Thursday, 30 April 2015

Pakistan religious intolerance - US Commission International Religious Freedom

Pakistan religious intolerance -
US Commission International Religious Freedom
Key Findings
Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as “countries of particular concern.” In the past year, the government grappled with a challenging security environment and initiated efforts to fight the Pakistani Taliban. However, despite these efforts, Pakistan continued to experience chronic sectarian violence targeting Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and Hindus. Despite positive rulings by the Supreme Court, the government failed to provide adequate protection to targeted groups or to prosecute perpetrators and those calling for violence. Pakistan’s repressive blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmadi laws continue to violate religious freedoms and to foster a climate of impunity. USCIRF again recommends in 2015 that Pakistan be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has recommended since 2002.

Pakistan is an ethnically and religiously diverse country of over 190 million people. The 1998 census of Pakistan found that 95 percent of the population identified as Muslim. Of that, 75 percent identified as Sunni, but that is divided among numerous Sunni sects and denominations. 25 percent of the Muslim population identified as Shi’a. Two to four million Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistani law does not recognize them as such. Non-Muslim faiths constitute roughly five percent of the population, and include Christians, Hindus, Parsis/Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Sikhs, Buddhists, and others. Shi’a, Christian, and Hindu groups believe their communities are larger than the census reported.

In 2014, the Pakistani Supreme Court took up the issue of violence against religious minorities on several occasions, going so far as to mandate the creation of special police forces and monitoring bodies. Despite court oversight and democratic institutions, the Pakistani government engaged in and tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief. Pakistan’s legal environment is particularly repressive due to its religiously discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislation, including its blasphemy laws. The government failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence.

In this climate, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party in parliament made condemnatory statements against acts of violence and established a commission on religious minorities under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. While prosecutions of perpetrators were generally rare, this year an anti-terror court did sentence to death an individual for the 2010 attacks on an Ahmadi mosque. An anti-terror court also remanded four individuals for the mob attack that killed a Christian couple in November 2014 over blasphemy allegations. In civilian courts, where the majority of these cases are heard, militants can intimidate judges and lawyers and perpetrators of mob attacks are frequently released on bail.

No action was taken to reform repressive laws, with observers noting that the National Assembly spent only 15 hours out of over 1000 to discuss rising violence against religious minorities. In addition, in contrast to the previous government, the Sharif government decreased the representation of religious minorities in positions of influence, as the interfaith harmony ministry remained folded into the ministry for religious affairs, which primarily deals with hajj participation. The Sharif government continued to recognize the Minorities Day holiday, established by the late Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister of Minority Affairs who was assassinated in 2011, although the level of participation by government officials was low. The trial of Shahbaz Bhatti’s murderers was suspended due to threats to prosecution witnesses made in the courtroom by militants.

In June 2014, after recurring attacks, the Pakistani military launched military operations against the Pakistani Taliban’s base of operations in North Waziristan. In retaliation, the Pakistani Taliban attacked soft targets, such as Shi’a mosques, churches, and a school for the children of military officers in Peshawar. The December 16 school attack – which killed over 130 children, many execution style, and wounded scores – led Prime Minister Sharif to launch a National Action Plan, which was supported by the major political parties. The 20-point plan, inter alia, created military courts to try terrorists, emphasized actions taken to stop religious extremism and to protect religious minorities, and said an effort would be made to register madrassas.

After the reporting period, USCIRF Commissioners made the first ever Commissioner-level visit to Pakistan in March 2015. Commissioners met with high ranking Pakistani officials, including National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, as well as officials in the Ministries of Interior and Religious Affairs. Tragically, suicide bombers attacked two churches in Lahore the day the USCIRF delegation departed Pakistan.

Religious Freedom Conditions 2014-2015 Targeted Sectarian Violence
The Pakistani government’s failure to effectively intervene against violence targeting the Shi’a minority community, as well as against Christians, Hindus and Ahamdis, continued during the reporting period. USCIRF found that from July 2013 to June 2014, 122 incidents of sectarian violence occurred, resulting in more than 1,200 casualties, including 430 deaths. Authorities have not consistently brought the perpetrators of such violence to justice. Early attempts in 2014 to negotiate peace with the Pakistani Taliban dissolved after repeated attacks, which spurred a major military offensive. The Pakistani Taliban has been a major persecutor of religious minorities, as well as Sunni Muslims who disagree with their ideology, so the military offensive may limit their ability to use violence. However, the Pakistani Taliban may retaliate, as they have in the past, by targeting Shi’a Muslims and schools. Also, any military gains will likely be short-lived without a similar government effort on the civilian side to ensure arrests and prosecutions of perpetrators and instigators of religious violence.

Shi’a Muslims
During 2014, militants and terrorist organizations continued to target Shi’a processions and mosques, as well as social gathering places, with impunity. Police, if present, have failed to stop attackers before people are killed, and the government has not cracked down on the groups that repeatedly target Shi’a Muslims. The government has not successfully prosecuted the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned terrorist organization behind many of the attacks, who is regularly released due to a purported lack of evidence. Christians Violence against Christians continued, with few concrete actions taken by federal or provincial officials to ensure their protection. For instance, after the 2013 mob attack on the Christian village Joseph Colony in Punjab, the provincial government provided some reparations but all of the attackers were released on bail. The only person serving a prison sentence is a Christian falsely accused of blasphemy, who was sentenced to death. Other attacks against Christians because of allegations of blasphemy continued (see below).
During 2014, individual Ahmadis continued to be murdered in religiously-motivated attacks. In May 2014, a Canadian-American Ahmadi doctor visiting Pakistan to do relief work was murdered in front of his family. In July, three Ahmadis – a grandmother and her two grandchildren – were killed in an arson attack by a mob. In December, a major Pakistani television station aired an interview with religious scholars who referred to Ahmadis as “enemies.” Days later, an Ahmadi was murdered; the community suspects motivation from the television broadcast. (See more about the unique legal repression of Ahmadis below.) In addition, local police repeatedly forced Ahmadis to remove Qur’anic scripture from mosques and minarets.
Allegations of kidnappings of Hindu women, followed by forced conversions to Islam and forced marriages to Muslim men, continued to arise throughout 2014. Hindu women are particularly vulnerable to these crimes because Pakistani law does not recognize Hindu marriages. In March 2014, a mob set fire to a Hindu community center in southern Pakistan after allegations that a Hindu had desecrated a Qur’an. Four other Hindu temples were attacked that month elsewhere.
Forced Conversions
Forced conversion of Christian and Hindu girls and young women into Islam and forced marriage remains a systemic problem. The Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan estimates that hundreds of Christians and Hindus are victimized each year.
Blasphemy Laws
The country’s blasphemy laws, used predominantly in Punjab province but also nationwide, target members of religious minority communities and dissenting Muslims. During the reporting period, five individuals were sentenced to death and one to life in prison, their actions had blasphemed Islam. After the reporting period, the Punjab Prosecution Department and provincial judiciary announced that they had reviewed 262 blasphemy cases awaiting trial and recommended that 50 be reviewed for dismissal because the accused had been victimized by complainants. No religious minorities were included in the review.
Violence continued to be perpetrated around blasphemy allegations. In March 2014, a Pakistani Christian was murdered after being acquitted. In May, a leading human rights attorney, Rashid Rehman, was murdered in his office for defending a Muslim accused of blasphemy. In September, a leading Islamic scholar was gunned down after allegations of blasphemy. In November, a mob killed a Christian man and his pregnant wife accused of blasphemy by throwing them into a brick kiln. Also in November, a policeman killed a Shi’a Muslim with an axe while in custody due to allegedly blasphemous statements.

Blasphemy laws are inherently problematic and conflict with fundamental human rights protections. In Pakistan, they are particularly pernicious. The punishments are severe: death or life imprisonment. There is no clear definition of blasphemy, which empowers the accuser to decide if a blasphemous act has occurred. No proof of intent is required, nor must evidence be presented after allegations are made. Penalties for false allegations are not part of the blasphemy laws, though bringing the total of blasphemy prisoners in Pakistan to 38. In October, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after a dispute with co-workers; she later wrote a letter from her windowless cell to the Pakistani President requesting a pardon. Many others have been charged with blasphemy and await trial. During 2014, charges were brought against the owner of a major Pakistani television station, as well as a popular Pakistan singer-turned imam, when individuals felt they may exist in other criminal code provisions. The need for specific penalties was demonstrated when USCIRF asked government officials about instances where false allegations of blasphemy were prosecuted and they were not able to offer a single example.

Legal Restrictions on Ahmadis
Ahmadis are subject to severe legal restrictions, both in the constitution and criminal code, and suffer from officially-sanctioned discrimination. 2014 was the 40th anniversary of Pakistan’s second amendment, which amended the constitution to declare Ahmadis to be “non-Muslims.” Other discriminatory penal code provisions make basic acts of Ahmadi worship and interaction criminal offenses. They also are prevented from voting.
Discriminatory content against religious minorities in provincial textbooks remains a concern. The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced plans in October 2014 to restore problematic references to jihad that could support violence. More positively, the Sindh provincial Ministry of Education ordered the removal of all discriminatory passages about religious minorities. At the end of the year, it was unclear whether the positive or negative changes had been implemented. In addition, USCIRF received reports of preferential treatment for Muslim students, who can receive extra credit for memorizing the Qur’an, making it easier for them to obtain government jobs or university placement. This also discriminates against students from non-Muslim religions. USCIRF’s 2011 study of Pakistani textbooks found that an alarming number of Pakistan’s public schools and privately-run madrassas devalue religious minorities in both textbooks and classroom instruction. The madrassa education system generally relies on very old religious texts and for the most part does not educate children about the value of religious tolerance and diversity.
U.S. Policy
Pakistan plays a critical role in U.S. government efforts to combat al-Qaeda and in supporting U.S. and multinational forces in Afghanistan. However, with the drawdown of combat troops from Afghanistan, U.S. government reliance on Pakistan for transport of supplies and ground lines of communication to Afghanistan will decrease. Regardless, the United States will remain engaged with Pakistan, due to concerns about Pakistani links to terrorists and other militants opposed to the Afghan government, the country’s nuclear arsenal, its contentious relationship with neighboring India, and other issues.

Overall U.S.-Pakistan relations have long been marked by strain, disappointment, and mistrust. Human rights and religious freedom have not been among the highest priorities in the bilateral relationship, although U.S. Embassy Islamabad has actively tracked cases and U.S. officials have raised concerns with Pakistani officials. The Strategic Dialogue, established between the United States and Pakistan in 2010, includes the topics of “economy and trade; energy; security; strategic stability and non-proliferation; law enforcement and counter-terrorism; science and technology, education; agriculture; water; health; and communications and public diplomacy,” but not human rights. Although the Dialogue was dormant for some time due to challenges in the bilateral relationship, by the end of the reporting period select bilateral working groups reportedly were meeting. USCIRF has recommended the inclusion of a working group on religious tolerance, so as to create a positive forum to engage on issues of mutual concern.

The aid relationship with Pakistan is complex and changing. Congress has placed certification requirements on U.S. military assistance to Pakistan focusing on counterterrorism cooperation. The State Department notified Congress that the Obama Administration would waive the certification requirements in July 2014. Non-military U.S. aid dramatically increased in recent years, while military aid has ebbed and flowed over the decades of engagement. In October 2009, President Obama signed the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act) authorizing an additional $7.5 billion ($1.5 billion annually over five years) in mostly non-military assistance to Pakistan. However, the $1.5 billion amount was only met in the first year, and the appropriated amount has been approximately one-third of that each year since. The Act expired in 2014. The Obama Administration’s FY2015 request for aid to Pakistan totaled $882 million.
Promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief must be an integral part of U.S. policy in Pakistan, and designating Pakistan as a CPC would enable the United States to more effectively press Islamabad to undertake needed reforms. The forces that target religious minorities and members of the majority faith present a human rights and security challenge to Pakistan and the United States. USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government should:
·         Designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern,” as required under IRFA, due to the government’s engagement in and toleration of particularly severe violations of religious freedom, and work to reach a binding agreement with the Pakistani government on steps to be delisted and avoid Presidential actions; such an agreement should be accompanied by Congress appropriating resources for related capacity building through the State Department and USAID mechanisms;

·     Press the Pakistani government to implement the Supreme Court decision to create a special police force to protect religious groups from violence and actively prosecute perpetrators, both individuals involved in mob attacks and members of militant groups;

·         Recognize the unique governmental offices focusing on religious tolerance at the federal and provincial levels by including discussions on religious tolerance in U.S.-Pakistan dialogues or by creating a special track of bilateral engagement about government efforts to promote interfaith harmony;

·         Urge the reestablishment of the Federal Ministry for Interfaith Harmony and the removal of the commission on religious minorities from the Ministry for Religious Affairs, giving both direct access to the cabinet and Prime Minister;

·         Work with international partners to raise religious freedom concerns with Pakistani officials in Islamabad and in multilateral settings, and to encourage the Pakistani government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for a country visit;

·          Encourage national textbook and curricula standards that actively promote tolerance towards members of all religions, both in government schools and the madrassa system overseen by the religious affairs ministry;

·         Encourage the government of Pakistan to launch a public information campaign about the historic role played by religious minorities in the country, their contributions to Pakistani society, and their equal rights and protections; either in parallel or independently, use the tools of U.S. public diplomacy to highlight similar themes;

·         Urge the Pakistani government and provincial governments to review all cases of individuals charged with blasphemy in order to release those subjected to abusive charges, as is underway in Punjab, while still also calling for the unconditional release and pardoning of all individuals sentenced to prison for blasphemy or for violating anti-Ahmadi laws;

·         Work with federal and provincial parliamentarians to support the passage of marriage bills recognizing Hindu and Christian marriages;

·         Call for the repeal of the blasphemy law and the rescinding of anti-Ahmadi provisions of law; until those steps can be accomplished, urge the Pakistani government to reform the blasphemy law by making blasphemy a bailable offense and/or by adding penalties for false accusations or enforcing such penalties found elsewhere in the penal code;

·         Ensure that a portion of U.S. security assistance is used to help police implement an effective plan for dedicated protection for religious minority communities and their places of worship; and Provide USAID capacity-building funding to the provincial Ministries of Minority Affairs, and work with Pakistan’s government and minority religious communities to help them reach agreement on measures to ensure their rights and security in the country.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report 2014

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report 2014
A damning report editorial Daily Times, April 20, 2015

That the state of human rights in Pakistan is woefully bad is no secret but it is the annual report compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that really drives this point home. Titled ‘The State of Human Rights in 2014’, its statistics portray a bleak and alarming picture of a country mired in violence, hate and militancy. As many as 1,723 Pakistanis lost their lives last year in terror attacks and 3,143 were injured. There were 1,206 militant attacks inside the country out of which 26 were suicide strikes. As many as 144 attacks were sectarian-fuelled and 14 journalists and media workers were killed in what the report has labelled the “most dangerous country in the world for journalists.” The figures get worse when the report veers towards the state of our hapless minorities: Hindus, Ahmedis, Christians, Zikris and Shias, none were safe. Blasphemy-related cases and charges were on the rise, especially against minority members. The entire report is a seething indictment of everything that is wrong with the country in the arena of human rights. The report also noted that the government has made no moves to introduce legislation to ensure the protection of our beleaguered minorities.

The 2014 report is not much different from the report released by the HRCP in 2013. Our national statistics relayed the same kind of doomsday scenario. Why is it that every year our eyes are opened yet the government turns the other cheek? It is impossible that these horrendous figures miss the attention of our authorities, so why are HRCP reports not used as a guide to better the state of human rights in our country? In 2014 we witnessed the brutal burning to death of a Christian couple in a brick kiln, attacks against women were unabashedly on the rise and polio teams were targeted and murdered more than ever before. These are not just numbers; they are the ground reality of what presently makes up the fabric of our society.

The HRCP must be congratulated for always trudging through the murky waters and making every effort to wake up the slumbering incumbents. It must be a tough job shouting from the rooftop every year to fix the state of affairs, to remedy the lot of the people but to never have your voice heard. For that, the HRCP deserves credit for sheer perseverance, for being the voice of the marginalised who just do not seem to matter. *

Friday, 17 April 2015

Let’s observe Hartal against Hartals! JUNAID QURESHI

Let’s observe Hartal against Hartals! JUNAID QURESHI 
It was upsetting for me to hear that some were flirting with the idea of creating separate townships for the Kashmiri Pandits. Fortunately, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed denied the news almost instantly and also expressed his wish of the Kashmiri Pandits returning to their native places and living honourably among their Muslim brethren. Whatever Mufti Sayeed’s political ideology is, at the end of the day he is a Kashmiri and his Kashmiriyat won it from politics. 
Indeed, his wish is a noble and just wish. A wish which I also harbour. But I think that mere wishing is not enough. This wish can only be fulfilled if it is preceded by introspection, reconciliation, truth and the dispensation of Justice. It definitely will not be fulfilled by calls from Legislators asking the Kashmiri Pandits to apologize for their own migration. Despite conspiracy theories, I consider the migration of the Kashmiri Pandit minority a failure of the Kashmiri Muslim majority. Although we Kashmiri Muslims as a majority might not all be culpable for these dark pages in our history, we collectively failed as a majority. If anyone ought to apologize, it is we who should. 
Unsurprisingly, the circus of event-based separatism woke up from its hibernation sleep which many of its performers were having during the winter at places like Jammu and Delhi and directly called for protests and Hartals as soon as the news about separate townships broke out. The repeated clearances by the Chief Minister in the news and Assembly were conveniently ignored.
Ironically the first news was believed and the denial of it by the same news-channels was called a hoax. Of course it did not matter to the separatists whether the news was true, untrue, rejected, explained or denied. It even didn’t matter to them whether the Kashmiri Pandits would return or not, as they have never done anything to bring them back since they left. The event-based separatists just needed an event and some not so intelligent people gave it to them. And what did Kashmir get in return? Hartal. Like always.
The infamous ‘Hartal’ has unfortunately become a part of our lives in Kashmir. So much so, that some of our youth wish for it as it enables them to play their favourite game of cricket on roads which have less traffic during these so-called strikes. We also consider potential so-called strikes while we plan for marriages, travel, business, exams or holidays. The majority of the well-off class in Srinagar for example, can be found at places like Gulmarg and Pahalgam during the week of India’s Independence day. And would you blame them? I would do the same. After all, it’s an extra day off and with the anticipated disturbances in the aftermath of this day, it usually means an extra week off. 
I call these Hartals so-called strikes, as they are a mockery to the institution of strikes. A strike is where a substantial proportion of the population participates and which involves entire communities. As that is the only way to achieve success. The General Strike during the Russian revolution, mass strikes during the industrial revolution and the strike in Poland in the eighties which contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe. Now, those are called strikes! Not just some closure of shops and stone-pelting in the by-lanes of certain mohalla’s which keep the whole city hostage by sheer hooliganism.
Totally contrary to the actual aim of constituting strikes, in Kashmir the motto is; ‘United we fall, divided we stand’. Just like smaller shopkeepers start lowering the prices of their stock and advertise with boards of ‘Sale’ and ‘30% off’ as soon as the largest shopkeeper in the street does the same, in Kashmir smaller separatist groups follow with subsequent strikes on subsequent days while extending their support to the strike called by the somewhat larger separatist groups. Hartals in Kashmir are nothing more than PR-stunts for separatist shops. It blows new air into their balloons while its sucks away oxygen from the common man. 
Jammu & Kashmir is a total consumer state. We have no formidable industry, except the industry of vested political interests, which is worth mentioning. Almost every ounce of meat and every gram of chicken is imported from India. We call for Hartal when a foreign militant from Lahore or Kabul is killed in an encounter on our soil while we ignore the Kashmiri policeman of J&K police who lost his life in the same encounter. We call for Hartal when the Prime Minister of India visits Kashmir, yet we accept his economic packages. We have tea and biscuits on Pakistan day at the High Commission and call for Hartal on India’s Republic Day. We call for Hartal against the presence of the Indian Army in Kashmir, while their recruitment rally for 55 posts invites 20.000 youth. Who the hell are we trying to fool?
More importantly, what do we gain from Hartals? Where exactly do we pain India with it? Yes, we display our selective resentment, but is that display worth our own annihilation? And what have almost 7 years of Hartal in the last 25 years brought us? 7 years, for God’s sake! It took the Romans just 8 years to build the Colosseum almost 2000 years ago. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was built in just 2 years more than a century ago. It took Sultan Ahmed exactly 7 years to build the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in the 17th century. And what did we build? We built a ‘movement’ based on Hartals which calls one occupier a tyrant and the other occupier an elder brother and a benefactor. 
Hartals have been the driving force behind the migration of the talented youth from Kashmir. Every other family with reasonable financial means sends their children to Chandigarh, Pune, Delhi or Mumbai for higher studies. These youth crave for jobs in Europe, US and the Middle-East. They rightfully do not see any educational or professional opportunities in Kashmir. More than often, they blame Kashmir’s Hartal-culture for their disillusion. Usually parents also prefer a groom who is settled outside of Kashmir, for their daughters. When one asks these youngsters about their return, they nonchalantly answer, “What is there in Kashmir?” It puts me up with a different question; “If this outflow of talent continues, what will there remain in Kashmir?”      
These Hartals are only aimed at keeping some of our dear ‘leaders’ in the news and do not bring us any inch closer to what they would like us to believe. Neither ‘Azaadi’ nor accession to Pakistan will be achieved by this mockery. Hartals will only tighten the shackles of slavery while they bankroll the political shops of those who lack vision and only sell dreams of deceit. 
Although, I am a staunch opponent of these so-called Hartals, yet I would like to call for one Hartal. Let the shopkeeper, the bus-driver, the auto-rickshaw driver, the Sumo-driver, the vegetable-vendor, the milk-man, the bakery owner, the fruit-vendor, the tea-stall owner, the patient in need of medicines, the LIC representative in need of meeting his target, the street sweeper, the butcher, the uncorrupted government employee, the mechanic, the waiter, the student in need of education, the labourer who earns his and his family’s food by lifting bricks, the teacher passionate about passing knowledge to the next generation and every other common Kashmiri who loves Kashmir and is fed-up of being blackmailed constitute one single Hartal against Hartal itself. Let us create history, as the nation which defended the sanctity of Hartal by Hartal while it stood up against its own mortification.     
The writer can be reached at

Thursday, 16 April 2015


At a time when militants have struck the valley, leading to deaths of local policemen (many of them Muslims), but nonetheless, our minister General VK Singh graced a Pakistan Day function, and when a certain section of Kashmiri Muslims is violently protesting against the return of those from the Hindu minority displaced from the valley (though there is also a vocal section of Kashmiri Muslims opposing such communalists in their midst), it becomes necessary to reflect on the statement of the current chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as to whether Pakistan and the militants created a good atmosphere in the valley during the latest state elections. In fact, this piece seeks not only to rebut what Mufti specifically said, but to debunk the notion that Pakistan has ever played any positive role in the resolution of the Kashmir issue, except perhaps on some very rare occasions, but even on those occasions, the Pakistani state was never a monolith in this regard. No, I am not attempting at engaging in anti-Pakistan hate-mongering, but to clear the historical record, and my stand on how Indians should view Pakistan has been spelt out in some detail in this article, and that is not the focus here. I may also clarify that India hasn’t been fully clean when it comes to the Kashmir issue, as I have discussed inthis article, but that is not the focus here.

Let us begin the story from when the “Kashmir issue”, as we know it, began. To start with, it was the Pakistani establishment that tried to coercively capture the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had been a part of Britain’s Chamber of Princes in undivided India (unlike Nepal, Bhutan and Balochistan), and the Pakistani tribesmen and soldiers raped and plundered people of all faiths, though the Hindu minority of Kashmir was particularly targeted. The claim of the Pakistani and pro-Pakistan propagandists that the invasion was legitimate, for Jammu and Kashmir was a Muslim-majority province with a Hindu ruler, with the Muslim majority unanimously desirous of joining Pakistan, to start with, is dubious. Why do I say so? To examine this, let me cite certain passages from a book Kashmir: The Unwritten History by Australian strategic analyst Christopher Snedden, which is, by no means, pro-India on the whole and has been hailed by many Kashmiri separatists (some of the excerpts are lengthy but definitely make an interesting read and are highly relevant to the topic)-

“despite the fact that J&K had a Muslim-majority population, the political inclinations of the people of J&K were far more complex and uncertain” (page 10)

“neither India nor Pakistan was guaranteed majority popular support” (page 12)

“J&K was politically disunited by forces that had strong- and differing- post-British desires for the princely state's status.” (page 27)

“Despite J&K’s inherent disunity, Hari Singh’s accession would have been much simpler had Muslims in J&K been united in their desire for the state’s future status.  Indeed, Muslim disunity is one of the most significant explanations of why the so-called Kashmir dispute began – and continues.” (page 35)

“…the core of the problem in J&K was its people.  They were ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse, diffuse and different; they lacked religious and political unity; they were divided in their aspirations for J&K’s future international status.” (pages 35, 36)

“An important trait evident among Kashmiris partially explains why Kashmiri Muslims were ambivalent about Pakistan in 1947.  Called ‘Kashmiriness’ or ‘Kashmiriyat’, a newer term with Perso-Arabic roots, this trait was a fundamental and apparently long-held part of Kashmiri identity and culture.  Kashmiriness emphasises ‘the acceptance and tolerance of all religions among Kashmiris’.  It is ‘manifested in the solidarity of different faiths and ethnic groups in the state’.  The concept was apparently epitomized by the patron saint of Kashmir, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, a Muslim born in 1375 of a Hindu convert to Islam.  Popularly known as Nund Rishi, he repeatedly poses a question in a poem; ‘How can members of the same family jeer at one another?’ The answer is the essence of Kashmiriness; Kashmiris, whoever they are and whatever their religious backgrounds and practices, are all members of one indivisible Kashmir Valley ‘family’.  It is a recipe – or even a requirement – for tolerance.
One significant consequence of Kashmiriness was that, compared with Hindus and Muslims in Jammu or northern India, Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) had relatively few social divisions or antagonisms.  While they nevertheless had disputes and rivalries, the two groups generally were more liberal and more tolerant and, in many cases, had amicable, even close relations.  This harmony arose because both shared the same ethnicity, language and geographical region and the same recent history under repressive rulers comprising Muslim Afghans (Durranis), Punjabi Sikhs (Ranjit Singh’s empire) and Jammu Hindus (Dogras), although the latter was less repressive for Pandits.  It was important that Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits also enjoyed a similar culture, including revering each other’s religious figures and festivals, eating halal mutton instead of beef or pork (even though Pandits were of the Brahmin or priestly caste that elsewhere usually practised vegetarianism), and not being particular about ‘defilement or pollution by touch’.   As a leading Pandit put it, ‘Racially, culturally and linguistically the Hindus and Muslims living in Kashmir [were] practically one’.  That said, Kashmiri Pandits also enjoyed greater influence and economic wellbeing than Kashmiri Muslims.  This was due to the Pandits’ position as Hindu subjects of a Hindu ruler, from which flowed benefits such as being landowners and their numerically large involvement as state employees.  Nevertheless, relations between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits generally were far more amicable than the relations between Hindu and Muslims in Jammu Province.

One significant result of the concept of Kashmiriness was that Kashmiris may have been naturally attracted to secular thinking.  This was partly because they were apparently nor afflicted by the ‘majority-minority complex’ that was evident among Muslims in other parts of the subcontinent, and partly because they were ‘a deeply religious people who abhor[red] politically exploitation of their faith.  Hence, the pro-Pakistan stance of the major pro-Pakistan party in J&K, the Muslim Conference, and its Pakistan ally the Muslim League was not automatically popular with Kashmiri Muslims.  To join Pakistan simply because it would be a Muslim homeland was an insufficient reason.” (pages 18-20)

“A further factor that caused Kashmiris to be ambivalent about Pakistan was the significant role played in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah and the political party that he dominated, the National Conference.  Abdullah’s role in J&K is very important.  For over fifty years (1931-82), he was Muslim Kashmiris’ most popular politician, whether in power or denied it.  (Abdullah was jailed for long periods by the Maharaja, by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, his successor as Prime Minister in J&K, and by the Indian Government).  According to his autobiography, Abdullah’s political career began as early as 1926, when he joined the ‘relentless struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed’ and, desiring the become the people’s savior, began to oppose the Maharaja’s regime and its practices on an individual basis.  He disliked a number of the Maharaja’s practices, including discrimination on religious grounds, exploitation of the people through taxation, corruption, the inequitable land system, and the people’s lack of political freedom.  Abdullah sprang to prominence in 1931 during the major anti-Maharaja agitation in Srinagar, and event of ‘seminal importance’ that temporarily – but severely – challenged Hari Singh’s rule.  Indeed, it was due to Abdullah’s bold part in this uprising that he became known as the Lion of Kashmir.  A further consequence of this major uprising was that, as a result of the Glancy Commission formed in order to investigate the uprising’s causes, the Maharaja allowed the formation of the first political party in J&K.  In October 1932, the All J&K Muslim Conference was formed in order to safeguard Muslim interest in J&K.  Abdullah, a Muslim, later remained this party the All J&K National Conference.  Espousing secularism, it would later play a significant role in delivering a large part of J&K to India and in ending the Maharaja’s rule.

Because Sheikh Abdullah had a strong aversion to autocracy, he regarded the concept of Pakistan negatively.  Abdullah disliked the Maharaja absolutism.  The United States’ Consul in Lahore agreed: saying, ‘according to all disinterested informants [the Maharaja] has never displayed the slightest interest in the welfare of the people over whom he has maintained an autocratic rule.  For Sheikh Abdullah, both Jinnah and the Islamic Pakistan that the autocratic Muslim League leader envisaged establishing were also unappealing.  The influential Kashmiri leader considered that Pakistan was the result of an emotional Muslim reaction of Hindu communalism and ‘an escapist device’.  Abdullah and his colleagues, many of whom were Muslims, also received (correctly) that Pakistan would be dominated by feudal elements, as well as being a society in which Kashmiris and their reform agenda would have little power: ‘Chains of slavery will keep us in their continuous strangehold.  Conversely, Abdullah considered that secular India would be different.  I would have people and parties, including India’s major party, the Indian National Congress, whose views largely coincided with Abdullah and his party. India also represented an option that would accept the National Conference’s enlightened and progressive ideas’.  It embraced more democracy that either Pakistan or the Jinnah-dominated Muslim League, ‘whose leader had a very high opinion of himself’.” (page 21)

Speaking of the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference formed in 1941, Snedden says-

“…the Muslim Conference faced a major challenge in the numerically and politically important Kashmir Valley; it lacked a charismatic Kashmiri-speaking politician who could rival Sheikh Abdullah and his coterie of Kashmiri colleagues.  The Muslim Conference’s stance also was unpopular elsewhere, especially among the non-Muslim majority in eastern Jammu, as its killings of Muslims were clearly showing.” (page 24)

“Although Jinnah (falsely) believed that J&K would fall into Pakistan’s ‘lap like a ripe fruit’ once the Maharaja realized his and the people’s interests and acceded to Pakistan, and although he was prepared to allow the Maharaja’s ‘autocratic government’ to continue, support for independence enabled pro-Pakistan forces to woo the decision maker rather than the people.  This approach was pragmatic.  However, it also made the Muslim Conference appear keen to gain the Maharaja’s support at any cost.  And although this tactic adhered to Jinnah’s statement in July 1947 that princely rulers were free to join Pakistan, India or remain independent, many Muslin Conference members wanted their party’s support for independence reversed.  Also, by allowing the ruler to decide the issue, the Muslim Conference enabled its National Conference rival to advance the populist – and eminently mire ‘sellable’ – view that the people should be given self-government so that, ‘armed with authority and responsibility, [they] could decide for themselves where their interests lay’.  Apart from advancing its own popularity, the National Conference’s stance also served to reveal the Muslim Conference as simply an appendage or surrogate of the Muslim League – as it was.

The Muslim Conference’s pragmatic approach towards the Maharaja built on a previous stance Jinnah instigated during the National Conference’s ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign that started on 20 May 1946 with the aim of ridding J&K of Dogra rule.  This campaign was significant between the positions of Jinnah and Nehru on J&K.  Jinnah opposed Quit Kashmir as a movement ‘engineered by some malcontents’.  This stance, coupled with his lack of criticism of J&K’s unpopular ruler, particularly when compared with criticisms made by Nehru and the Indian National Congress, made Jinnah appear pro-Maharaja.  This lost the Muslim League leader support among Kashmiri Muslims, especially among the ‘malcontents’, most of whom were National Conference members.  Indeed, one such National Conference member, Mir Qasim (who later became the Chief Minister of Indian J&K), believed that Jinnah’s unpopular and insensitive attitude ‘killed the chances of Kashmir going to Pakistan’.  The Muslim Conference lost credibility because it did not initially oppose the Maharaja when Quit Kashmir commenced in May 1946 – a policy Jinnah ordered because he believed that the party would do better working through constitutional channels.” (page 26)

“…the Muslim Conference appeared to be steadily lose support, certainly in the Kashmir Valley, owing to poor leadership and increased factionalism; conversely, support for the National Conference increased because it was united and had strong leadership.” (page 27)

I may add to this that Jinnah, in his visit to Kashmir in 1941, received much hostility from sections of Kashmiri Muslims and conceded that he did not get unanimous support. To add to that, when he sent an envoy to Kashmir in 1943 to assess whether Kashmiris would be willing to join Pakistan, his envoy gave him a response, which, to use the language of acclaimed historian Alex von Tunzelmann, was "disheartening" (The Indian Summer, p. 284). Jinnah tried to play his own politics in Kashmir, using the minister Ramchandra Kak, a Kashmiri Hindu, as a Trojan horse, but failed, and you can read about the same here.

It may be added that Shaikh Abdullah continued to be popular with Kashmiri Muslims after his having taken a stand in favour of India and after the Dogra monarchy was displaced, Abdullah ensured that land reforms were carried out by abolishing landlordism and giving peasants ownership over land, which won him tremendous affection from the people of the valley. Pakistan had retained the feudal system of landlordism, as it still has, and many Kashmiri Muslims realized that the land reforms in Kashmir were possible owing to Kashmir being a part of India rather than Pakistan. To quote the noted scholar Michael Brecher from his book The Struggle for Kashmir-

“The vast majority of Kashmiris have benefited from these reforms and many of those interviewed by the author expressed the feat that in Pakistan, where no comparable land reforms have taken place, the land recently given to them might be returned to the landlords or, in any event, that further implementation of the 'New Kashmir' programme will be impossible.” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar's book Kashmir - Beyond the Vale on page 139)

Abdullah had clearly stated in the context of Pakistan-

“The most powerful argument which can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and, a big majority of our people being Muslims the State must accede to Pakistan.  This claim of being a Muslim State is of course only a camouflage.  It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal state in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power...” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar's book Kashmir - Beyond the Vale on page 139)

Even today, there are Kashmiri Muslims, including those who want their region to be an independent country, who acknowledge that back then, Abdullah had made the right decision by opting for India. As one such person has articulated-

“The first question that comes to mind is would the Pakistani establishment quash the Feudal or Zamindari systems in Kashmir handing the land over to the tillers? Do keep in mind that even today Pakistan is a feudal society with most of the land in the hands of the Punjabi Chaudhrys. I mean all that the Kashmiri Hindus and Dogra land owners had to do was convert to Islam and just like the Punjabi Chaudhrys of Pakistan continue with the feudal system.”

He further says-

“Now picture yourself as a common Kashmiri filling the chillum of a Punjabi Pakistani Chaudhry or that of a Kashmiri Hindu/Dogra Feudal lord with tobacco and ask yourself this smart was Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah?”

And by the way, Islam as a religion emphasizes socioeconomic egalitarianism and the first land reforms in world history were carried out by the caliph Hazrat Umar Bin Khattab, and so, it is particularly shameful that Pakistan, calling itself an Islamic state, still has an institutionalized zamindari system, as Pakistani liberal Hasan Nisar points out!

However, coming back to Kashmir, the pointers raised  as justifications for Pakistan’s armed actions either take the form of whataboutism with respect to India’s stand on the Muslim-ruled, Hindu-majority Hyderabad and Junagadh, or cite the pro-Pakistan rebellion in Poonch before the Pathan tribal raid (the latter point became popular to cite after Snedden’s book mentioned it).

The Poonch rebellion does go to show that the Dogra king was unpopular among his subjects, but that is something already acknowledged by Indians and Pakistanis alike. From the Indian point of view, Jawaharlal Nehru’s trips to Kashmir in which he peacefully took on the monarchy and even faced arrest in the princely state are well-known. But when he assumed the role of India’s prime minister, Nehru did not engage in such adventures and did not interfere, at least blatantly, in the internal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, which would amount to disrespecting sovereignty.

It may have very well been legitimate for the pro-Pakistan Muslims of Poonch to rise in armed revolt against their king, just as it may have been legitimate for the pro-India Shaikh Abdullah to lead peaceful movements against the monarchy in the valley (and Shaikh Abdullah’s mass struggle had a history predating the Poonch rebellion in 1947), but how do these become the starting point of what we conventionally understand as the “Kashmir issue” involving India, Pakistan and the people of the (now erstwhile) princely state? And if the Poonch rebellion is indeed taken as the starting point, it can only be on two grounds - the first being that these rebels wanted accession to Pakistan [in Snedden’s words-“The only way the Maharaja could possibly appease Poonch Muslims would be to accede to Pakistan; they would not have settled for anything less.” (page 32)] and the second being that there were elements in Pakistan thatsupported the rebellion. To quote from Snedden’s interview given to Tehelka correspondent Baba Umar (who is a Kashmiri separatist and happens to be an acquaintance of mine)-“there was some degree of support from the Pakistan government”.

Let us examine both points one by one. As regards Poonch Muslims wanting accession to Pakistan, this hardly goes very far in suggesting that the majority of the populace in the whole of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir favoured accession to Pakistan, as the excerpts from not only Snedden’s book but even other sources stated above, demonstrate.

So, even if the Muslims of Poonch were united in the demand for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan, the people (even Muslims) of the entire princely state were not, and indeed, it has been no one’s case that there wasn’t a pro-Pakistan section among the people of the erstwhile princely state, but Snedden himself concedes that it cannot be said with certainty as to what the aspirations of the majority of the populace were. Hence, Pakistan’s case for claiming Jammu and Kashmir solely on the basis of its Muslim majority falls flat, as opposed to India’s case for a majority of people in the princely states of Hyderabad and Junagadh desiring to join India, which was proved by subsequent plebiscites. The hurdle in the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir came not from India, which had already promised the Kashmiris a plebiscite, but Pakistan, which, in violation of the 1948 UN resolution, refused to withdraw its troops from the part of the erstwhile princely state it had occupied in the 1947-48 war following the Pashtun tribal raid, which, as per the resolution, was a precursor to the plebiscite. Nehru had, in fact, gone on record even later to say that he was willing to follow the UN resolution (i.e. conduct the plebiscite) in the whole of the erstwhile princely state if Pakistan complied with the precondition of withdrawing its troops, as can be seen from this video (watch 1:58 onwards). Now, it must be mentioned that many Kashmiri separatists who haven’t read the UN resolution and just know that it calls for a plebiscite often invoke the UN resolution, but when made to realize that the resolution is not exactly what they claim it to be, their entire stance changes to ridiculing international law itself being irrelevant and a conspiracy of Western powers, a stance diametrically opposite to the one they took before learning of what the resolution entailed!
However, if they support self-determination as an absolute right, which is to say that any part of any country should be unilaterally allowed to secede at will, would they support any household declaring itself as a separate country and not paying taxes, desiring to have diplomatic relations with their country, or any district of the independent Jammu and Kashmir they envisage to secede at will? Pray, quite the contrary, their leaders do not wish to give Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist-majority Ladakh that right in the independent country they envisage! And speaking of Pakistanis and those who are pro-Pakistan, given the secessionist voices in Sindh and the secessionist or pro-Afghanistan voices in Khyber Pakhtoonwa, are they willing to conduct plebiscites in these particular provinces?

Also, when Shaikh Abdullah had later started vacillating in the 1950s between Kashmir being a part of India with some autonomy, and being an independent country altogether (Pakistan was still not an option for him, and a reason for vacillating from his firm pro-India stance was his concern over Hindu majoritarianism in India, which had manifested itself even in the killing of Mahatma Gandhi), and Nehru had him imprisoned, Nehru did, on the other hand, again offer Pakistan a plebiscite! To be quote the eminent writer MJ Akbar on this point, from his highly acclaimed book Kashmir – Behind the Vale (2002 paperback edition)-

“Within a fortnight of arresting Abdullah for asking too much of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru completely reversed India’s position and offered Pakistan a plebiscite!

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, now Mohammad Ali, came to Delhi on an official visit.  In the talks Nehru suggested that after the two Prime Ministers had finalized the preliminary issues, a plebiscite administrator could be named by April 1954.  He even told Mohammad Ali that voting could be done in the whole state rather than separate Hindu & Muslim regions, and if this meant the loss of the whole Valley, he was prepared for it!  The offer was confirmed in a letter to Mohammad Ali on 3 September.” (page 154)

“The only condition Nehru placed was that the American UN nominee Admiral Nimitz be replaced ad Plebiscite Administrator by someone form a smaller country.  Deeply suspicious of the US, he did not want this superpower’s hand in the plebiscite.” (page 154)

“If there were any doubts about Nehru’s sincerity in those years about the plebiscite commitment, then surely they should have ended with this proposal.” (page 154)

Akbar further mentions how Pakistan’s insistence on the US admiral led Nehru to withdraw the offer. For more on how Pakistan sought to avoid a plebiscite, see this.

In fact, Pakistan's stand was always to go purely by the will of the ruler, by virtue of which it had sought to engage Hindu-majority princely states like Hyderabad, Junagadh, and even Jodhpur and Jaisalmer (in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, even the rulers were Hindu, unlike Hyderabad and Junagadh) to join it. It had never basically adopted the principle of a plebiscite, to begin with.

Speaking of the second point of how the Pakistani state machinery supported or at least allowed non-state actors to support an armed rebellion in Poonch, does acknowledging this help Pakistan’s case? Certainly not, as it would amount to blatant disregard for international law! It is already embarassing for the Pakistani state to admit that its non-state actors (Pashtuns) had infiltrated into another territory! And on this point, we may delve a little more into the legal status of the erstwhile princely state following India’s independence. The princely states were, after the British government taking control over India from the British East India Company, following the Revolt of 1857, no longer the subsidiary but sovereign powers they were prior to that but subordinated officially to the British Crown, as Queen Victoria proclaiming herself to be the Empress of India, demonstrated as also the Chamber of Princes in New Delhi. However, once the British left India, the princely states re-emerged as sovereign entities, with the lapse of British paramountcy as becomes clear from Section 2 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, meeting all the four criteria established under Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, which are stated hereunder verbatim-

(a) a permanent population;

(b) a defined territory;

(c) government;


 (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

As regards the first three clauses, little explanation is required. But if there’s any ambiguity about the last one, mention may be made of the standstill agreements many of the princely states entered into with India and Pakistan, which they were authorized to do by the British.  In this connection, those who understand Hindi can watch this video (from 11:12 to 13:06).

And Jammu and Kashmir had entered into a standstill agreement with Pakistan (something that Snedden mentions in his book on page 9), which was violated by the latter during the 1947 aggression. The very fact that the princely states could voluntarily accede to any country again reflects their sovereign character. However, the British had made it clear unofficially that the princely states must opt for India or Pakistan. To quote Snedden on this point-

“Powerbrokers in 1947 also were influenced by the method used to decolonize Princely India (as against British-controlled India), whereby each ruler was deemed to have the power – and, indeed, was expected – to accede to either India or Pakistan.  Princely states therefore were considered to be indivisible and without any independent future.  Neither the departing British nor the future leaders of India and Pakistan sought partition of any princely state along religious lines, nor would they countenance independence for any of them.  Instead, the British encouraged each princely ruler to consider geographical factors and the will of his subjects in deciding his accession.  Even though the accession would clearly impact on all of the prince’s subjects, nevertheless there were no legal requirements or popular pressures for the ruler to consider either factor.  He alone would decide the accession.  And, once it was decided, the expectation was that all of his princely state would, along with the ruler, join the new dominion of his choice.” (page 7)

While the British did convey to the princes that they must opt for India or Pakistan [this is testified by great Indian nationalist leader Maulana Azad’s account in his autobiography India Wins Freedom that as early as in 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a British politician representing his government, on a visit to India, “told the Maharaja of Kashmir that the future of the States was with India”, that “(n)o prince should for a moment think that the British Crown would come to his help if he decided to opt out”  and that “(t)he princes must therefore look up to the Indian Government and not the British Crown for their future” (page 61 of the 2009 reprint) – the  demand for Pakistan wasn’t being seriously considered then; if Lord Mountbatten's account as narrated to Larry Collins and Domique Lapierre in their book Freedom at Midnight is true, then Mountbatten had also tried hard to convice Raja Hari Singh to not entertain fancies of independence], there was no legal obligation upon them to do so. Thus, legally, it was for the ruler to decide and in this case, he opted for India, and Alistair Lamb’s contention that the instrument of accession did not exist on paper has now been disproved with the document being brought out in the public domain. If the counterargument is made to run that popular support ought to have been the basis, as was the case in Hyderabad and Junagadh, then the rebuttal to that has already been stated above (i.e. that Pakistan did not withdraw its troops, and having to do so was a precursor to the plebiscite), and it may be added that Pakistan did not conduct any plebiscite while getting the ruler of Balochistan, which, like Nepal and Bhutan, was not even legally a part of India, to coercively sign the instrument of accession in its favour.

Thus, with all the emphasis given by Snedden to the Poonch rebellion, his contention that it would suit Pakistan to highlight the same or that it, in any way, tilts the narrative in its favour, is a flawed conclusion, even in the light of much of what he has said in that very book! In fact, on the other hand, the Pakistani narrative so far had only stressed the atrocities of the king's army in Poonch (to justify the Pashtun tribal raid), trying to overlook that they were armed rebels backed by the Pakistani state, and this fact exposed by Snedden only makes Pakistan guilty of violating sovereignty, which is the cornerstone of international law!

Other than the Poonch rebellion, Snedden has also highlighted that in Jammu, there were communal riots in 1947-1948 as a result of the partition of India, in which both Hindus and Muslims lost their lives (though Kashmir was largely free from such violence), but again, that only goes to show that there was a section of pro-Pakistan Muslims in the erstwhile princely state, and as we have discussed above, that is something no one denies and doesn’t take us very far. However, moving on from here, obviously, any sincere attempt at resolving the Kashmir issue would mean respecting the Line of Control as a de facto border, as India and Pakistan have officially agreed to, and seeking the path of negotiation for conflict resolution.

Next, let us take a further leap in history to 1965. When Operation Gibraltar was launched by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, sending ISI agents to instigate an armed rebellion in Kashmir, that can certainly not be taken to be contributing to a conducive atmosphere, and that nefarious design failed. Likewise, the incursion by Pakistani soldiers in regions like Kargil in 1999, leading to a full-blown war, is something that cannot be appreciated either. In fact, while the Indo-Pak war of 1971 is cited by Pakistanis as an Indian attempt to partition their country, the fact is that even in that  war was initiated by Pakistan on India’s western front in Rajasthan (remember the Battle of Longawala, shown in the movie ‘Border’?), as is conceded by Pakistani analysts themselves. And yes, after the creation of Bangladesh, the Bihari and other non-Bengali Muslims were not and still have not been given citizens’ rights in that country (though Bengali Hindus and Christians in Bangladesh do have citizens’ rights), and Pakistan has not accepted those people identifying themselves as Pakistanis as its citizens either, but wants to have Kashmir!

In fact, in the late 1960s, when a Kashmiri Muslim by the name of Maqbool Bhat who wanted an independent Jammu and Kashmir, including the part occupied by Pakistan, crossed the border and sought Pakistan’s help for an armed rebellion he wished to engineer, they refused it, saying that he must support the whole of the erstwhile princely state joining Pakistan, and tortured him to that end, but he refused to accept that Kashmir should be a part of a country under de facto military rule. When they failed to convince him, they sent him to India, where he was subsequently hanged! (However, his death sentence in India came only after some of his comrades killed an Indian diplomat in Europe, and that murder must obviously be condemned in the strongest terms.) So much for Pakistan genuinely respecting the wishes of the Kashmiri people! While Maqbool Bhat is hailed as a hero by most Kashmiri Muslims today, they would be surprised to learn that the strongly pro-Pakistan section among them back then abhorred him so much that the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir expelled one of its members for protesting against Bhat’s hanging!

Since the 1989, Pakistan has been encouraging militancy in Kashmir and used the Hizbul Mujahidin, which supports Pakistan’s stance, to fight the JKLF fighters who were desirous of an independent Kashmir and were also fighting the Indian state. The militancy sponsored by Pakistani establishment is what has led the Indian state to have its troops stationed even in civilian areas in Kashmir, and life became worse for the common Kashmiri. More and more Kashmiri Muslims are convinced that joining Pakistan would not be a good idea (something acknowledged by Western analysts and even Pakistani analysts), sensing the instability of that country and the rise of terrorism, the terrorists being those who were earlier to be utilized against India. The terrorism has not been confined to the Kashmir valley alone, where it has taken a toll on the Hindu minority, most of which has had to leave its homeland (an Indian Muslim acquaintance of mine wrote a powerful piece for the Pakistani media on this issue), but even many Kashmiri Muslims with a pro-India political posturing, many of whom were also killed, and many of whom also left the valley, but also elsewhere in India, such as the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, at the behest of the ISI, which apparently made it impossible to have a genuine resolution of the Kashmir issue, which democratic governments on both sides of the border were aiming at (which is why I said that the Pakistani establishment, even if having well-meaning elements, has never acted as a monolith on this score). Even until recently, village headmen in the valley were killed for contesting elections under the Indian constitutional setup! And so much for Mufti’s expression of gratitude, there were indeed instances of militancy during the latest state elections in J&K too, that took the lives of Kashmiri policemen and civilians (it is noteworthy that local Kashmiri Muslim policemen have played a crucial role in the fight against militancy, which must be acknowledged and even appreciated) and thereafter as well. Not too long ago, in October 2014, we had Musharraf, someone with political aspirations and who is credited with having lowed militant infiltration during his tenure, say that Pakistan is ready for war with India over Kashmir!

Next, it may be useful to examine what some rational Pakistanis themselves make of the “Kashmir obsession” of some of their countrymen. These articles/videos -, and,, are worth a read in this context.

This article would be incomplete without acknowledging the problems of people in POK, which can be read about in these articles - ,, and

As I stated at the outset, this piece was meant to make a summary of the historical record, and I hope that it has served that purpose well.