Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Extremists pose a serious threat to peace in South Asia, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Extremists pose a serious threat to peace in South Asia
Dr Shabir Choudhry 11 April 2012

Text of speech made by Dr Shabir Choudhry as a Chief Guest in a seminar arranged by Pakistan Kashmir Friendship Association, Accrington in England.

Mr Chairman, Deputy Chair of the Council, Councillors and other sisters and brothers aslam o alaeykam and good after noon. I want to thank leaders of Pakistan Kashmir Friendship Association and President of Kashmir National Party, Sarwar Hussain for inviting me to this important seminar and express my views on the topic of Kashmir.

Mr Chairman, although title of this seminar is Kashmir, but before I discuss the Kashmir dispute, I briefly want to talk about creation of Pakistan, because when you talk about Kashmir, you cannot leave out role of Pakistan in Kashmiri politics; and when you discuss Pakistan and the problems the country encounters, it is difficult to avoid the name of Kashmir.

It is claimed that Pakistan was created in name of religion; and because Jammu and Kashmir is a majority Muslim State, therefore, it should have become part of Pakistan. That is not true; as Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States, including the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It must be noted that the British Raj in India consisted of two units, namely the British India and Princely India; whereas the former was directly ruled, the latter enjoyed semi autonomous status. The Rulers of the Princely States were allies of the British and under different treaties they accepted the British Paramountcy.

The Two Nations theory, whatever its value after the fall of East Pakistan, and after the separatist trends within the present Pakistan, was only applicable to the British India. The Rulers of Princely States had a choice to accede to either India, accede to Pakistan or negotiate some new terms with India and Pakistan.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah was a constitutional expert. He knew the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States; and that is why before the establishment of Pakistan he never asked Kashmir’s inclusion in Pakistan. When people asked him a question about future of Kashmir and other Princely States, he said:

“Constitutionally and legally, the Indian States will be independent sovereign states on the termination of Paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves to adopt any course they like. It is open to them to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly, the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, or decide to remain independent. In the last case, they enter into such arrangements or relationship with Hindustan or Pakistan as they may choose.”

Mohammed Ali Jinnah demonstrated this policy by accepting accession of Junagarrh’s accession to Pakistan, even though this State had overwhelming non Muslim majority; and if the Two Nations Theory was applicable to the Princely States then this State would have automatically become part of India. Similarly, on question of Hyderabad, Mohammed Ali Jinnah supported Ruler of this State’s right to remain independent, even though this State also had overwhelming non Muslim majority; and if the Two Nations Theory was applicable to the Princely States then Hyderabad should also have automatically joined India.

Mr Chairman, from these examples it is clear that the State of Jammu and Kashmir was not part of the Two Nations Theory. If we look at the history of Pakistan since 1947, it clearly shows that no serious attempt was made to make Pakistan an Islamic country; however, the rulers of Pakistan very sincerely served the interests of the West. Moreover their policies and treatment resulted in serious deprivation, resentment and anger among the people of East Pakistan; and that resulted in separation of East Pakistan because people could not put up with injustice and oppression and majority of Pakistanis became Bangladeshis and abandoned the country created in name of Islam.

The British wanted to end their direct rule of India, and they granted independence to India and Pakistan. But because the State of Jammu and Kashmir did not join either India or Pakistan before 15 August 1947 and after lapse of the British Paramountcy on this date, the State of Jammu and Kashmir became an independent country. Some people argue that Kashmir was not recognised as an independent country; therefore, it was not an independent country.

That is not true. Israel is an independent country and Pakistan and some Arab countries still have not recognised Israel, but that does not change the fact that Israel is an independent country. Our independence did not last very long because rulers of Pakistan tried to take over Jammu and Kashmir by force; and they sent tribal warriors in name of Jihad to invade Jammu and Kashmir. This attack took place on 22 October 1947; and the Ruler of Kashmir had no choice but to seek help from India. India refused to help unless the Maharajah acceded to India.

In order to save his country and people from the tribal warriors, the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India, which was provisionally accepted and had to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We people of Jammu and Kashmir had three possible choices: either to ratify the Provisional Accession, reject it or possibly negotiate its terms and conditions.

Fact, however, is that we people of Jammu and Kashmir never had an opportunity to express our opinion on this issue. On behalf of Kashmir National Party I want to declare that we are legally not part of India or part of Pakistan. We are the main party to the Kashmir dispute, and it is we who suffer most; yet we are not even part of any negotiations on Kashmir.

How sad that leaders and bureaucrats of India and Pakistan meet and discuss our future, without taking us in to confidence. We are mature and sensible people; and we know what is best for us and for our future generations. In this regard we don’t need any lessons from bureaucrats of the two countries to tell us what is good for us. Our struggle is not religious in nature. Our struggle is political in nature; and those who are presenting it as a religious struggle are dividing the State of Jammu and Kashmir in name of religion.

Our State – Jammu and Kashmir has regions dominated by either followers of one religion or the other; and than within Islam there are regions dominated by either one Muslim sect or the other, and any formula based on religion will divide the entire State on religious, sectarian and ethnic lines and endanger peace and stability of the entire region. It will also result in dividing the families and tribes and regions causing enormous problems for the people of the entire region.

Mr Chairman, this region has experienced one division in name of religion in 1947; and not only people of the entire region are still suffering because of that, but in some ways many other countries are also paying price for that division, as people in name of religion are advancing - and in some cases imposing their personal and political agenda on the society. That practise is against teachings of Islam; and sad thing is that people are using name of Islam to give bad name to our religion. Islam teaches tolerance, peace, love and respect for others; and these people in name of religion preach intolerance, violence and hatred.

Apart from that, these religious extremists pose a serious threat to stability and future of Pakistan. They have given a bad name to Pakistan and have presented Pakistan as an ‘epic centre of global terrorism’. These fanatics are not only threat to Pakistan, but they are also a serious threat to peace and stability of the entire region. We have no choice but to fight back for peace and stability of our region; and for the future of coming generations.

I want to make it clear to all that my struggle and struggle of my colleagues like Abbas Butt, Sarwar Hussain, Asim Mirza, Raja Zahoor Ahmed, Chaudhry Shoaib and many others is not for any kind of accession with one country or the other. Our struggle is for our national identity. We want freedom from oppression and injustice. We want equality and justice for all. We want Kashmir where all citizen of the former Princely State can live in peace and harmony; and where rule of law prevails and where no citizen is unfairly treated because of his religious, political and ethnic background.

We envisage a society where citizens of Jammu and Kashmir can practise their religion according to their beliefs. I believe Allah SWT has not given me this right to impose my religion on others by force. Islam does not believe in spreading Islam by force. Tragedy is that any one who espouses this kind of society and this kind of future for Kashmir and South Asia, a powerful lobby supported by extremists become active and declare that person anti Islam and Indian agent.

I hope people present in this hall, Kashmiris, Pakistanis and the British will support us in our struggle to win our independence and establish a society based on the above ideals. Mr Chairman, I thank you for your patience.

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

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