Thursday, 16 December 2010

Those who promote an independent Kashmir are more loyal, Sardar Sikander Ayat

Those who promote an independent Kashmir are more loyal, Sardar Sikander Ayat

Report by Dr Shabir Choudhry 16 December 2010

During our Study Tour of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, Abbas Butt and Asim Mirza went to see Saradar Sikander Ayat Khan, former Prime Minister and President of Azad Kashmir.

Sardar Sikander Ayat is a prominent politician of Azad Kashmir. In the past he has served as a Prime Minister and President of Azad Kashmir. Many people think he is still important in politics of this region. Abbas Butt, Asim Mirza and Kashif Shabir, correspondent of daily Sada E Chinar went to see him at his residence in Nakyal. Apart from his son there were five more local people present during the course of the meeting.

During the conversation he was asked what were his views regarding those who espouse an independent Jammu and Kashmir and rejected Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Sardar Sikander Ayat did not mince words. He was very straight forward and frank, he said:

‘In my view those who promote an independent Jammu and Kashmir are more loyal Kashmiris than those who promote accession’. He said, ‘Don’t think I am saying this now because I am out of power. I have said this before as well. Once I said this in Sweden when JKLF hosted a reception in my honour.’

Sardar Sikander Ayat said. ‘Loyalty or love of Pakistan is one thing, but reality is Pakistan is in very deep trouble. It is fast going towards destruction. There is no peace, no security, no justice and no future and no sensible person or a nation will join a country with that kind of record and this kind of situation. I personally like Pakistan, but with this kind of situation I can’t see that my future and future of our next generations will be secure there. Now it looks independence of Jammu and Kashmir is a better option.’

Abbas Butt asked him, ‘Your views are similar to that of nationalist Kashmiris, then why is that you are in a political party which oppose independence of Kashmir and supports accession to Pakistan’.

Sardar Sikander Ayat said, ‘I have a long association with the Muslim Conference. As a leader of this party I became a Prime Minister and a President of Azad Kashmir. It is not possible to leave the party with which you have that long association. Moreover, situation in Pakistan was not that bad some years ago. Policies of Pakistan were also not anti Kashmiri or anti Kashmiri struggle. Now situation has changed.’

He further said, ‘I am an old man now; at this age, one can look back and say this was wrong or that was right, but one doesn’t have that much energy and will power to choose a new path. At this age it is not wise to have “a panga” or a direct and open clash with those who control this region.’

He was asked who controls this region. Matured Sardar Sikander Ayat said, ‘There are multiple layers of control, and you people know that, so there is no need to go in details of this. Azad Kashmir governments have become puppets in hands of those who control this region. This is fourth Prime Minister in one life of Azad Kashmir Assembly. Whenever Pakistan and their agencies want they bring changes to system and government. Different kinds of big rewards are paid for supporting the policies of Islamabad and those who do not fall in line have to suffer; and fearing repercussions people are forced to support their moves.’

Sardar Sikander Ayat said, ‘Take example of 12 Kashmiri seats in Pakistan, these seats are awarded to the party they want to rule in Azad Kashmir. Some times these seats are given to us and sometimes to other parties. Elections in real sense do not take place; however, a drama is staged to show that elections are taking place. They can award these seats to anyone, not necessarily to the largest party. They can award to smaller parties as well to have the right balance that they can easily manipulate situation in future.’

In a reply to another question Sardar Sikander Ayat supported the induction of Muslim League N in Azad Kashmir. He said, ‘We already have Pakistani political parties operating in Azad Kashmir, and induction of Muslim League N will be better for us. It will provide a balance. At present two Pakistani parties, Peoples Party and MQM, are in Azad Kashmir Assembly, and they interact with their leaders in Pakistan, not only they take instructions from their leaders but also explain real situation of this region to them and influence their thinking.’

‘Induction of Muslim League in Azad Kashmir’, Sardar Sikander Ayat said, ‘Will be a breath of fresh air in Azad Kashmiri politics. It will give us an opportunity to put forward our case to Muslim League leaders in Pakistani Senate and Parliament. In other words we will have indirect presence there, they will be able to protect and advance our interests. At present Peoples Party has edge over us because they have direct access to People Party leaders in Pakistan; and now presence of PMLN will provide a balance’.

My comments on this are as follows:

Sardar Sikander Ayat looked very enthusiastic about this, but there is another perspective to this, which is not being looked at. One can see Sardar Sikander Ayat and his colleagues will benefit from this, they might even get back in government. However question is how will that benefit people of Jammu and Kashmir; and moreover, how will that support and enhance the Kashmir dispute?

Danger is that it will strengthen hold of the Pakistan in Azad Kashmir; and weaken the local parties, bad as they are. After signing a Simla Agreement, Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto tried to make Azad Kashmir fifth province of Pakistan; and it was the pressure of the local Kashmiri parties which strongly resisted this move and he had to change his policy. In future if Islamabad, once again, tries to make Azad Kashmir part of Pakistan, who will resist that move when polity of this region will be controlled by Pakistani parties?

Apart from that there are more chances of Azad Kashmiri leaders being influenced by the Pakistani leaders then vice versa. In any case these leaders have no spine to challenge leaders of Pakistan or Pakistani agencies.

Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir

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