, their own people fired them. This sudden attack frightened them all. In this hue and cry, and pandemonium created by this unexpected event, he was knocked down in a deep cave where he felt unconscious

When he recovered consciousness it was dark. Frightened and shocked young man started his journey back, but instead went further into the opposite direction. One Muslim family, after listening to his story, provided shelter to him. They looked after him and asked him to stay there until it was safe to go back, and for this they had to find some trustworthy people.

On this side of the border, after "successful operation" and assuming his death, the group in question went crying to his house and told the parents that their son has embraced martyrdom. As it happens on these occasions the family was in a state of shock. Anyhow the unfortunate family had to go through this unexplainable torture and pain. After "Ghaibana Nimaz e Jinaaza" (a funeral service in absentia), the commanders of the group handed 50,000 rupees to the family, some kind of compensation, and went away. Of course they had already secured their 200,000 rupees per head.

Four weeks after this event, the parents of this student receive a letter from him who explained the whole situation. Poor parents spoke to a wise man of the village who told them to keep quiet because if this "mafia" people found out they will kill him. The young student, after great difficulties, managed to come back. He is in hiding now because this "mafia" will kill him.

This was shocking to me. I could not believe that anyone could do that. The journalist concerned asked me to keep his name secret. When he told me this story I was not alone, and I have no reason to believe that what he told was untrue. He genuinely looked concerned about the whole affair. I feel very strongly about this, and take it as my duty -a Jehad - to expose all those individuals and groups who are using noble name of Jehad and the Kashmiri struggle to further their agendas.

I know after writing this I am inviting wrath of powerful forces, and should not expect any mercy or bouquet of flowers. No matter what people call me, and what they do to me, I take it as a duty to fight these evil men who are giving bad name to Jehad and the Kashmiri struggle. My Islamic teaching tells me that speaking truth, especially when confronted with powerful people, is the biggest Jehad, and I will continue this irrespective of its outcome.

9. Anti Pakistan

The phrase "anti Pakistan" has been used very successfully by Pakistani officials for many decades. It is generally used against those individuals and groups who are political opponents of governments and establishment. This phrase is as old as Pakistan, and despite its indiscriminate and too frequent use, it is still a very potent weapon in the armoury of the establishment.

I was first called "anti Pakistan" in mid 1970s when I wrote an article and criticised Pakistan's Kashmir policy. Since then different individuals and groups have frequently used this phrase against me. Of course I am not alone against whom this weapon has been used.

Apart from this two more phrases are regularly used against different people: "anti Islam" and "Indian agent". It is amazing that some of the leaders against whom these phrases had been used, later became Ministers, Governors and even Prime Ministers of Pakistan. Members of the same establishment that made allegations, saluted them, and when they were out of Office, made more allegations.

In other words it is in the political culture of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir to label political opponents with one of these phrases. The purpose, as always has been, is to intimidate people that they give up what they are doing and fall in line with the official policy. If they persist with their own thinking and policies then create hostile environment around them that ordinary people look at them with some scepticism.

My host, Aslam Sahib arranged a number of meetings for me during my stay in Islamabad. In one such meeting which was attended by some retired members of the establishment, I had to make a case for an independent Kashmir. Also I had to persuade the audience that an independent Kashmir was not a ploy of America, India or Israel; and that it was in the best interest of Pakistan as well, as it would provide peace, stability and prosperity in the region. And in doing so it will help Pakistan to overcome some of the serious problems faced by Pakistani society.

In this meeting of Kashmiri and Pakistani notables, I also had to "prove" that I was not anti Pakistan". Outline of my conversation was as follows:

Kashmir is not a religious dispute
It is not a territorial dispute
It is not against the Two Nations Theory as it was not applicable to the Princely States
Independent Kashmir is not against Pakistan or Pakistani interests
Mohammed Ali Jinnah supported the concept of an independent Kashmir in his interviews
UN resolutions limit Kashmiri peoples choice; and in any case are not applicable now
Pakistan's stand on Kashmir has not helped either the Kashmir cause or Pakistan, so there is need to make changes in light of new ground realities
Pakistan has serious economic and domestic problems and cannot continue with the status-quo
Kashmiris cannot continue with the status-quo
Future of South Asia is linked with the resolution of Kashmir problem

On personal question of being "anti Pakistan" I said:

· To me "anti Pakistan" is someone who does not believe in the State of Pakistan
· Someone who is working to destroy territorial integrity of Pakistan
· Someone who is working against stability, prosperity and integrity of Pakistan

And I don't fall in any of the above categories. I strongly believe in stability, prosperity and integrity of Pakistan. I have never opposed the State of Pakistan and have never done anything which could harm stability, prosperity and integrity of Pakistan.

If a Pakistani criticise a policy of Pakistani government it is taken as anti government statement, even if he/she requests foreign donor countries to stop aid for Pakistan, which surely will damage Pakistan's economic viability, prosperity and stability. But if we Kashmiris criticise Pakistan's policy on Kashmir, it is straight away termed as "anti Pakistan" statement. It is unfortunate to note that even educated and politically matured people also have same approach to the above.

I am not even anti government policies. Who governs Pakistan it is for the people of Pakistan to decide. It is for the people of Pakistan to oppose or support policies of various Pakistani governments. I only oppose those policies which are related to Kashmir, and which harm the Kashmiri struggle and greatly affect the people of Kashmir. This is my ideology and policy, and whether I am liked or disliked because of this, I stand by it. I do not expect you to agree with me on every point, but I do expect you to believe that this policy and ideology is based on sincerity and dedication.

Of course there was a lot of discussion around the points I made, and sometimes it got heated up as well, but it helped us all to understand each other's point of view. I can't claim that I persuaded my audience, but I endeavored to present JKLF perspective to the best of my ability. Aslam Sahib told me afterwards that I made a good case for an independent Kashmir, and that I was logical, persuasive and confident. He further said with a smile that I have made some friends in the audience.

10. Meetings in Mirpur

Mirpur is not only famous for its beautiful buildings and Mangla Dam, but it is also famous for its contribution to the Kashmiri struggle, especially it has made a valuable contribution to the ideology of an independent Kashmir.

Kashmiri nationalist leaders and thinkers like Abdul Khaliq Ansari Advocate and GM Mir, who have made a great contribution to the Kashmir literature and to the ideology of an independent Kashmir, are from Mirpur. No doubt they are one of the pioneers of the Kashmiri struggle for unification and independence.

Second generation of nationalist Kashmiri leaders like Afzal Jatalvi, Zubbair Ansari, Mirza Saddeeq, Sabir Ansari, Ashfaq Ansari, Khawaja Pervaiz, Choudhry Sideeque, Barrister Qurban Hussain, Azmat Khan, Azeem Dutt, Jabbar Butt, Nazir Nazish, Younis Triabi and many others (who could not be named because of space) are also from Mirpur. In other words Mirpur has always been hot bed for Kashmiri nationalism.

When going in Islamabad was not going well I went to my village (Pajeri) which was also part of Mirpur district at one time. It surprised me that on this occasion, even village people were talking of Kashmiri nationalism. On my previous visits to village, these people always talked of themselves as Pakistanis, and those who had more political maturity knew that Azad Kashmir was separate, but wanted its accession with Pakistan.

During this visit (which I made after four years) there was talk of APHC delegation and what Ghani Lone Sahib said in Muzaffarabad. Some openly said, now we know that Pakistan has also exploited us, and we are not 'Azad'. We must have our own government, independent of both India and Pakistan.

At first I thought they were only having fun, as they knew I believe in an independent Kashmir, but after some probe into it I realised that they were serious. It was a pleasant surprise to me. People of this area were more interested in politics of tribalism (Biradris- Raja v Choudhris) I thought, at least, there would be some people who will talk of nationalist politics, and would abandon politics of biradries.

In Mirpur I contacted Khawaja Pervaiz, Senior Vice President of JKLF, and went to see him. Soon he called other people and there were senior JKLF members to see me in the JKLF office. Among these people were Sabir Ansari, Ashfaq Ansari, Adnan Raja, Rehan Farooq, Sajid Rahim and Aftab Ahmed.

I gave them briefing of my visit to Srinagar, and details of my meetings with different JKLF leaders. Also I told them about the Delhi Conference and what happened there. I gave them a copy of my speech there that they also know what I said there, and do not fall into a trap of my political adversaries.

They in turn briefed me about the situation in Azad Kashmir, especially about All Parties National Alliance. Also they told me some of the organizational problems face by them. Of course I discussed problems which I thought were crucial to the future strategy of JKLF. Very soon it was realised that we were speaking to each other on same wavelength. We all agreed on the problems of the organisation and what had to be done.

We all agreed that when APHC delegation arrives in Islamabad, we must emphasis to them that they should visit different towns in Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit and Baltistan. If other members of the delegation, for some reason, decline to go there, at least, Yasin Sahib must visit these areas. A visit to Gilgit and Baltistan is must, otherwise people of these areas would feel neglected, and that would be detrimental to Kashmiri nationalism.

It was clearly felt that all our efforts were not concentrated on unification and independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It was strongly felt that some senior members did not care for human rights issues in Azad Kasahmir and Gilgit and Baltistan; and never in public talked of independence of these areas. It was becoming increasingly clear that some people had different agenda, and Kashmiri nationalism was not closer to their hearts. It was agreed that we must work together to assert the JKLF ideology and must not give way to political expediency.

We decided to fight back at every level in defence of united and independent Kashmir, and agreed on a line of action. It was agreed that I should hold a press conference in Mirpur to send a clear signal to all concerned that we would not compromise on ideology of united and independent Kashmir. The JKLF Mirpur unit boosted my confidence and enhanced my courage and determination to continue the fight in defence of our ideology.

We also agreed that APHC should not be given free hand to decide future of Kashmir, as it is not representative body of all Kashmiris. At best it could be called most dominant political platform, but it did not represent people of Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan on this side of LOC, and people of Jammu, Ladakh and non-Muslims of the State. It was agreed that any decision taken by APHC, which could lead to division of the State, must be opposed, as unitary status of Kashmir must be maintained. We thought APHC must take people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan in to confidence, and people of this region must be part of future dialogue on Kashmir.

I was impressed with their political maturity, dedication and their approach to nationalist politics. I said to myself that if everything else goes wrong and people make compromises on their ideology, at least this could be the last line of defence to protect and assert the ideology of united and independent Kashmir.

11. Back in Islamabad

I agreed with them on a date and time for a press conference, and left for Islamabad where I had other meetings to attend. People involved in 007 activities were anxious to find out more about my activities. When they learnt that I have had meetings with some foreign diplomats and other notable people, it really disturbed them. In disbelief and anger it was commented that it is not possible. Shabir Choudhry, Azad Kashmiri leader could not have this much importance that he meets diplomats and notable people in Islamabad.

This comment was made with this knowledge that Kashmiris in Islamabad attend diplomatic meetings with some kind of "official patronage". Whether APHC members or Azad Kashmir government and leaders attend these meetings, "officials" make arrangements and they brief them what to say as well. What these people didn't know was that I had my own contacts in diplomatic circles; and that I enjoyed political and diplomatic support at various levels.

When this was communicated to me it perturbed me as well. I thought we were nationalists, and I was President of a nationalist organisation, not an Azad Kashmiri leader. " I will fight back", I said to myself, and decided to hold more meetings to demonstrate that I have my own standing and importance; and that I don't need a certificate or permission from anyone to carryout my duty as a nationalist leader.

I am one of those who helped to lay down foundations of the JKLF and through out my adult life have worked to project and defend the ideology of united and independent Kashmir. Therefore I don't need any lectures on the JKLF ideology, especially from those who discovered Kashmir only in 1990s.

When I explained the situation to my host, Aslam Sahib who had been of great help to me throughout the visit, and expressed my desire to meet more people. He asked me to think again as, in his opinion; this fight back might have negative affect on me in future. I told him that I have made up my mind, and I will do everything possible to project and defend my ideology. As for consequences, in worst scenario, as a result of connivance and manipulation I could be expelled from the JKLF. But I will fight my corner as long as possible, and would not tolerate "Sarkari hat" on the head of the JKLF.

Anyhow Aslam Sahib managed to get an invitation to attend a diplomatic function at the Australian High Commissioners residence. It was Australia Day Reception, to celebrate the centenary of Australia's Federation 1901-2001. The invitation was in my name, and this was to prove that there was no 'bar" on "Azad Kashmiri leader" to move around in diplomatic circles.
Only problem was the clash of programmes. My press conference in Mirpur was on the same day, and after addressing it there was no chance of me reaching Islamabad on time. After consulting Aslam Sahib and other colleagues, I decided to cancel the press conference in Mirpur, but I thought the Mirpur unit might feel offended, so I personally went there to explain the importance of this.

The Mirpur unit had already made arrangements for the Press conference, and invited many political figures of Mirpur to have dinner with me. I was impressed with their efficiency and arrangements. When I explained the situation to them, they accepted my apology and encouraged me to hold more diplomatic meetings.

It was my second meeting with Khawaja Pervaiz, but I had known Sabir Ansari and Ashfaq Ansari for two decades. They were all aware of my role and dedication, and assured me of their full support in this 'fight back', as it was not my personal fight. We were all together in this fight to defend our ideology, and assert JKLF that it could play its role to lead the Kashmiri nation to unification and independence.

12. Dr Ghulam Hussain

Dr Guhlam Hussain, no doubt, is one of the most honest and talented Pakistani politicians. He was General Secretary of Pakistan Peoples Party at the time of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and was a minister in his Cabinet. He is still a General Secretary of one faction of PPP (Ghinwa Bhutto Group), and plays a leading role in providing and maintaining intellectual directions of disarrayed opposition.

I first met him through my friend Aslam Sahib in London, who asked me to brief Dr Sahib on the current situation in Kashmir. Later on Dr Sahib spoke to me on phone and very frankly said, "Shabir Sahib we would like you to lecture us on Kashmir". At first I thought he said this sarcastically, but after talking to him I realised that he was serious, and genuinely wanted to know more about Kashmir.

When I met him it was he who impressed me immensely. His candid and friendly approach helped me to feel comfortable in presence of notable people there. His honesty and frankness is the main feature of his character. In summary, he said to me:

"Shabir Sahib our knowledge of the Kashmir dispute is not comprehensive. I only know what I was officially briefed, and that only explains about Pakistani stand on Kashmir, of course determined by Pakistan's national interest. I never had enough time to look into the Kashmir dispute in detail or look at it from another perspective. I hope that you will be able to fill in this gap and enlighten us on the issue of Kashmir. I like to understand what is Kashmir problem, and why is it not resolved up till now, and what is way forward. I want the Kashmir issue to be resolved and resolved soon that Pakistan could concentrate on other grave problems it is faced with."

As noted earlier I was impressed with his honesty, friendly approach, and willingness to listen to other perspectives on Kashmir. I began my conversation in a lecture form, and explained the following points:
· Situation of Kashmir under the British Raj
· Pakistan Resolution (which did not demand inclusion of Princely States)
· Partition Plan, Cabinet Mission Memorandum, Mountbatten's Statement on the status of Princely States, Jinnah's Statement on Kashmir, 3rd June (1947) Statement and Indian Independence Act
· War in Kashmir and the UN Resolutions and why they were not implemented
· Difference between Shimla Pact and UN Resolutions
· Present Struggle and its implications
· Way forward.

During my presentation he listened to me very carefully, and from time to time, asked questions. Other people present there also listened patiently, and when I finished, he commented:

Now I know what is Kashmir problem, and how it should be resolved. He further said, now I understand why you people ask for a united and independent Kashmir, I think that is the only solution which satisfies all the parties to the dispute, and provide stability, prosperity and peace to the region.

I was flattered by his comments, but I still asked him a blunt question. Dr Sahib now that you know what Kashmir dispute is, are you going to support us outside as well or just in this room. He didn't like me asking this, but as a gentleman he listened and very calmly and confidently said:

"Choudhry Sahib you have asked me this question because you don't know me. Those who know me also know that I always speak my mind, and for this I have got into hot water more than once. If you want to see what I say in public on Kashmir, come to a public meeting which has been arranged for next Sunday in Walthamstow".

Anyhow the following Sunday, Dr Sahib said exactly what he promised. Very explicitly and confidently he spoke on the issue of Kashmir, and supported the Kashmiris peoples unfettered right of self-determination. He said it is for the people of Kashmir to decide what should be future of the State. If they want independent Kashmir they should be supported in this as it could provide peace, stability and prosperity to the region.

This further enhanced his respect in my heart, and since that we are friends, in fact, I am proud that among notable Pakistani politicians, I have a friend like Dr Ghulam Hussain. Whenever he is in London, he very kindly calls on me and we exchange views on politics of Kashmir and Pakistan. We have met many times, and each time his honesty, dedication and care for people have impressed me.

Now that I was in Islamabad, my first visit since becoming friends, I decided to call on him. He was pleased to hear that I was in Islamabad. Aslam Sahib and I went to see him at his residence. Since our last meeting he had grown beard and this enhanced his personality. He warmly welcomed us. While taking seat I joked, Dr Sahib so you have also become a "fundamentalist".

We stayed there for more than two hours and Dr Sahib obliged us with his hospitality. As usual we discussed political situation in Pakistan and its impact on Kashmir and South Asia. I noticed Dr Sahib was not impressed with performance of the present Military government. He said, hopes of people are once again dashed; people are frustrated and disillusioned. The government has failed to deliver, if anything, situation is fast deteriorating. He asserted that only some kind of Islamic revolution could solve our problems. Everything else has been tried and tested, and each experiment has made the situation worse.

When I said that with rise of Islamic extremism, liberal society of Pakistan is already under great strain and there is serious threat to it. The record of Islamic parties is not something to be proud of. Time and again they have let people down, and if anything, they have added to the problems of Pakistani society. In view of this how could you advocate this "Islamic revolution", and who would take lead and solve ills of society.

This time Dr Sahib demonstrated his knowledge of Islam and carefully analysed the situation. He agreed with me about the rise of sectarian politics and role of Islamic parties in that. But he still believed that there are sincere people who want to solve all problems of Pakistan and for this they want to bring about Islamic revolution. These people are sincere and dedicated to their cause and have no other motives. He kindly gave me a "Tafseer e Qur'an" written by Mollana Akram Awan, for whom he had great respect and admiration. (I have found his work very informative and well written, and I will request Dr Sahib to send me full set of his work on interpretation of Qur'an).

Dr Sahib believed that time was ripe for this revolution; otherwise there could be mob violence and civil war which would destroy fabrics of Pakistani civil society. When I asked him time scale for all this, he said, "It is matter of months. It has to happen. Things cannot continue like this for too long".

Aslam Sahib and I looked at each other after his comments, because today he was second thinking person who said this. The other person, though has nothing to do with politics, but is endowed with wisdom and vision to predict future events.

Dr Sahib agreed that the Kashmir dispute has to be resolved before we can start tackling grave problems facing Pakistan. How could we continue to spend so much on defence when we don't have sufficient income even to pay installments of national debt? If there is no money to pay off national debt, then how could we spend on development? How could we alleviate poverty and educate people? There are millions of people who have no access to clean drinking water, and two meals a day, and we have no resources to help them because of defence and debt commitments.

This means that we have to change our priorities and reduce our defence obligations, and this could not be done when the Kashmir issue is unresolved, and there is a state of war on the borders. There could be no military solution to the Kashmir dispute, he further asserted. We have to resolve it by a process of dialogue, and we have to take the people of Kashmir in to confidence to make progress on this.

I briefed him on the latest situation in Kashmir and the unilateral cease - fire (if it could be called one) in Kashmir. I also briefed him about my visit to Srinagar, and what I observed there. He asked me about the peace conference I attended in New Delhi, a conference that was part of track- two diplomacy. I also told him about pros and cons of the proposed APHC visit to Islamabad, and what were obstacles in the way of the visit. He sincerely hoped that common sense prevailed and all three parties could sit down to resolve the issue which is holding back the progress of South Asia.

Meetings with Dr Ghulam Hussain are always informative and thought provoking, and this one was also very useful. It was interesting to note that even liberal and enlightened person like Dr Sahib had to put his faith in Islamic revolution to resolve problems of Pakistan. I wanted to ask him what he meant by Islamic revolution, and if he believed in some kind of "Talibanisation" of Pakistan. I am sure he could have provided appropriate and comprehensive response, but due to time constraint I left it for the next meeting, which never took place. He wanted to hold a meeting and dinner in my honour, after his return from Karachi, but due to clash in our commitments and programmes it never materialized.

13. Meeting with an 'advisor'

During my stay in Islamabad, especially up till 20 January, it was widely believed that APHC delegation would visit Pakistan. Anyone with some interest in politics and Kashmir was talking about it, and had plans and ideas about their visit and what they should do once they are here.

I was also one of those who believed that India would allow them to visit Pakistan. It was also in India's interest to allow the delegation to proceed, especially if they wanted to make some sense out of their unilateral cease-fire. It was clear that all the parties to the dispute had pressure to make some progress on Kashmir; but at the same time they wanted to test each other's stamina and nerve. I thought after testing each other's tactics and stamina, India would allow them the delegation to visit Islamabad.

At the time when news of their arrival was still in air, and different groups and departments were busy making preparations for the visit, I had an opportunity to meet a very important person who had an assignment on this visit. I cannot name the person concerned for confidentiality reasons, but his assignment was to advise Chief Executive and his team on Kashmir. What should be the strategy? How to deal with the delegation? What could be the likely outcome of the visit, and how far should Pakistan go during talks etc?

When the gentleman concerned heard that I was in Islamabad, even though at that time not many people knew about my presence, he wished to see me. This was God given opportunity to me to influence those who were endowed with responsibility of advising Pakistani rulers, so I made full use of this. I had a number of meetings with him and explained the Kashmir dispute from a nationalist point of view. I analysed the Pakistani policy on Kashmir from 1947, and told what mistakes Pakistani policy makers have been making in the past. I thoroughly analysed the current militancy, its impact on Kashmiri society, India and Pakistan. I also explained affects of "Islamisation" of the Kashmiri struggle, and how the world community perceives this militancy.

I told him that by projecting the struggle as Islamic, and "waging Jehad against infidels", we are providing a propaganda stick in the hands of Indian government to tell the world that it is not a Kashmiri struggle. It is "Islamic fundamentalists" who are creating problem, and their agenda is not limited to Kashmir only; therefore they must be opposed and stopped. Apart from that, this slogan frightens off the non- Muslims of the State; anyone with some knowledge and understanding of Kashmir could tell that it would pave the division of Kashmir on communal lines, hence creating more problems for Kashmiris and Muslims of India.

He acknowledged points made by me, but the question was how to control these groups who are using religious sentiments of the people. It is not possible for government to control this without endangering its existence, and causing widespread unrest in Pakistan. But the question is, I asked, if extremists are not checked now, then how long it would be before civil society of Pakistan crumbles?

He agreed that all three parties were paying a price for this struggle, but it was difficult for Pakistan to abandon its traditional stand. I explained that Pakistani governments have shifted their stand on Kashmir more than once. In 1947/48 Pakistan wanted whole of the State, safely put it in a cold storage after mid 1950s, but in 1962/3, Pakistani government was prepared to settle for a division and negotiated with India. The proposed division was only avoided because terms offered by India did not meet Pakistan's demand and expectations.

After war of 1965, Pakistan signed the Tashkant Pact, practically taking Kashmir away from the UN and its resolutions. After war of 1971, Pakistani government shifted its policy again, and signed The Shimla Pact which is contrary to the UN resolutions. After this Kashmir was put in the cold storage again. Even loss of Siachin to India, a Kashmiri territory, did not matter too much at that time and that is why it was commented, what if we have lost Siachin even "grass doesn't grow there". Policy changed again in late 1980s, many twists and turns were witnessed during 1990s until we reached the Lahore Declaration.

The gentleman did not agree with all of my observations but agreed that Pakistani policy had been inconsistent. Anyhow I tried to persuade him that Pakistan has to accept ground reality. Kashmir cannot be resolved on the bases of UN resolutions, and use of force alone could not produce solution either. The issue could be resolved through a process of dialogue, and for that Pakistan has to take initiative and win confidence of the Kashmiri people by accepting them as a party at the negotiating table. By saying, as previous governments have said, that the issue has to be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan, goodwill feelings are not created in minds and hearts of the Kashmiri people.

I further said that all three parties to the dispute in their own way are paying a price for the continuing struggle in Kashmir. One could debate who has paid the highest price, but in my opinion, it is the weakest party who pays the biggest price; and Kashmiris being the weakest party in this struggle for control over Kashmir, have been the biggest sufferer.

I added that India and Pakistan being governments, and their price in the war being more in material than human, perhaps they could afford it, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for the people of Kashmir. We want peace, but we don't want peace at any cost. We want peace with dignity and honour, a peace which could lead to stability and prosperity in South Asia.

He asked me how to achieve peace when India is not prepared for talks, and has a large army there to kill people. India is not sincere and cannot be trusted. You can see India is not allowing APHC delegation to come to Islamabad. This peace is just a public relations stunt.

I said to him that I condemn India for wide scale human rights violations in Kashmir. There is no justification for judicial killings and rapes of women; no one can defend these atrocities. But India alone should not be accused for all the ills and problems related to the Kashmir dispute. Indian record on Kashmir is bad, but if we keep on saying that India could not be trusted so there is no need to have dialogue, then how are we going to make progress and solve this issue.

Leaving interest of the Kashmiri people aside for a moment, for the sake of Pakistan and South Asia there is need of peace and stability. How could there be peace when the Kashmir issue is unresolved, and none of the parties to the dispute is in a position to dictate military terms, and enforce solution. India has tried to crush the movement by using all the tricks in its armoury, and has not been successful. Militants can create problems for India, keep India occupied and even keep India bleeding, but they are not in a position to drive the Indian forces out of Kashmir. And Pakistan is not in a position to send her forces to liberate Kashmir.

We cannot continue with the status quo, then question is how to more forward? And that is where we have to trust each other by having confidence building measures, and resolve the issue through a process of dialogue; but Kashmiris must be part of the process.

He asked me many questions about political standings of various Kashmiri leaders, and morale of the people and their thinking. He wanted to know how popular were APHC and what standing Gilani Sahib and other leaders had. He was very keen to know more about Yasin Malik, and my meetings with him and other Kashmiris. Also he was very much interested in my visit to New Delhi and the Peace conference I went to attend.

A number of questions were related to Shabir Shah. Why is he out of APHC, and how to get him back in APHC? His questions indicated to me what the government of Pakistan had in mind, and I answered the questions, and anlysed the situation as a scholar and a writer on Kashmir. It is debatable how much of my briefing he would include in his advice to the government and how much attention they would give to this advice, but as a Kashmiri nationalist I made full use of this opportunity. I was pleased that as a Kashmiri nationalist I did my duty to best of my ability.

He acknowledged to a friend, who introduced us that he has learnt a great deal from these meetings. He said Choudhry Sahib has given me a completely new perspective and run down on the history and the current situation which was not visible to me where I was standing. He added that, " Now I am better equipped to prepare a briefing for the government".

14. Mr and Mrs Amanullah Khan

I have known Mr Amanullah Khan since 1976, and Bhabi Sahiba since 1984. With Amanullah Khan, as people know, I have differences over political matters. These differences sometimes come into open, but there is a bottom line beyond which we would not go. In other words, as educated and cultured individuals, we differed with each other on issues, but still have some level of mutual respect.

As for Mrs Amanullah Khan, I first met her in 1985, and have a great respect for her since that. To me she is one of those women who have wisdom, loyalty, strength of character and above all respect for others. She may have differences with Mr Amanullah Khan's way of life and his politics, but she respects what he does and provides him moral support.

Her respect and care for what Mr Amanullah Khan does was noticed at the time when Mr Amanullah Khan had lung cancer. I was General Secretary of undivided JKLF at that time, and late Afzal Jatalvi Sahib was President, and we were told that we could have last meeting with him before the operation. Of course we were very concerned and feared that he might not recover from the operation. Similarly, Baji, as I called Mrs Amanullah Khan, was extremely worried and as soon as she heard about the last meeting before the operation, she requested Malik Shaffi to take her and Asima to the prison.

Baji reached the prison before us and, after finding out that there could only be one visit, and if she had used that visit that meant we could not have met him to discuss organisational matters, she decided to wait for us. It was feared that Mr Amanullah Khan might not recover from the lung operation affected with cancer; and an ordinary woman would think that he is my husband and father of Asima therefore we should meet him. As a wife she might have had to discuss many issues with him. And as a daughter, Asima might have had many things in her mind, and wanted to see her father. It must be noted that this meeting could have been the last one, and yet they decided to wait, as they wanted the party leaders to come and decide.

This clearly shows her respect and love for what Mr Amanullah Khan was doing, and gave priority to his political colleagues. This one thing alone enhanced my respect and admiration for her sentiments. During our conversation outside the prison, she said, "Shabir Sahib, God forbid if something happens to Khan Sahib, you will get another leader, but my Asima will not get another father".

I tried to comfort her by saying that Inshalla nothing will happen, and I added, "Baji I may have differences with Mr Amanullah Khan in future, and we may have separate political ways, but I have called you a Baji, and you will always remain a Baji". I am glad that we still have this mutual respect for each other, despite serious political differences with Mr Amanullah Khan.

Baji asked me to speak to the prison authorities, if we could have two visits today. Earlier when Malik Shaffi asked, the prison officer refused. When I spoke to him his answer was same, and then I requested to see his boss. His boss said we could not allow this. It is against Prison laws. Only one-hour visit a day is allowed. Anyhow after some discussion he kindly agreed to split the time between us, although he agreed but technically this was not one visit.

Credit goes to Mr Amanullah Khan as well that for his last meeting before the operation, he wanted to see his party leaders to discuss the future of the JKLF and the independence movement, and not his wife and only daughter. In the event of prison authorities refusal to allow two visits, he preferred to see his party leaders, and that shows what was closer to his heart.

At the time of Asima's wedding, Baji and Mr Amanullah Khan specially invited me to attend. I know there were hundreds of other people invited, but I had, apart from the card, a personal email message. Anyhow during my visit to Islamabad I had lengthy discussion with Baji and Asima. Baji even discussed some political issues with me as well. Asima also has a politically active mind, and had matured discussion on different issues with me on the phone.

Mr Amanullah Khan after hearing of my conversation with Baji and Asima phoned me. After some customary exchanges we talked on political issues. He invited me to come to his office, which I declined. I invited him to my place, he did not refuse but said that he was busy and had meetings with some important people. He said he might be able to come tomorrow. Anyhow we did not meet but had detailed discussion on political issues.

The summary of discussion is as follows:

He appreciated some of my recent articles and booklets which projected the JKLF ideology and presented the Kashmir cause in its right perspective. I thanked him for his encouragement and asked him how he was doing politically. As expected he gave a rosy picture of his activities, and accused JKLF headed by Yasin Malik as a "Sarkari JKLF".

It was not the first time I had to face this, so I strongly objected, and said a minute before you were praising my stand and work, and now you are saying that we are "Sarkari JKLF". He laughed and said, "Choudhry Sahib you are not JKLF. May be you are the only senior person taking this stand, and it looks that others have compromised. Yasin Malik is in APHC, even though it is working against JKLF ideology. The only reason he is there is because of material benefits he and his group receives".

I stopped him there and said, "Aman Sahib, it is unfair. It was not Yasin Malik who took JKLF to APHC. When you were JKLF Chairman you were also part of this platform, and if there are any material gains to be made then you were also getting that. You are complaining now because you are not part of it".

He said "Shabir Sahib situation has changed, it is not the same APHC which we were part of in 1995. It has become more commercial and has moved away towards accession of the State with Pakistan. In any case APHC and your JKLF does not believe in united Kashmir". He continued and said, "If Yasin Malik and his group had abandoned armed struggle, and now only concentrates on political and diplomatic struggle; and then question is what is Rafiq Dar doing in Jehad Council? He sits there as a Commander in Chief, and receives x amount (he told me a figure). If Yasin has abandoned armed struggle then what is Rafiq Dar Commander in Chief of - a Commander who has nothing to command, but only receives a lump sum every month. Similarly Altaf Qadri, he continued, receives x amount every month (again he quoted a figure). For this monthly lump sum what services do they provide to Pakistan? After his marriage he is getting allowance for his wife as well, as if he was a member of Pakistani establishment."

I tried to defend this and said these people who have crossed over from Indian held Kashmir have to make their living, and cannot live on fresh air. As they are full time political workers they should receive something to make both ends meet. I asked him how does he know these figures? It shows that you are also part of something. In any case I am responsible for what I do, and I am presenting JKLF and its ideology in its right perspective without any fear of repercussions. You must have seen reports of my press conference; I even criticized APHC as well.

He said he has seen reports of the press conference, and is pleased that there is someone to present the JKLF ideology. I am surprised that what you say is tolerated, but if you continued with this stand and tone then you will soon pay a price. A part of reason why you get away with is that you do not write in JKLF name, even then you will face consequences.

Anyhow this conversation went on in circles both criticising each other and defending JKLF we respectively belonged to. I told him that before the split his people were represented in APHC, and they received what ever was given, and perhaps you are looking for an opportunity that we get out and you get in. He strongly denied that and said he would not be part of any platform which compromises his ideology.

In 1996 during my visit to Islamabad I had a lengthy one to one meeting with Mr Amanullah Khan, and he said that Yasin Malik does not believe in a united and independent Kashmir. I laughed and said as long as he was with you and accepted you as a JKLF Chairman, his ideology was okay, now that he has abandoned you and has become a Chairman himself you find ideological shift in him.

He said Shabir Sahib one day you will find that I was not wrong in this. These people have completely different agenda and you will find out when it would be too late. During this conversation I talked to him about unity of the organization. He wanted to know terms of this and I said JKLF Head Office has gone to Srinagar, that cannot come back and Yasin Malik has become a Chairman, and this cannot change. If you agree with this change, I said to him, then you would get your due respect and position of a fatherly figure like Imam Khomeni and Altaf Hussain.

Of course he didn't agree to this, he had his own pride and reasons for not accepting it. Other people also tried to work out some kind of compromise to have unity in the JKLF, but it did not work as in one organisation there could only be one Chairman. And if a concept of two Chairmen, as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto introduced a concept of two Prime Ministers for Pakistan, then that generally leads to a division, like it happened in Pakistan, and Bangladesh emerged out of the conflict. And even now in 2001, the JKLF remains divided with more than one Chairman; I sincerely hope that the JKLF is reunited.

15. British diplomat

Whenever I am in Islamabad I always try to meet the British and the American diplomats to discuss various issues. During my last visit to Islamabad in 1996, I had three meetings with the American diplomats, and it showed how much interest they have in South Asia and Kashmir. I feel they sincerely want the Kashmir issue to be resolved peacefully. They believe there is no military solution to the conflict and if one were imposed it would not be permanent.

I agree with them on this and feel that the Kashmir dispute has to be resolved by a process of dialogue with all the parties present around the table. However I view with scepticism, success of any dialogue that is bilateral in nature. History of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan is nothing to be proud of, and I feel there is role for a third party, whether we call it a mediator or facilitator.

During my recent visit I decided to meet the British diplomat first. My friends in South Asia Department in Foreign and Commonwealth Office had already informed them of my arrival. As soon as I spoke to Nicholas Cannon, First Secretary Political, he was very friendly and we agreed time and date to meet each other.

On the agreed day he was waiting for me and we had lengthy discussion on Kashmir and future of South Asia. I stayed there for about 90 minutes and we had detailed discussion on many aspects of the Kashmiri movement. I found Nicholas Cannon very decent person with in-depth knowledge on the area. It may not be appropriate to go into details of our discussion but I confess I found the meeting very informative and fruitful.

16. Greek Ambassador

I also had a meeting with His Excellency Dimitri Loundras, Ambassadors of Greece. Mr Mohammed Aslam, Chief editor of Monthly Liberty International, was also present during the meeting. I said to His Excellency:

Kashmir dispute is not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan; and nor it is a religious issue. It is not a war of one religion against the other. People of Kashmir are fighting for unification and independence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmir is a multi religious and multi ethnic state; therefore we cannot have any solution based on religious lines, as it would destroy social fabrics of the Kasahmiri society. Any solution based on religious lines would ultimately lead to a division of the State, and would have far reaching consequences for peace and stability of South Asia.

There are groups and individuals who are using religious and sectarian card to further their political and personal agenda. People who are advocating extremism are not only damaging prospects of peace and stability in South Asia, but they are also damaging the Kashmir cause as it helps India to portray the Kashmiri struggle as "Islamic fundamentalism". This outside element or "guest militant's" presence has changed the nature of the Kashmiri struggle, and has clearly tried to divide the Kashmiri society on religious and ethnic lines.

I concluded by requesting His Excellency to support the Kashmiri peoples right of self-determination. International community, I said, has an important role to play in resolving the Kashmir problem, if the present situation continues then there is a serious threat of a full-scale war in the Sub -Continent which could well be a nuclear war.

His Excellency, Dimitri Loundras, said:
Greek government has always supported peaceful resolution of disputes. Those who seek military solution to political disputes are wrong and are out of step with international trend. We strongly advise the concerned parties to resolve the Kashmir issue by a process of dialogue. We are totally against human rights violations no matter where they take place. We believe it is for the people of Kashmir to decide their future.

His Excellency, Dimitri Loundras, further said that extremist groups and their activities are not helping to create the required environment that talks for peace could begin. But he agreed with me that both governments should also take certain confidence building measures that appropriate environment is created to move forward. Militants could only be persuaded to participate in the peace process once they are assured that it is a serious effort and that it is not a ploy to impress the international community, or drive a wedge between the Kashmiri and militant groups.

18. Other diplomatic meetings

I have given a summary of the meeting with the Greek Ambassador, because it is already published in the Liberty International, otherwise it is not a good practice to make public conversation held with diplomats. Perhaps it is prudent just to mention diplomats I met rather than what was discussed with them. During my visit I had an opportunity to meet and discuss matters relating to Kashmir and South Asia with the following diplomats: His Excellency Malcolm…, American Ambassador, Australian Ambassador, His Excellency H. C. Brown,
Ambassador of Nepal, His Excellency, Kumar P. Gyawali,
Volodymyr S. Ponmarenko, Charge d'Affair, from Embassy of Ukraine,
His Excellency Abdullah Falah Abdullah Al-Dosari Ambassador of Qatar,
Jim Aravanis, First Secretary of Australian High Commission,
His Excellency Musa Mola Ambassador of South Africa,
His Excellency Ambassador of Sudan,
His Excellency Ambassador of Thailand,
His Excellency Ambassador of Nigeria,
His Excellency Ambassador of Kenya and
United Nations Political Affairs Officer, Koichiro Tanaka.
Also I met French and some Australian diplomats.

19. Tahir Javed Rathore and Track Two Diplomacy

During my visit I also had a detailed meeting with NNI Special Correspondent Tahir Javed Rathore. Our discussion was on the role of Track Two Diplomacy, and future of the present struggle. He asked me what was discussed in the Peace Conference I attended in New Delhi and what was the outcome of this. I briefly told him that where normal diplomacy fails and has difficulties in making progress, Track Two Diplomacy helps to communicate and make headway.

Whereas conflicts are as old as human civilization, resolution of conflicts on the bases of scientific method of understanding and negotiations is new. In diplomacy (track one) parties to the dispute - government officials - stick to their declared stand and find it difficult to make concessions or look for alternatives. In Track Two Diplomacy former civil servants, former diplomats, former military officers, politicians academics etc. meet to discuss critical issues without official hats on their heads. They discuss and analyse the dispute and look at various options and possible way out. Since the participants have no official responsibility they can with ease look at various options and face saving devices for each other.

It is assumed that parties to dispute desire peaceful resolution of the dispute. It is only when both parties realise that status -quo is not in their national interest, and its cost is becoming unbearable, they seek to resolve dispute. Issues in Track Two Diplomacy are discussed in rather relaxed and controlled environment in workshops to consider various options to ease tension and possible resolution. This method helps to promote communication and dialogue.

Some research suggests that parties sometime reject packages merely because it came from perceived 'enemy', whereas if this package comes via a third party or from a joint seminar/workshop, then response is completely different. These workshops and seminars help to understand each others point of view better, and new ideas are generated which could be discussed and debated in various political circles to bring about more awareness. Outcome of this exercise is communicated to officials that could formulate policies in light of this.

Apart from the Track Two Diplomacy we discussed and analysed the present struggle. I explained to him that Pakistan has up till now pursued a policy which suited her national interests, and we have remained silent even though it did not suit aspirations of Kashmiri nationalist. Now we know that this policy has failed. United Nations Resolutions, though accept disputed nature of Kashmir, but practically do not offer a resolution. Even Pakistani officials know that ground reality has changed and United Nations Resolutions could not be implemented in present form.

Also we have travelled a long distance from time when the United Nations Resolutions were passed. Whether we accept it or not Shimla Pact and Lahore Declaration have superseded these Resolutions. If we look at statements of various Pakistani officials one can clearly tell that their emphasis is Shimla Pact and Lahore Declaration rather than United Nations Resolutions. And when they talk of United Nations Resolutions they only try to eye wash Pakistani and the Kashmiri people.

They know why these Resolutions were not implemented. No doubt India is committing human rights violations in Kashmir, and human rights violations no matter where they are taking place, must be condemned. But this does not mean that only India is to be blamed for non-implementation of the United Nations Resolutions. I explained in detail how Pakistan also refused to comply with parts of the resolution which asked her to withdraw her troops, regular and irregular and Pakistani national who do not reside in Kashmir.

Tahir Javed Rathore advised me to be careful with what I say, especially in Pakistan, as not all Pakistanis are liberal minded and they are not prepared to accept any criticism on Pakistan. Also he said Pakistan has paid a big price for Kashmir. I told him that this is not a criticism on Pakistan but rather criticism on a Kashmir policy of Pakistan, and as a Kashmiri - a member of the suffering community - I have every right to point out reasons of our prolonged suffering.

He said Kashmir dispute must be resolved if not for the Kashmiri people, but for the sake of Pakistan. Pakistan has deep problems and could not afford to shoulder its responsibilities for too long. For sake of peace, stability and prosperity of Pakistan the Kashmir dispute must be resolved and he agreed that there was no military solution to it.

He also was not in favour of rise of religious parties. He agreed with me that rise of extremism has inherent problems for Pakistan. Civil society of Pakistan may not be able to cope with this trend for too long. For peace and stability of Pakistan authorities have to take action to check fast growth of these groups.

I explained to him what damage was done to the Kashmiri struggle by introduction of these groups. I do not deny the role of gun in bringing out the Kashmir dispute from the cold storage. I also agree that you cannot negotiate from position of weakness, in other words I do not advocate any kind of surrender, but we need to give diplomacy a chance as well. If those responsible for launching these groups in Kashmir were totally sincere with the Kashmir cause and the Kashmiri people then they should have supported the Kashmiri militant groups, rather than introducing non - Kashmiri groups in Kashmir.
The presence of non-Kashmiri militants is helping India to project the Kashmiri struggle as "Islamic fundamentalist" and "foreign" in nature.
I said we appreciate the support and help of the people, and admire their sentiments, but this has changed character of the Kashmiri struggle. On international level we have to face difficult questions when trying to prove that it is indigenous struggle, even though it was Kashmiris who started it and we are the main suffering party.

Tahir Javed Rathore was pleased with some of points I made and promised me to present this conversation as a report for NNI. During the meeting Aslam Sahib was also present. From time to time he also participated in our discussion. Aslam Sahib asked him to present the report in positive way that nothing could be seen out of context. Rathore Sahib is a cultured and friendly person, and comes from a Kashmiri background. He assured us to put the report in best possible way that readers understand Choudhry Sahib's point of view clearly.

20. Akram Zaki

Akram Zaki is a known Pakistani diplomat who had high profile in the Foreign Office of Pakistan. In my meeting with him, of course he supported the policy of Pakistan government. I, on other hand, advocated an ideology of united and independent Kashmir. I said Pakistan had followed a policy on Kashmir for so long and we know it has not produced the desired results, and now it is time to look for something new. Pakistan needs to adopt a new policy which is conducive to prevailing ground realities.

I further said, Pakistan has many problems of her own and could not fight a war in Kashmir. History of bilateralism shows its failure to resolve the Kashmir issue, and UN resolutions have also not provided a solution. So what is left? Militancy have brought out the issue from the cold storage, but it cannot drive out the Indian troops; and it is debatable if Pakistan, with all her problems, could continue to shoulder all responsibilities associated with the struggle. So it is high time that Pakistani policy makers analyse the situation and formulate a realistic policy that leads to some solution and also satisfies aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

He asked me if India would change its policy on Kashmir, if they don't then why should we? It was a fair question. I said both countries need to change their policy on Kashmir, and there are signs that India is ready to look at alternatives. Pakistan also needs to look at alternatives which could lead to a solution acceptable to all three parties.

He agreed with me about the rise of Jehadi groups and possible threat they posed to the Pakistani society. I said if the Kashmir issue is resolved then it would be easy to control the activities of these groups. At present the Kashmiri struggle is going on, and people have emotional attachment with Kashmir; and when they read about human rights violations they get agitated and support the Jehadi groups. If Pakistan wants to control these groups and manage its economy properly then it should help to solve the Kashmir issue first.

We talked on different aspects of the Kashmiri struggle, and India Pakistan relations. As an experienced diplomat he gave me insight to some of his experience. He asked me what we did outside to support the Kashmiri struggle. He seemed to be impressed with the work of Dr GN Fai. He was the only Kashmiri leader working outside the State who came to his mind; likes of me did not register with him, although he had heard of JKLF and its ideology. He knew there was a considerable support for the JKLF ideology among the Kashmiris living in the West. He still believed that the majority of the Kashmiris would vote for Pakistan, and that is where their future lied.

21.Farah Zahra

Also I met Farah Zahra Senior research Fellow at Islamabad policy Research Institute. She is a smart and intelligent lady with clear and strong views on Kashmir. She thinks Kashmir should be part of Pakistan and that overwhelming majority of Kashmiris want to join Pakistan.

I tried to put forward a factual position as I saw it, and asked her if non- Muslims would like to join Pakistan. What attraction do they have in Pakistan? I said this policy of "getting Kashmir" would lead to a division of the State on religious lines and would have far reaching consequences for the region.

She is one of those Pakistanis who think they have made too many sacrifices for Kashmir, and have "fought three wars with India and have lost East Pakistan because of Kashmir". Some Pakistani brothers and sisters strongly feel that they have fought three wars for Kashmir and lost East Pakistan because of this. They do not for a minute think that there could be other reasons for fighting wars, especially the war of 1971; and there could be other reasons for losing East Pakistan. And these reasons have nothing to do with Kashmir or the Kashmiri struggle.

Anyhow we discussed the Kashmir problem from our own point of view and asked each other questions to ascertain validity of points raised during discussion. We exchanged cards and agreed to communicate with each other. I promised her to send some of my published books and booklets to familiarise her with Kashmiri nationalists' point of view.

22. Mian Mumtaz A Qazi

Mian Mumtaz lives in London and I have known for many years. He is very cultured and friendly person and treats me like a younger brother. He is not part of JKLF but firmly believes in united and independent Kashmir. Whenever I face a difficult political situation he is one of those outside JKLF I consult and seek advice from. He has always provided me honest and sincere advice, and always wishes me success.

Before I went to attend a Peace Conference in New Delhi, apart from other people, I also consulted him. He was clearly in favour of the trip. His view was that it is part of Track Two Diplomacy and not every Tom, Dick and Harry is invited to these conferences. You have been invited because of your contribution and political standing. More than half million Kashmiris live in Britain and only a few are invited to participate in this conference, this indicates importance you people have.

He further said this is God given opportunity that you people would be able to directly get your message across to those who matter. There are two countries that have control over Kashmiri territory and we are fighting to get Kashmir from both of them, then why is it all right to speak to people of one country and not the other? People wrongly think that it is proper to speak and have contacts with Pakistani leaders, politicians, officials and ordinary people but treachery to speak to any one from India. How could you persuade them that what they are doing in Kashmir is wrong and that we are not fighting for our freedom because someone else pushes us?

His view was that we have to communicate to people of both countries to get our message across to them. And if we only meet and keep our political association with people of Pakistan then we are giving wrong message not only to India but also to the international community.

That aside he is the one who published my book, Kashmiri Struggle: Role of Azad Kashmir Government. He worked hard to get the book out on time, but he did warn me about possible consequences of this. He said Choudhry Sahib this book could create many political problems for you. What you have written is based on facts but there would be many who would hate to know them, especially at this time when they only want to concentrate in Valley of Kashmir.

He further said those who are responsible for managing and controlling the Kashmiris struggle want to focus their attention on what goes on that side of the border. In their view matters related to Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are already settled, therefore they should be left alone. And anyone who dares to talk about these areas is asking for trouble, and you have raised some thorny questions and they won't like all this.

He said if you have courage and determination to face possible future challenges then go ahead, but let me remind you that you would be intimidated and pressurized as a result of this book. You may even face some silly allegations and trouble in your own ranks. Despite all this if you want to go ahead I am with you.

The book was published in Britain but launched in Geneva, by Honorable Gerald Kaufman on the occasion of NGO Conference on Self Determination in August 2000. When one nationalist Kashmiri Mumtaz Khan looked at the book he commented: Choudhry Sahib it looks that you don't want to be the President of JKLF for too long.

Anyhow when I went to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan Mian Mumtaz was already there. Due to financial constraints I still owed him five hundred pounds for the publication of the book. We met in Mirpur and had detailed discussion on the current situation of the Kashmiri struggle, and some of the problems faced by the Kashmiri freedom fighters.

At that time most common talk was related to the proposed visit of APHC leaders. Whereas I thought India would eventually allow the delegation to proceed around third week of January, Mian Sahib was of the opinion that this would not happen. He thought both governments were playing games with sentiments of the Kashmiri people. Both have agreed on division of the State and what we hear through media is just public relations exercise.

He said both governments in their own way are trying to frustrate the Kashmiri people, and are scientifically adopting such tactics that they, in frustration, accept a solution which does not offer unification and independence. He said both countries want Kashmir, if they can't have all of Kashmir then they will try to settle for whatever they have at present. They could, as a last resort, give more autonomy or greater autonomy, but would still like to keep some influence or control over the part they have.

I agreed with his analyses that this is what both governments would like to achieve, but important question was whether the Kashmiri people, after so many sacrifices, would agree to anything like that. Apart from that both governments have tremendous internal and external pressure to resolve the Kashmir dispute, so it is not all that easy for them to delay it for too long. But role of the Kashmiri parties is crucial in this. It is they who would determine future of the State and South Asia. If they give in to these pressure tactics and in frustration accept a solution that leads to division, then nothing could be done, but if they stick to their stated position - that the State is one political entity- then they would be the ultimate winners.

He laughed and said Choudhry Sahib don't be that naïve, you know strength and character of these leaders. They have their own interest to look after. I can't see much opposition to division if and when it comes, especially if the people of Valley are given some kind of independence, something better than what they had in the past. For whatever reason this struggle is limited to certain areas, and not all Kashmiris are part of this. I can't foresee a situation where people of Valley would refuse independence just because Kashmiris in other regions, for example Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan, are not part of this

There was some sense in what he was saying but as a nationalist leader I gave many arguments against this, and tried to persuade him that this would not happen. If Kashmir was divided then there would be no peace and stability in South Asia. Internal and external pressure to resolve the Kashmir dispute is mainly because business community, world community and multi nationals want peace and stability in the region. Division, no matter what form or shape it takes, has inherent recipe for future crises, chaos and destruction. And I concluded that Kashmiri nationalists would strongly oppose this.

He shook his head, and with smile on his face asked me which nationalists? How many groups are there in total? You won't even know exact number of JKLF factions. Are they not busy fighting each other, and calling each other agent of either ISI or RAW? Even within each faction there are internal fights and rivalries, and when this is state of affair in the ranks of so called nationalist then anything could happen.

I accepted weakness of Kashmiri nationalists and argued that by nature nationalist are always divided and they fight each other, but when time comes they do show solidarity with each other and get together. I gave him example of many revolutionary movements where splits were very obvious, and even Lenin, most known revolutionary, was very divisive and argumentative, and yet he led a successful revolution. I also blamed agencies for creating and engineering these splits.

Anyhow we discussed various issue related to the Kashmiri struggle. There were issues where we differed with each other, but agreed that division of the State must be opposed and that we all have to forget our differences and forget past complaints, and unite on a single point. We agreed that people of different regions should support each other and share each other's joy and sorrow that there is better understanding among them. If we wanted to avoid division then we have to show maximum unity. We have to ensure that Kashmiri leaders stand united on this single point, and no one should be allowed to seek a short cut to power.


Although my visit was unofficial, hopefully still it will have positive outcome, not only for myself but also for my organsation and ideology I adhere to. I thought people were more receptive to the idea of an independent Kashmir. This included people of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan.

People I met, Journalist, politicians, retired officials etc were all in favour of peaceful resolution of Kashmir. By and large they all recognised that for peace, stability and prosperity of South Asia Kashmir dispute had to be resolved. They felt Pakistan has many acute problems, and there are questions about its survival, therefore whatever emotional attachment we may have with Kashmir we cannot sacrifice future of Pakistan in this continuous and non ending war.

Although I could not sort out some personal problems which prompted this visit, still I came back as a satisfied and happy man. I think I have done some service to the ideology of an independent Kashmir by advocating it during my meetings with various people; and have forcefully projected the slogan - united and independent Kashmir. Previously most of us demanded an independent Kashmir which meant State of Jammu and Kashmir, but without saying united and independent Kashmir. But some people have inferred from this that if the Indian side of Kashmir or part of it is allowed to emerge as an independent or quasi independent, then that would satisfy the Kashmiri nationalists.

The visit has proved that sincerity and commitment eventually prevails. Some people tried their best to paint negative picture of me and they have miserably failed, if anything their own credibility is dented seriously. The visit has also helped me to make contacts with the media and other notable people who were more sympathetic to my continuous struggle and hard work.

Apart from that I have made new friends who are ready to help me with my crusade. I have established good working relationship with senior people in the JKLF Azad Kashmir Zone, and feel confident that I could always rely on their sincerity and commitment to the cause. These people are very clear on the ideology of JKLF and I find them as my natural allies. I hope that together we will be able to make positive contribution to the JKLF and movement for united and independent Kashmir.

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