Monday, 23 June 2008

They are back in Islamabad

They are back in Islamabad
Dr Shabir Choudhry 23 June 2008

Unity is strength, we are told, but that is only half true. If unity is based around some agreed principles and all concerned are honest and dedicated people then surely it is a source of strength and motivation. But if unity is forged on behest of some foreign agency or imposed upon divided leaders with competing and contradictory interests then it is ‘marriage of convenience’ or business enterprise which will ultimately disappoint people.

APHC was united at one time, and many were led to believe that it was representative of the Kashmiri people, reality however was that they represented those who established them and funded them. Sentiments of the Valley Muslims regarding India aside, the APHC did not even represent Muslims of the Valley. It was a brain child of agencies and stalwarts of APHC, despite all odds, ‘bravely’ championed the cause of the parent organisation, even at the cost of interest of the Kashmiri people.

Conflicting interests and contradictory stand resulted in acrimony, allegations and split. Shabir Shah was expelled from APHC for crime of meeting an American diplomat. Yasin Malik also said good bye to the fragile alliance. Divisions or more precisely personal interests and rivalry intensified and resulted in the APHC having two groups, one headed by Syed Ali Gilani and the other by Mir Waiz Omer Farooq.

In Kashmir every leader claims to represent the majority, even when they know that they cannot even muster two dozen people. Similarly both groups of APHC claimed to represent the majority of the people, and were very generous in abusing each other and calling the other faction ‘anti movement.’

Apparently pay masters and other well - wishers tried to unite them but obstinate attitude and big ego frustrated all the efforts. Then all of sudden on eve of their trip to Islamabad both groups got ‘united’, as nothing had happened. Many wonder around what principles they got together, and moreover which group is ‘anti movement’? Both groups claimed that the other group was ‘anti movement’, could you please tell the bewildered nation which group, in reality was ‘anti movement’ and what soda or water (Aaab e Zam Zam or ganga jal they have used to purify the group which was ‘anti movement’. We would like to borrow this tonic that we can use it Azad Kashmir as well.

Is it not strange that a Kashmiri leader who has always ensured that Kashmiris in general and Kashmiri nationalists in particular don’t get united, even they have expressed happiness over this extra ordinary event of ‘holi alliance’. No one cared to ask him what about unification of his own party which is in many groups mainly due to his autocratic and unconstitutional actions which he claimed were in the larger interest of the organisation and movement.

Also is it not strange that those who are in good books of Islamabad were awarded with passports by India that they can visit Islamabad? This happened at the time of their last visit and it happened again. Does it mean that establishments of both countries have tacit agreement to reward good boys of the movement?

One wonders who are these good boys of the movement and what do they do to deserve this special treatment that Indian establishment issue passports in contravention of their laws. Take example of Yasin Malik who was among the first to pick up a gun. I don’t have details what he did with his gun and how many people he killed, but there are 23 criminal cases pending against him. People still don’t know what happened to his gun, but when he was released from a ‘farm house’ where he was kept during his detention he was a changed man who preached non violence. And India had no problem issuing him a passport, despite the provisions of the Passport Act of 1967 prohibiting it.

Because of large concentration of army in Kashmir, and for this India gets a lot of pressure from human rights organisations and the international community. Claim was that this concentration of army was causing problems for people and restricting their right to travel and right to assemble.

Shrewd Indian policy makers decided to tackle this matter sensibly; hence we witnessed the ‘signature campaign’. In this campaign groups of people headed by Yasin Malik travelled from village to village and town to town to get signatures of people. This helped India to prove that, despite a large army and war against ‘terrorism’ in Jammu and Kashmir, right to travel and right to assemble was there for those who did not carry and use guns.

India wanted to convey this to the West and human rights organisations that governments in Paris, London and Washington would also challenge and kill those who carry guns with intention of using them, and if India is doing that, especially when there is militancy going on for the past so many years then what is wrong with that.

After successful completion of ‘Signature Campaign’ Yasin Malik was given a passport and allowed to travel to Pakistan where he had exhibition and presented these signature to the Pakistani government. Yasin Malik got a protocol in Pakistan which he never dreamt of. He had meetings with senior politicians and with those who promote and control these politicians.

Of course apart from Yasin Malik other stalwarts of the APHC headed by Mir Waiz, who were in good books of Islamabad were issued passports by India and allowed to visit Pakistan. All these leaders spent most of their time in Pakistan, a country which illegally occupies parts of Jammu and Kashmir’s territory, and never visited Gilgit and Baltistan which has been left to the mercy of Pakistani bureaucrats since 1947.

This campaign helped to clean India’s image to some extent, but more needed to be done because of human rights abuse perpetrated since 1989. Many still thought that right of expression, right to travel and right to assemble was in jeopardy in Kashmir because of the large army presence, so once again Yasin Malik’s services were required, hence a start of a new campaign – ‘safre azadi’.

Yasin Malik and his entourage travelled to every corner of the Valley with hundreds of people- they travelled at night during the day and with lamps. He addressed hundreds of rallies and meetings where people in thousands were present, and not a single gun was fired by troops; no one stopped him or arrested anyone, and no one was killed.

Once again a clear message was sent to the world that if people wanted to use their right of expression, right to travel and right to assemble there is no problem in Jammu and Kashmir provided people don’t carry guns and resort to violence. India could not have achieved this goal without this ‘safre azadi’. Apart from other rewards once again he was issued a passport and sent across to Pakistan where he again had exhibition to boast his ‘achievement’.

In view of some Kashmiri analysts Pakistani establishment played a key role in dividing APHC- divided leaders are easy prey of agencies. Apart from that they wanted to prove how mean, immature and selfish were Kashmiri leaders that even at this critical juncture of their history they were at each other’s throat and building their own castles with no care for the suffering people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Since the new government has taken power in Pakistan role of secret agencies has reduced considerably. Pakistan is reviewing its policy on Kashmir and has said good bye to the policy of General Musharaf. New policy requires a new strategy; and new strategy has a considerable political input as well. Militancy in Jammu and Kashmir will increase and to support and justify this, political activities will be organised inside and outside Kashmir.

Pakistani government thought these leaders are still useful and best thing is to forge unity among them that they could be used effectively in new scheme of things on the issue of Kashmir. So these ‘leaders’ were told if they wanted to visit Pakistan, and moreover wanted continuation of Islamabad’s support then come here as one team. Yasin Malik has also assured them to join APHC, which he will join soon.

Apart from that elections in Jammu and Kashmir are around the corner, and like in the past, task of Yasin Malik and APHC is to oppose them. Their role is to disrupt elections that people cannot elect their representatives to help people resolve their everyday problems. These leaders know very well that in any fair and free election they cannot win, and this fact was acknowledged by Shabir Shah in a meeting with a Western human rights activist.

Yasin Malik has left Islamabad with new advice, new contract and new tasks. APHC leaders are still here, and will get their briefing and their contracts and tasks. Islamabad has serious economic problems but it is believed that they are still very generous to people of Indian side of Kashmir. These leaders always leave Islamabad happy, satisfied and many times richer. May Allah SWT help us?

Writer is a political activist, analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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