Monday, 2 March 2009

Kashmiri struggle needs and a change of strategy

Kashmiri struggle needs and a change of strategy

Dr Shabir Choudhry’s speech in a public meeting organised by UKPNP in London.

03 March 2009

Mr President, Chief Guest - Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, Afzal Tahir, Professor Faiz, friends and colleagues aslamo alaykam.

I want to thank leaders of UKPNP London for inviting me to this public meeting in which people have travelled from various parts of the UK, and some have even come from France. Also I want to congratulate the UKPNP leaders for holding a big gathering in a place like London on such a short notice.

I hope members of UKPNP won’t mind a little advice from me. You people have leaders who believe in liberal and democratic values. They believe State of Jammu and Kashmir is one political entity, and it must not be divided on communal lines. They oppose extremism and terrorism. They want the struggle for unification and independence to be peaceful. I have learnt that you people have a number of branches in the UK; and this gathering shows that you have considerable support in UK as well.

I know some Kashmiris parties in Britain claim to be big parties, and yet they cannot muster half the people you have in this hall. These small parties with big names have no public support, because people have come to know their dishonesty and betrayal. But despite that in UK they are recognised as Kashmiri political parties, and you are not. You people need to get yourself recognised here that you can help like minded people and parties to promote pro Kashmir policies.

Friends and colleagues, ‘our struggle was for political and democratic rights. It was possible that we Kashmiris could have reached some understanding with the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir whereby he could have continued as a Constitutional Monarch with a liberal and democratic system. But those who wanted to occupy us unleashed unruly tribesmen to capture the capital of the State. They didn’t come to help us. They came to occupy us.’

This tribal invasion changed the fundamental character of our struggle. The Kashmiri struggle was peaceful; the imported militancy resulted in suffering and devastation. It also forced the Maharaja to prematurely enter in to a Treaty Agreement with government of India, which is known as ‘Provisional Accession’.

The new phase of militancy was made possible after the JKLF Chairman Amanullah Khan made a secret deal with a Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, which made the struggle subservient to the whims of the ISI. It was a deal between two unequal partners. It was agreed that the ISI will provide: training, arms, money and other logistic support, not to mention full media coverage to the JKLF and all the actions which will take place over there. They also agreed to help the militants to cross the LOC with weapons and everything else what was required.

Amanullah Khan’s role was to project this as a Kashmiri struggle; and ensure that focus of the world attention remains on the Indian side of the Kashmir. It was because of this secret deal that the top leadership of JKLF never bothered even to discuss any strategy for the liberation of the areas under the occupation of Pakistan. They assured their members that as soon as Indian Kashmir is liberated by militancy, Pakistani government will also pack its bags and leave Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.

Despite the above this militancy was projected and promoted as an indigenous struggle. I have no hesitation to accept that as JKLF members we were also saying that it was our struggle, because that was what we were told by our leadership, and we didn’t have independent sources to confirm this. In any case there was no need to get this confirmed from a third part party as we had no reason to suspect our leadership?

I acknowledge and highly respect sacrifices of Kashmiri masses and junior to middle ranking leadership who worked with dedication and sincerely thought that it was their struggle. They were right to think that because they had no links with any agency and did not receive any funds from anywhere. These people made huge sacrifices for the cause of freedom and continue to do so; and it is because of this they call it indigenous struggle. But when we analyse it in light of the available information then it does not pass the test of being an indigenous struggle.

I also thought it was our struggle and Kashmiri Diaspora was supporting and funding it. However my view of the struggle changed when I visited Azad Kashmir and Pakistan in 1991/2. A senior JKLF friend Choudhry Qurban Hussain who had been there for more than ten months before I reached there told me that: ‘Shabir Sahib, if you think this is our struggle and it is being funded and supported by us Kashmiris living abroad then you are totally wrong’.

He said, ‘Something else is happening in name of our struggle; and surely it is not run by the small funds we provide; and those who provide huge funds for this gigantic project, feed people, provide training and all kinds of support are also controlling the struggle’.

Together we visited many places, including some camps and had detailed meetings with militants and their commanders. We soon established what was happening there because frustrated militants were more than willing to reveal information. Only Amanulla Khan and a few close to him knew the game plan, and the Central Committee had no clue what was going on. We talked to a number of CC members in AJK and Pakistan, and decided to raise this issue in the Central Committee that everyone should be made accountable to highest organ of the party. We didn’t have much luck because of the composition of the CC which was full of Amanulla Khan loyalists and the way proceedings were conducted.

My differences with Amanullah Khan started at that time, and not in 1992. To cut the long story short I was expelled from the JKLF in 1992, and allegation was that I was working against the party (JKLF) policies. We formed a separate group of JKLF and continued with our struggle. When Yasin Malik also became victim of Amanullah Khan and was expelled from the JKLF with very serious charges, he formed his JKLF and we merged with him hoping that he will prove to be better than Amanullah Khan.

It was painful to learn that Yasin Malik was no different. He also had no interest in institution building with in the party, and was more interested in personal promotion and had compromised his ideology for sake of some gains. I was also expelled from his group of JKLF for the crime of speaking against illegal upraising of Mangla Dam at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. This dam was illegally constructed by Pakistan in 1967. Within the JKLF I was warned not to speak about the upraising of Mangla Dam or Gilgit and Baltistan, as it annoyed the Pakistani establishment.

So friends and colleagues, this in nutshell explains the role and ideology of the JKLF. They have been tamed to conduct certain activities within the parameters decided by the agencies. It is unfortunate that one way or the other many nationalists are pursuing the strategy designed by the Pakistani establishment; and I don’t need to tell you that their strategy was to promote a Pakistani interest and not to get us independence.

That strategy is not relevant to our struggle for unification and independence. In light of changing geo political situation and world politics we true nationalists of Jammu and Kashmir need to formulate a new strategy to meet our requirements. Jammu and Kashmir is forcibly divided in five zones – Gilgit and Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, Valley, Ladakh, and Jammu; and we need to work out a strategy by taking ground realities of each region.

It was a trap of the agencies who advised Kashmiri leaders to ‘liberate’ the Indian side of Kashmir first; and ignore plight and struggle on the Pakistani side. It was illogical and based on whims and interest of our occupier. How can I help people of the Valley when I am in chains on this side of the divide? I am not promoting five different struggles totally disconnected from each other, rather a coordinated struggle which takes view of the situation of each region when formulating a strategy.

We cannot and should not go the other side of the LOC to organise struggle, I am sure people over there are capable of doing that themselves. Our struggle should be on this side of the LOC. I am not advocating any kind of militancy, but I do emphasise that we cannot sit idle and wait for someone else to come and liberate us. However we can travel to Gilgit and Baltistan to express our solidarity with people fighting for their fundamental rights, and coordinate our activities to support each other. We can also support the genuine struggle on the other side of the LOC as well.

Friends and colleagues, I hope you will continue to work hard and support your leadership to promote the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir.

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

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