Friday, 30 May 2008

This U-Turn has serious consequences

This U-Turn has serious consequences
Dr Shabir Choudhry

We can disagree with their style of politics and ideology, if there is one, but credit is due to Muslim Conference in many ways. It has the honour of being the first political party of the State. It has honour of being the first to change its ideology and its name to National Conference, and than make a u-turn to revive the old Muslim Conference.

Its leadership continued with the old name of Muslim Conference and conducted their politics as a ‘B’ team of Muslim League, so these terms of ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams are not new and are not associated with the present struggle. In 1947, future of the State was not certain, even no one knew what would be the future of the Pakistan Movement, and if it succeeded what areas would form the new state of Pakistan.

The division of British India was accepted on 3rd June 1947, and it was after this date that people of Sub Continent found out that there would be a new state of Pakistan. But the Muslim Conference leadership had a press conference on 28th May in which it declared a change of ideology and supported an independent Kashmir. Muslim Conference acting President Choudhry Hameedullah made the following statement in a press conference held on 28 May 1947:

‘Accession to Pakistan will disturb Hindus while accession to India will disturb Muslims. Therefore, we have decided not to enter into any controversy either with India or Pakistan. The second thing we have decided is that we should try to acquire independence for the State. The third question now before us is what would be the position of the Maharaja? We have never been lacking in showing loyalty and respect for him and it is because of this attachment that we did not support the Quit Kashmir Movement although in one way it was a natural Movement. We, therefore, felt that we should try to find a solution which will maintain the position of the Maharaja Bahdur while at the same time, it should also satisfy the Praja. The best solution that we have found is that the Maharaja should become a constitutional King as is the position in many countries…… The fourth thing that we have decided is that we should a Constituent Assembly of our own to draft our constitution……

I have the support of all-important leaders of the Muslim Conference and Chaudri Ghulam Abbas Khan has himself expressed agreement with this proposal. A representative convention of the Muslim Conference will be called within a month where the proposal will be unanimously adopted. So, therefore, this solution should be considered the official policy of the Muslim Conference. Muslim League has not given this, nor we are presenting it to deceive the Hindus. We have arrived at this solution in all honesty and after taking into account of the local situation. The only connection that the Muslim League has with it is that the Muslim League’s past and present policy of non – intervention in Indian States has strengthened us. I would like to say in all honesty that we have had no talks in this connection with any leader or worker of the Muslim League. We do not want to get any instructions from the Muslim League and Hindus should also give up being led by the Congress. The best thing for us all is that the League and Congress should leave us undisturbed and we should give up both the parties. When we say we want to separate ourselves from Hindustan and Pakistan, we mean that we want to be friends with both of them. We would have political as well as economic relations with Pakistan and in the presence of Hindu ruling dynasty, we will also have pleasant relations with India.’

This policy of the Muslim Conference continued until 18th July 1947, and in support of this statement of acting President Choudhry Hameedullah, the Working Committee of the Muslim Conference on 18 July 1947, unanimously passed a resolution to support the independence of the State. On 18th July the Muslim Conference issued a statement calling its Convention on the next day, 19th July, and to every one’s surprise made a political somersault and passed a resolution contradicting its previous stand on the future of Kashmir. The new resolution stated:

‘After carefully considering the position, this Convention of the Muslim Conference has arrived at the conclusion that accession of the State to Pakistan is absolutely necessary in view of the geographic, economic, linguistic, cultural and religious considerations because Muslims constitute eighty percent of the State’s population, all major rivers of Pakistan have their source in the State and the inhabitants of the State are strongly connected with the people of Pakistan through religious, cultural and economic relations.’

One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand what happened to the leadership of the Muslim Conference and what forced it to change its stand on Kashmir. The Working Committee and its acting President, after careful consideration, passed a resolution to support the policy it adopted in the press conference, and unless there was some conspiracy or some pressure, it is inconceivable to even imagine that there could be a complete U – turn the next day.

In its long history the party has made many u-turns and what goes to the credit of its leadership is that they manage to survive each u-turn, and make most of it. It still has following and could be regarded as the most popular political party on this side of the LOC. Its leadership has political vision and has mastery of political tricks, and could foresee what might happen and tailor its policies accordingly.

This party could have done great service to the cause of Kashmir if the leadership was not too involved with personal interest, and subservient to the Pakistani establishment. There is nothing wrong to have love for Pakistan, nearly all Kashmiris have that; and we have love for Saudi Arabia and Iran as well, because they are Muslim countries and we have many things in common.

But our love for homeland comes first, it is natural, our beloved prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) also loved his homeland. I will think of Kashmiri interest first and than care for interest of Pakistan and other Muslim countries. And by loving my homeland and expressing it, I am not showing my animosity to any country, let alone Pakistan which is a Muslim country and our neighbour. Islam teaches us to be kind and friendly to neighbours, and this principle applies to neighbourly countries as well.

It is also a political and geographical compulsion that we must have friendly relationship with all our neighbours. But this relationship has to be on equal terms, I don’t have to be subservient to the establishments of Kashmir’s neighbours. The relationship must have some common agenda, mutual respect and shared values.

As noted above the Muslim Conference has made many u-turns, and I am not going to go into history of the u-turns made after the forced division of the State in 1947. The declared policy of the Muslim Conference was loyalty to the cause of Pakistan, ‘Kashmir Baney Ga Pakistan’. Whatever its value and real aim behind this slogan, it suited both Pakistan and the party, as it brought many benefits to them. During difficult times in relationship with Pakistani establishment, the Muslim Conference leadership indicated that they have other options open to them as well, but by and large they have served Pakistan well.

And in their service to the cause of Pakistan they have shown their loyalty to state of Pakistan and different governments, but they have surprised every one by declaring their loyalty to armed forces of Pakistan. In their recent oath taking ceremony in Birmingham they have taken oath to be loyal to Pakistan army. We all know that Pakistan army is going to play a leading role in the affairs of Pakistan for many years to come, but does it mean we need to take oath that we will be loyal to armed forces of Pakistan?

Pakistan army is not Pakistan, and there are other state apparatus as well, does it mean that people will have to take oath to other state apparatuses? And why is it necessary for those Kashmiris to take such oath who have decided to live in the United Kingdom and they have taken oath to be loyal to the British Crown.

Muslim Conference is the first Kashmiri political party to include this clause in its oath, and this change has inherent contradictions and could have far reaching consequences. This change of allegiance could also have implications for those Kashmiris who are settled in the United Kingdom, and have taken oath to be loyal to Britain. There is already enough tension and friction, and we the British Kashmiris could do without more division and sources of unrest.
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir. Email:

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