As far as nationalist are concerned, the younger generation in Azad Kashmir wants an independent Kashmir. Like us, they are also dreaming of an entire independent Kashmir as in 1947. Unfortunately owing to personal differences, nationalists are divided into several groups. By adopting wrong strategies, there are further divisions among them. Theirs is a strange philosophy. While living in Azad Kashmir, they are struggling for the freedom of Indian occupied Kashmir. However, National Students Federation, National Lliberation Front, ( led by Maqbool Bhat's son Showkat Maqbool Bhat) and Peoples National Party AK,and National awami Party( NAP ) do speak of liberating AK and Gilgit and Balltistan and actually they have also put in some effort. But intelligence agencies and pro-Pak accessionists accuse them of working for India. In the case of Jamaat-e-Islami, it never had a strong position in AK so as to win even a single seat in the assembly. But they do mange to organise rallies by orchestrating Islam and hate-India slogans and by alluding to armed struggle in Kashmir valley. These rallies are generally meant to collect funds and incite religious feelings in the minds of teenagers whom they eye for recruitment in the rank and file of Kashmir militancy. Since the nationalists do not have an organised party and leadership, therefore, even the staunch nationalist could not continue his march along the path of real struggle. This was because either there was no proper organisation or that nationalist leadership sold itself to the intelligence agencies. Apart from this, those engaged in national liberation struggle were bogged down by problems of material survival which invariably forced them to migrate either to the Middle East, Europe or Pakistan.
In these circmstances in Gilgit and Baltistan, PPP and the Shia group of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafar
The nationalists must perforce take that into consideration. They cannot come out of these trappings. Therefore it is evident that somehow they have to rationalise their equations with two major political parties, namely Muslim Conference and AK Peoples Party. In other words, they,too, must allow themselves to be bogged down by sub-regional politics of Poonch, Mirpur, Kotli and Muzaffarabad segments plus the biradari that dominates these. As students, these nationalists introduce themselves in the context of national freedom by delivering fiery speeches from the platform of National Students Federation. But in practical politics they cash their nationalist past in one of the two major parties namely Muslim Conference and PPP. In this group can be included leaders like Mumtaz Rathore, the former Prime Minister and Mian Bashir, a senior minister. These conditions are hardly conducive for the nationalist movement to aspire for a definite shape and structure. As already said, in elections they got bogged down in local and non-proliferating politics.In practice they have been only supporting one of the two major political parties namely Muslim Conference and PPP. Invariably elections in AK are won either by the Muslim Conference or PPP. It may, therefore, be inferred that the people in AK want the present status quo to continue. This status quo is based on the perception of Pakistan that Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan are already with Pakistan, the part of Kashmir under Indian occupation has also got to go to her because Pakistan considers the whole of Kashmir as its property.
On the basis of language, religion and culture, the State of Jammu and Kashmir comprises three regions. Ladakh has an area of 96,701 sq kilometres, Jammu has 26,293 sq kms comprising six districts of Udhampur, Doda, Kathua, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch. The smallest region in terms of land mass is Kashmir valley with 15,853 sq kms as its area. Kashmir region comprses six districts namely Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Baramulla, Budgam and Kupwara. The three regions are inhabited by people of different ethnicities such as ( on the basis of culture) Kashmiris, Dogars,Bakarwals, Dards, Balti, Ladakhi, Pushwari, etc. In terms of language and dialects, we have Kashmiri, Dogri, Gujri, Dardi, Balti, Punjabi etc. In Jammu, there are Dogra Hindus and in the rest except the valley of Kashmir, Muslims are in minority and thinly dispersed throughout the regions. They are described as Gujjars, Bakarwals, Dards, Baltis, Shia, Poshwari etc. These denominations have always kept themselves politically away from Kashmiri speaking populace. The Bodhis and Muslims of Ladakh and the Dogras and Muslims of Jammu regions have always considered themselves separate from Kashmiri speaking Muslims and Pandits. Likewise Kashmiri speaking Muslims and Pandits, too, have considered themselves separate from others. To them Kashmir valley means Kashmiris, calling the rest as Gujjars, Paharis, Pohul etc. This was the reason why Kashmiri Pandits resented rehabilitation of non-Kashmiri speaking refugees in the valley in 1948-49 who had come from the present Azad Kashmir. Their argument was that owing to the rehabilitation of these non-Kashmiri refugees, there would be tremendous stress on the population of the valley which in turn might adversely affect local culture.
Since a long time, the people in Ladakh have been demanding that Ladakh be given the status of autonomous hill council and placed under central administration. During Dr. Farooq Abdulla's first stint, a strong movement for these objectives was launched in Ladakh. Likewise Jammuites are also demanding autonomy for their region. When people in the valley ask for Pakistan on the basis of religion without taking the people of other regions into confidence, all that will happen is that instead of strengthening national freedom movment, people of other regions and faiths in the state will begin to feel insecure and thus will ensue the process of parcelling the state into fragments. In what shape will Kashmir then emerge if the solution is desired to be found on the basis of the type of struggle we have launched? This is a big question looking directly into the eyes of Kashmiris. We the nationalists of Kashmir are baffled by the very question. The current atmosphere of communalism will turn Kashmir into another Bosnia fragmenting her into regions, districts , sub-districts and the rest of it.
Fragmentation of Kashmir
Let us admit frankly that we the masses of the valley have been made victims of propaganda of a golden dream by people with vested interests. We should try to dissect these golden dreams in the context of international and regional situation. Such international organistions as keep close watch on emerging situations anywhere in the world and are always ready to supervene, do not give an iota importance to Kashmir issue. They consider it a case of religious extremism and as cancerous as Afghanistan. During Benazir Bhutto's visit to the United States, President Clinton, while supporting elections (in Kashmir) had said: " ........... of course the Indians now are talking about election. It will be interesting to see who is eligible to vote, what the conditions of the election are, whether it really is a free referundum on the peoples´will." But Benazir contended that her American visit was a success, and consequently, distorted the statement of the American President. She said that the American President felt that the peoples' will in Kashmir can be ascertained only through free referundum. She eschewed reference to elections. It is amusing to note that invariably Indian and Pakistani bureaucrats and mandarins give their own interpretation to the statements and reports of foreign political leaders and organisations.
At a point of time in recent days, there ensued a spate of statements and counter-statements between the Indian Home Minister and the American embassy in New Delhi. The American ambassador met with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of India to tell them that American Assistant Secretary of State, Robin Raphel, had stated before the Congressional Committee for South Asia that plebiscite in Kashmir as stipulated in 48 - year old UN resolution was no more practicable. But, of course, a solution to Kashmir problem in changed circumstances will have to be found according to the wishes of the people. This solution can be found when both the countries include Kashmiris in their talks. The truth is that the Americans apprehend emergence of Afghanistan-like situation in Kashmir with rising crescendo of religious extremism, That could lead to eruption of large scale communal violence in the entire sub-continent. As already said, in the event of a plebiscite, Pakistan will have to withdraw all her troops from Gilgit, Ballltistan and Azad Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolution. The results of a plebiscite cannot be conjured up by entertaining the wishes of Kashmir valley alone. And in the event of results not going the way Pakistan likes, Silk Route will go out of her hands. The Americans will use it as a lever to foster the policy of encirclement of China if the exigency of geopolitics demands it.
At the present moment, the US does not want to antagonise India. Her relations with Iran are already strained and Sino - American relations are too fragile to bear stress and strain of rapidly changing alignments in eco-strategic world. If China, India and Iran form a nexus, then the US shall have to bear herself in South Asia with utmost caution. She will have to reckon with the nexus. Indo-US trade relations are widening and deepening day by day. Why should the US endanger such a vast market just for the sake of a tiny stretch of land called Kashmir. History stands witness to the reality that western powers always keep their economic and political interests ahead of every other consideration. These interests are protected by means fair or foul. When they needed the people of Afghanistan against Russia, they labelled all religious groups of Afghanistan as crusaders and provided them with enormous funds by way of assistance to carry out jehad. Not only that, through a media blitzkrieg they projected Afghan resistance as a decisive battle for protection of freedom and democracy throughout the world. But when their purpose was served, they have become silent spectators of the same Afghanistan drifting down the precipice of destruction and annihilation. Afghanistan turned into desolation and ruination, makes them beat not an eyelid. This is a living example of imperialist powers fomenting regional problems and instigating conflicts between the nations in order to exploit the people for their selfish interests. In order to maintain their stranglehold on Gulf oil and secure markets for the sale of oil and arms, they forged an alliance of western countries and of the Islamic world against Iraq. This spelled destruction for that country. But now feigning humanism, some human rights organisation and the UNICEF, the organ of the United Nations, create loud noise that children, women and old people in Iraq are dying of hunger and that economic embargo imposed on Iraq be lifted. Those who had ganged up against Iraq in the war, including Islamic countries, have no qualms of conscience so that they might gang up to provide relief to the hungry and dying co-religionists of Iraq.
Under the auspices of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, non-official talks have been held in New Delhi in recent past. This is a welcome step. In this non-official conclave were present two former finance ministers, former foreign minister and former chief justice of supreme court of Pakistan. From Indian side former foreign minister, American ambassador in India and many others participated. It should be remembered that the participating former Pakistan foreign minister Sahibzada Ya'qub Ali Khan has been considered close to the Americans and the Pakistan army while her former finance minister, Dr. Mahbubu'l-Huqq is popular among US ruling circles and the World Bank.
Three years ago I had written an article under the heading " Solution of Kashmir problem in the background of Palestine". My proposal was as this: Both sides of Kashmir should be declared self-governing as in Palestine which would form the basis for its final resolution. The participating former finance minister of Pakistan, Mahbu'l-Huqq had proposed in this non-governmental conclave that self government be accepted for Kashmir like Gaza Strip and Jerico in Palestine.
Therefore, I have a humble message not for political leadership of Azad Kashmir but for her youth. I want to ask them how long will they become victims of self-delusion? How long they will continue to remain hostages to their leaders back home while they toil endlessly to earn their livelihood in distant lands away from their near and dear ones? I have also a word for the leadership of the valley of Kashmir. They should take stock of the dead bodies of their sons, brothers, sisters and mothers dropping around them day in and day out. They should galvanize themselves into action for liberating Kashmir and Kashmiris from the bondage of the gun because now, besides the security forces, we too are actively involved in taking precious and innocent lives so wantonly. They must also consider what economic disaster has befallen Kashmir. In 1995 alone, more than 400 Kashmiri youth were killed in inter-gang rivalries. Those who died were sons, brothers and dear ones of people among us.
A few days ago the Jung London published a letter written by one Mahmud Ahmad from Birmingham. He hails from POK. He wrote, "there are a few families in UK who have migrated from Srinagar. But each one of these families has floated an organisation. The people from Indian part of Kashmir have floated four human rights councils. six charity trusts and one or two political organisations. What is to be seen is what differences do they have on the question of human rights so that they cannot make only one organisation. The fact is that these organisations have one President and one or two office bearers and the rest is a blank. Take the case of Dr. Ayub Thukkar. His organisation is given much more projection than any other in the Jung. But till this day we could not find out whether, apart from him, there is or is not any other office bearer of his organisation. And if there are other office bearers, why is their name never mentioned. In the same way Nazir Gilani continues to be the General Secretary of an organisation for the last eight years. There must be a president or a chairman of his organisation. Why is there never any mention of him? What is this secret about and why do Pakistani newspapers give so much of importance and coverage to one-member parties? It is also alleged that some agencies hire intellectuals and capable people in UK and utilise them for specific purpose. After sowing seeds of discord and disunity among Kashmiris, they are blamed that they do not unite."
Communal and inter-gang killings
On the shoulders of Kashmir leadership , rests a heavy responsibility. In order to save the future generations of Kashmir, they have to choose the path of truth and realism. If we allow ourselves to become the hostages of circumstances, then we shall be only signing the death warrants of our future generations. Already the security forces have taken a toll of life; we have now begun to indulge in fratricide, destroying the national wealth - forests. Assets of our society like tradition, confidence and trust are trampled under foot. How long shall we attribute mutual killings to 'Indian agents' and close our eyes to the realities. A gun is hardly used properly. The time is ripe when Kashmiri leadership should take stock of current situation and exhort the nation to reject the gun. They should take the movement into their hands.
The on-going struggle in Kashmir will bring nothing but fragmentation of Kashmir. We shall find nothing but more graveyards, more mourning houses and more of revenge and counter revenge. If Kashmir wins freedom in this shape, as was the case in Afghanistan, it will be a horrible and highly repugnant shape. In one of my previous articles ' "How long the Business over Dead Bodies of Kashmiri Youth" I had given some detail about an organisation called Muslim Hand. In this connection Shabbir Shah talked to me on telephone and told me that Muslim Hand members were providing aid to people in Kashmir through him. Despite that, it is a fact that under the cover of a paltry sum for relief work, millions of rupees are being embezzled in the name of Kashmiris.
To the people of India