Friday, 30 May 2008

Who is anti Pakistan?

Who is anti Pakistan?
Shabir Choudhry

Some times people accuse me of being too critical when writing about Pakistan; some even go to the extent of calling me anti Pakistan. This allegation is without foundations. Yes I do criticise Kashmir policy of different Pakistani governments, and I have every right to do so. But I am not the only person who is critical of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, there are many Pakistani writers who use stronger words than what I do when criticising Pakistani government, then why is that they are not conceived as anti Pakistan, and I am. Is it because I am a Kashmiri nationalist, and it is not considered to be appropriate for a Kashmiri to criticise Pakistani governments?

Perhaps different Pakistani governments have taken it for granted that they have complete loyalty of the Kashmiri people, and when they see some one like me not only unhappy but also critical of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir they automatically assume that he is anti Pakistan. Then different officials and agencies start a campaign that so and so person is anti Pakistan, or even label him as being an ‘Indian agent’.

In every civil society individuals have a right of expression, in fact this right is so fundamental to human rights that one cannot imagine a civil and liberal society without right of expression. I have seen different Pakistani organisations in London not only speaking against Pakistani governments, but also demonstrating outside Pakistani High Commission; and they have every right to do that. Some even have gone on record to request other governments and donor countries and international bodies to stop aid to Pakistan because, in their view, the government in Pakistan was not democratic and honouring human rights commitments.

Despite the fact that these organisations and their leaders made every effort to deprive Pakistan from getting much needed foreign aid, and yet they were still considered loyal to Pakistan; and their leaders, on their turn, got official positions in Pakistan. But Kashmiris cannot even raise their voice against Pakistani governments even though it is these governments who have messed up the Kashmir dispute. It is these governments who have deprived the people of Gilgit and Baltistan their basic human rights, they have not even granted them a right to vote, and this is happening in the 21st Century. It is these governments who are determined to silence the Kashmiri voice and closed the only weekly paper {K2} in Gilgit and Baltistan.

We Kashmiri are too afraid to raise our voice, let alone going out to demonstrate outside the Pakistani High Commission, because we fear of being haunted and ‘labelled’. We don’t ask any donor countries or international bodies to stop Pakistan’s aid, but even when we demand restoration of our basic rights, including right to hold and express our opinion, we are considered as ‘anti Pakistan’; and in extreme case pro India or an ‘Indian agent’.

What these people don’t understand {or perhaps they don’t want to understand} is that government and State are two different things; governments come and go, but the State remains. Governments could be good and bad, ‘corrupt’ and ‘security risk’, and ought to get criticism from people who are affected by their decisions. Criticism on a bad decision of a government is not an attack on the foundation of a State.

I am and I will continue to be a critic of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy until I see some positive changes, but that doesn’t make me anti State of Pakistan. I don’t criticise Pakistan governments policies, bad as they are, which are not related to Kashmir. Their wrong Kashmir policy, not only affects our freedom movement but also changes the character of the Kashmiri history, culture and rights of ordinary Kashmiri people, and it is because of this I have every right to criticise Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. And during the course of this struggle {right to independence and right of expression}, of which I have been part of since my teenage days, if I get any criticism or any labels I will only take them as medals.

I don’t criticise Pakistani governments because of habit or because I enjoy it. My criticism is always based around some issues, issues which are concerned with the rights of the people and the Kashmiri movement for unification and independence of Kashmir. In the past I have always criticised the Federal government and its Kashmir policy, but it looks that I have to now to criticise actions of Pakistani High Commissions as well; again not because I like to do it but because their actions warrant this.

Violation of right to travel

I have known Mr Jabbar Butt for the past 25 Years. I have known him as Kashmiri nationalist leader, and in my view he is very committed and diehard nationalist. He was the first President of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, and he has also been a President of Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front. Even though he belongs to a different organisation but I have high regards for him because of his commitment to the cause of an independent Kashmir.

Like many of us he also holds a Pakistani passport which is essentially a travel document, and he has held that Passport for many decades. Despite that he is a proud Kashmiri nationalist, but he is not anti Pakistan, integrity of State of Pakistan is as dear to him as it could be to any devoted Pakistani. Like many other Kashmiri nationalists he has no love for Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, and he does not hesitate to express his opinion on this subject. But does that make him anti Pakistan? Does this mean that his passport should be taken away that he could not travel to Azad Kashmir. Is this not violation of his right to travel? He is an old man who still has some friends and relatives alive in Azad Kashmir, and wants to visit them before either they die or he is too old to travel.

According to documents presented to me, and the media reports on the subject, it looks that Jabbar Butt Sahib is punished for holding is political views. These views are not anti state of Pakistan. I have had many private discussions with him and never found him anti Pakistan, and if the Pakistani officials think that by this treatment they will either ‘discipline’ him or make him ‘pro Pakistan’ then they are mistaken. If anything this policy will push him further in the corner, whereas at present he is holding a middle ground.

And it is when ordinary citizens are pushed in the corner that things start getting wrong, and Pakistani authorities know this too well. Bengalis of East Pakistan were loyal Pakistanis but wrong policies pushed them in the corner, and left them with no room to manoeuvre. Apart from that one big lesson could be learnt from India where Maqbool Butt was hanged in order to avoid ‘future problems’; and we know that India is still paying heavy price for that policy and other wrong policies in Kashmir. It is in the best interest of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir that no tension and controversies are created here.

There is already enough resentment among Kashmiris, particularly related to recent policy changes and issue of Mangla Dam, and it is not prudent to make it worse. Those officials of Pakistan {no matter what their rank or department is} who are making or advocating such policies which are designed to alienate or degrade the people of Kashmir are not well- wishers of Pakistan. And like those policy makers who pushed the Bengali people against the wall, it is these people who are anti Pakistan, and not the suffering people of Kashmir who are fighting for right to live with dignity and honour.

Denial of these rights and bad treatment be it in Gilgit and Baltistan, in Mirpur or on the other side of the LOC, will surely create a situation where people find their back against the wall with no more options left to take. And it is this situation which provides a fertile ground for revolutionary movements. Kashmiri people whether they are affected by the proposed uplifting of the Mangla Dam or not, are thinking why is it that each time they have to pay sacrifices for the well being of Pakistan; and the people of Pakistan are not ready to even let lay down foundation brick for the Kala Bagh Dam.

I request the officials in the High Commission in London not to aggravate the relationship of Kashmiris and Pakistanis in Britain by creating new issues. There is already too much polarisation and Kashmiris and Pakistanis are the most divided ethnic groups in Britain, and if you cannot do anything to unite them please make no effort to divide them further. I also request the official concerned to issue Mr Jabbar Butt with a new passport, and by doing this you would not be doing him any favour, but undoing injustice done to him.

Writer is a Kashmiri leader settled in Britain, and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

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