Published On: Mon, Jan 14th, 2013

Don’t Hurt Kashmir

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani – It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan could not resist the temptation to err on either side of the cease fire line (LOC) at the start of 2013. The loss of life and the manner in which the bodies of the soldiers have been treated does not conform to laws of chivalry and rules of engagement. A violation of cease fire line could have been corrected in due course but the act to mutilate a fallen soldier is unmanly and inhuman. Armies around the world have started giving up the killing instinct and are engaged in peace keeping. The Indian and Pakistani soldier is equally engaged around the globe in promoting and supervising peace. Why does he fail at home, needs a thorough examination?

It is an irony that business has remained as usual between the two countries and the party which has fallen prey to this hostile situation are the people and the interests of the people of Kashmir. Trade and travel across the Line of Control have been suspended. India would be preparing itself to meet any future challenges from Pakistan across the LOC and inside the Valley of Kashmir and vice versa. It means putting the military, police and security apparatus on a high alert at the cost of general convenience of a common Kashmiri.

Those of us who primarily don’t write for a financial benefit and the members of the civil society have a lead role to play to ensure that the two countries “Don’t Hurt Kashmir”. We need to make sure that our politics of either manner (Separatist and Mainstream) conducts itself in the best interests of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We have an on-going dispute with the Government of India in regard to the final say on the bilateral agreement (provisional) made on 26 October 1947, J & K Constitution and the Indian case presented at the UN Security Council in January 1948. It is all a question of law and does not entail any violence against the union of India or the people of Kashmir.

Kashmiri people in fact have been identified as victims of oppression by Lord Hardinge, Secretary to the Government of India in his letter dated 7 January 1848 addressed to Maharaja Gulab Singh. The history of our oppression is 165 year old. People of Kashmir endured all this until the Government of Kashmir entered into a Stand Still Agreement with the Government of Pakistan in August 1947. Pakistan was the first sovereign State to have a diplomatic foothold and share in the running the affairs of Kashmir.

It is unfortunate to point out that post 1947 Pakistan has remained one of the main factors in aggravating the sufferings of the people of Kashmir and their ill placed trust in Pakistan has remained a cause of the death of a generation and the death of self-determination. This situation is aptly summed up by Owen Bennett Jones in his book “Pakistan eye of the storm” published in 2002. At page 86 he writes, “Far from plucking the ripe fruit of Kashmir, Jinnah watched it fall into Delhi’s lap. Pakistani writers have tended to blame this outcome on Nehru, Mountbatten and the Maharaja. But their own leader also played a significant role”.

In regard to post 1990 movement Owen Bennett Jones writes, “Most Kashmiris are sick of conflict and desperate for a peaceful settlement. But for both India and Pakistan the symbolic importance of the Kashmir dispute means that they will inevitably follow their own perceived national interests rather than those of the people of Kashmir. If the Kashmiris had been conducting a straightforward fight for independence in the same way as the Chechens or East Timorese, they would have had a greater chance of success. The tragedy of Kashmir is that the voices of its own people have been drowned out by the Islamists, nationalists and ideologues in both Islamabad and Delhi”.

Owen Bennett Jones was a BBC correspondent in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001. Therefore, his understanding of Kashmir movement and of the merits of the political, diplomatic and moral support provided by Pakistan to the people of Kashmir is immediate and direct. There is no denying the fact that if Tribesmen had not switched off the Mahura Power house on 21 October 1947 and plunged the State into a darkness Maharaja would not have panicked and rushed his provisional instrument of accession to Delhi on 26 October 1947. If invaders had not indulged in loot, plunder and rape, history of Kashmir would have been different today. Owen Bennett Jones describes the consequences of the lawless conduct of invaders, “The local Muslim population, rather than seeing them as liberators, began to fear them and, far from providing help to the tribesmen, turned against them”.

Pakistan failed to keep to the terms of the Stand Still Agreement made with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. It has betrayed the trust of the people as well. If the Government of Pakistan had acted in the interests of the people of Kashmir, India had agreed to make a reduction of 75% in the number of its forces present in the State as at the time of the cease fire on 1st June 1949 (UN SC Resolution S/2883 dated 24 November 1952). It would have reduced the total number to a bare minimum of 18,000 soldiers. Pakistan would have had 3,000 to 6,000 armed forces in the Pakistani side of the cease fire line. Even our women with their bare hands and ‘Kangris’ would have been able to resist this number of Indian forces, if they were to breach the terms of their presence in Kashmir.

Our leadership has failed in its duty and responsibility to keep examining the political developments in Pakistan in particular and Pakistan’s Kashmir policy in general. Our leaders should have taken a due cognizance of the fact when in October 1958 Martial Law Government changed the designation “Islamic Republic” and declared that the “Republic [was] henceforth known as Pakistan”. It was the first sign of being uncertain about the title of the State. The designation to “Islamic Republic” was reverted back in 1973.

In January 1959 Military Government established the Bureau of National Reconstruction. It was tasked “to coalesce all the divergent linguistic, sectarian and social groups into a single cohesive nation”. Unfortunately the experiment to “encourage the development of local culture as part of the nation building process” failed in 1971. The values and approaches between the two people from East Pakistan and West Pakistan remained at variance. All other princely States that had acceded to Pakistan started feeling uncomfortable and oppressed.

Pakistan discouraged the British Prime Minister from seeking soundings from the President of International Court of Justice on the question of Plebiscite and made a serious error of judgement in calling Sheikh Abdullah a ‘paid agent of congress’, a ‘Quisling’ and Kashmiri leaders as ‘gangsters’ in its letter of 14 May 1947 addressed to British Prime Minister. The same ‘paid agent of congress’ and ‘gangsters’ were accorded a historic welcome in May 1964 during their visit to Pakistan.

The history of treatment of Kashmiri leaders, in particular the Mohajir leaders and the Kashmiri refugees (2.5 million) does not make a good read. They could not attract any rebuke on physical appearance, like Bengalis, but continued to face distrust and gaze of secret agencies all their lives. Pakistan disabled their input in the right of self-determination in all manner. It took over the control of Gilgit and Baltistan and instructed the President of AJK in respect of Act 1974 for its passage in the Assembly and secure a direct and an indirect control of these territories.

Kashmir was not raised at the UN from 5 November 1965 to 15 September 1996. It resulted in the deletion of Kashmir as a regular item on UN Security Council agenda in September 1996. Kashmir had continued as a regular item for 48 years from January 1948 to September 1996. It is now a subject of an annual reminder rule.

Pakistan continued to use Kashmir as a theatre for its proxy and this proxy took a physical shape of Kashmir militancy in 1990. It was very late in 2006 that President Musharraf proposed, “to curb all militant aspects of the struggle for freedom”. By then the people of Kashmir had lost a generation, lost the right of self-determination and had suffered unprecedented loss of ‘life’, ‘honour’ and ‘property’.

It is high time that we revisit the various aspects of our politics, singular role of Pakistan in Kashmir case and seek its ownership. It would mean actively and ably engaging Government of India and the people of India. Civil society has to address India and Pakistan in equity according to their respective jurisprudence/interest in the dispute.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He could be reached on email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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