Sunday, 18 May 2014

Arif Shahid and his vision, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Arif Shahid and his vision, Dr Shabir Choudhry          17 May 2014

It was on 13 May 2013, a nationalist Kashmiri leader, Arif Shahid was callously killed outside his house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It was widely believed that he was terminated by the secret agencies of Pakistan because he exposed their designs on Kashmir. Arif Shahid courageously opposed religious extremists and forces that groomed terrorists, exported terrorism and religious intolerance. Because of his continued and fearless struggle he had become a symbol of resistance against Pakistani forces of occupation and secret agencies in Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir. To date his killers are not apprehended.

We can disagree with his politics and strategies, but no one can challenge his dedication and struggle for the fundamental rights of the people. Arif Shahid was a man with vision; and wanted to promote democratic values and fundamental human rights for all citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. He believed that religion was a personal matter of individuals; and that religion must be kept out of politics. He promoted peace and strongly advocated equality for non – Muslims and other ethnic groups.

He wanted to have united and independent Jammu and Kashmir with liberal, democratic and secular ideals. He openly challenged those powers that promoted violence, terrorism, intolerance and hatred. Arif Shahid was cautioned to stop his activities; but he was persistent and dedicated man. He refused to surrender; and those who did not like what he did silenced him forever. Kashmiri nationalists believe it was a target killing.

Arif Shahid had ability to recognise those who were fake nationalists, and who were working as a ‘B team’ of Pakistan. He felt it was his duty to expose them that people could not be fooled by them. In his book, ‘Dagh Dagh Ujala’, he asserts that all Kashmiri nationalists of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan (minus JKLF Amanullah Khan, which feels comfortable making alliances with pro Pakistan parties) were part of All Parties National Alliance; and the JKLF Yasin Malik was represented by late Dr Farooq Haider. In APNA meeting held in Islamabad, Dr Farooq Haider, in his speech, ‘revealed that this is the last time nationalists of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan were sitting together’. 1

Arif Shahid writes that he was alarmed by this revelation. ‘There must be some conspiracy going on against our unity. He knew Dr Farooq Haider had good contacts and generally he was privileged to have inside information. Few days after this public meeting Dr Farooq Haider invited Arif Shahid to his residence and told him that he had instructions from the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik to leave the APNA, and that we cannot work together’. 2

Arif Shahid explained the importance of this alliance, APNA, and asserted that it was imperative to make APNA effective to advance the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir. He said people of Gilgit Baltistan had grievances and that we all worked hard to bring them on board. During this meeting Latif Tahir was also present. Dr Farooq Haider agreed with Arif Shahid, but expressed his helplessness as he could not defy the instructions of Yasin Malik.

Realising his predicament, Arif Shahid requested Dr Farooq Haider not to issue a public statement about leaving the alliance, as it would harm the cause of an independent Jammu and Kashmir. Dr Farooq Haider kindly agreed to that. Arif Shahid highly appreciated the services of Dr Farooq Haider. However, he did not have praiseworthy words for Yasin Malik and Amanullah Khan. He says:

 ‘A few years after JKLF Yasin Malik’s departure from the APNA, Yasin Malik visited Rawalpindi, and Dr Farooq Haider invited all Kashmiri nationalists at his residence. During the meeting Yasin Malik suggested that nationalists of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan should make an alliance. It was astonishing to hear this from Yasin Malik, as it was he who stabbed APNA in the back by ordering Dr Farooq Haider to leave the alliance’. 3

In his reply to Yasin Malik, Arif Shahid said that:
 ‘There was no need of a new alliance as APNA is already there, and it has representation from all the regions. Yasin Malik expressed his ignorance about APNA, to which he (Arif Shahid) said, if you had no knowledge of APNA then why you instructed Dr Farooq Haider to leave APNA. Yasin Malik had no reply to this and was embarrassed. Arif Shahid said you come to Pakistan, visit Pakistani cities from Rawalpindi to Karachi, but you have no time to visit Gilgit Baltistan. The discussion continued till 1am. Yasin Malik was assigned a target to destroy APNA, and formulate a compliant alliance. He failed in that. This was a second attack from Yasin Malik, and by grace of Allah both attacks failed. Our crime was that we were fighting against Islamabad’s Kashmir policy. We were not fighting a war against them. Yasin Malik is fighting for Pakistani interests in Srinagar; we are voicing against Pakistani injustice and oppression in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan. This is why Pakistan and their agents are against us, but they all failed. We have shown the world ugly face of Pakistan’. 4

Arif Shahid also exposed Amanullah Khan and his politics. According to Arif Shahid, Amanullah Khan felt more comfortable with pro Pakistan parties; and he did not tolerate any opposition to his policies within his party. Even on important issues, he did not like to consult his senior leaders, for example, when he:

Decided to form unity with Yasin Malik, he did not even consult his JKLF group’s Chairman. Up till that time he used to say Yasin Malik was a double agent of India and Pakistan; and that he was killer of Shabir Sadeeqi and his colleagues -martyrs of Hazrat Bal... Amanullah Khan did not like APNA just because his big brother – Islamabad did not like APNA. Alliance could only be run by people with tolerance and vision. Those who are intolerant cannot run any alliance. Amanullah Khan likes a solo flight...He has a track record of expelling his close colleagues from the JKLF....Amanullah Niazi discovered Amanullah Gilgiti and he transformed to Amanullah khan and there is history behind this. If it was not for his personal interests, then he should have cared for his own people in Gilgit Baltistan where people were suffering and had no leadership’  5
Referring to the position of India and Pakistan, Arif Shahid said:
‘Before we get azadi – independence from India we must get our demands accepted from Pakistan. India entered Kashmir as a result of a treaty; whereas Pakistan entered Kashmir as an aggressor. An aggressor is not liable to any rules. Maharaja’s accession to India is conditional. What is the legal status of Pakistan in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan’? 6
While paying tribute to Arif Shahid, Cynthia Poyton said:

‘In his long struggle he bravely challenged the Pakistani policy in Jammu and Kashmir. He opposed militancy and so called jihad.  In his view, this proxy war sponsored by the Pakistani establishment, have resulted in destruction and human loss. People of Jammu and Kashmir have lost a generation because of this sponsored militancy. I agree with Arif Shahid that gun has no role in the Kashmiri struggle. The borrowed gun has introduced culture of violence and intimidation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and resulted in killing of thousands of innocent people’. 7

Arif Shahid is no longer with us, but his vision and clarity of thought is with us. He became a symbol of resistance against the Pakistani occupation in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Many Azad Kashmiri nationalists believe that his struggle for the oppressed and victimised people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir must continue; and that we must oppose those who promote extremism, violence and religious intolerance. We must expose Pakistani government’s hypocritical stand on the Kashmir dispute and tell people that they have imperialist designs on Jammu and Kashmir.

Arif Shahid’s killers are still not arrested. Pakistani government and law enforcing agencies did not show any interest in this gruesome killing. Kashmiri nationalists demand that the Pakistani authorities:
·         Should constitute a judicial inquiry into the murder of Arif Shahid Shaheed;
·         Arrest and punish all those involved with the conspiracy and murder of Arif Shahid;
·         Immediately stop policy of harassment and intimidation in Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan;
·         Allow people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan to enjoy their fundamental human rights.
1.    Arif Shahid, ‘Dagh Dagh Ujala’ published by National Institute of Kashmir Studies, January 2013, page 138
2.    Ibid, pages 139-40
3.    Ibid, page 141
4.    Ibid, pages 141-42
5.    Ibid, pages 145-146
6.    Ibid, page 154
7.    Speech made by Cynthia Poyton during the UN Human Rights Session in Geneva in September 2013
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs

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