By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
It was cathartic to interact with the Kashmiri leadership from the IHK. APHC delegation, led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, comprised of living icons of the longest political struggle in post World War II era. Team was representative of at least three generations of Kashmiri leadership. Each one of the seven members had at least one near and dear one martyred during the decades long struggle. Right from the moment this delegation reached Pakistan, each and every segment of the society received them with overwhelming enthusiasm. The kind of reception given to them was a genuine display of love and affection for the Kashmiri people, their leadership and their just cause; which is as dear to every Pakistani as to the Kashmiris themselves. All sectors of society cutting across political, ethnic and sectarian divides passionately welcomed the guests, which is reflective of national consensus about the cause of Kashmir.
What is the cause of Kashmir? Nothing unusual or out of the way; it is the grant of inalienable right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. This is what the universally accepted democratic norms stand for: the grant of basic Human Right of choosing the way the people want to live. Cause of Kashmir is to implement the UNSC resolutions pertaining plebiscite. Cause of Kashmir is that it is only the people of Kashmir who have the right to exercise their options. Partition plan of June 03 1947 had vested the authority in the rulers of princely state to either join India or Pakistan or become independent state while keeping in mind the aspirations of the people of respective state.
When the high drama of Maharaja’s accession to India was in the making, conspiracy became a public knowledge, resulting into wide spread resentment amongst the Kashmiris. Soon a popular rebellion broke out in the entire Jammu and Kashmir. Ever since, Maharaja and the State legislature lost their popular acceptance. Hence, the right of self-determination stood devolved to the people of Kashmir, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity. It is as much a right of a Hindu Kashmiri as it is of a Muslim Kashmiri to freely vote for their respective choice. This reality is well recognised and duly incorporated in numerous UN resolutions.
The APHC delegates symbolised a typical Kashmiri’s turmoil from within; perpetuated by the state sponsored suppression, spanning over decades. Kashmiris live in a dilemma whether Kashmir issue is a conflict of territory or that of realizing peoples’ aspiration. Visit of the Kashmiri leaders to Pakistan provided them an opportunity to exchange views with leaders, politicians and prominent opinion-makers, regarding Pakistani perspective of Kashmir.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf termed interaction with the Hurriyat Conference a positive sign and said that there is consensus among all political parties of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. He said: “We praise the political acumen and wisdom of the Hurriyat leadership to highlight the cause of the people of Kashmir…Pakistan fully supports them”.
The APHC leadership reiterated its stance that Kashmir should be included in talks between Islamabad and New Delhi. Mirwaiz said: “Talks between India and Pakistan are incomplete without the involvement of Kashmiris. We want to move forward and serve as a bridge of friendship between the two neighbours. But that is possible only when the demands of justice are met…Kashmir is a political and humanitarian issue that ought to be resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people…We are not averse to the way India and Pakistan are making progress in their relations and in fact we want the trust deficit between them to end.”
However, he questioned: “Can this deficit be removed without addressing the core issue?” Mirwaiz opined that it was incumbent upon the Pakistani and the AJK leadership to devise a mechanism to ensure that more Kashmir related confidence building measures (CBMs) were taken and strengthened alongside progress on other issues. While appreciating people-to-people contact, travel and trade initiatives and calling for their furtherance, he underlined the need to resolve the Kashmir issue. He said, “Time has come when barriers and distances between both parts of Kashmir should end. Only then, we will believe that the positive outcome of dialogue between Pakistan and India is being reflected in Kashmir.”
He pointed out that the Kashmiri people did have grievances, like other citizens elsewhere in the world, but what mattered the most for them were their aspirations; which needed to be addressed for the establishment of durable peace in their motherland. He made it clear that the issue could not be brushed aside with economic packages or other incentives. He expressed the hope that India would bring flexibility in its approach and attitude, instead of escaping from the settlement of Kashmir issue. “India should not go for superficial or cosmetic peace but take concrete steps to settle the issue amicably,” he stressed.
The APHC chairman said that the Kashmir movement could not be suppressed or weakened through military might. “The Kashmiri youth is attached with the movement… Just one flare up can bring hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris back on to the streets,” he warned. While supporting trans-Kashmir travel of Kashmiri leadership, he said: “We have to tell the world in conjunction that without settlement of Kashmir issue the dream of peace, progress and prosperity will never materialize. This visit is a process. Just one or two visits will not resolve the issue but it will send a message that the real party has to be taken on board and will not accept any imposed readymade solution.”
Pakistan believes that result-oriented uninterrupted dialogue process with India will greatly help create conducive environment to find permanent solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.The visit of the APHC leaders is significant, it is reflective of the desire of both Pakistan and Kashmir to include Kashmiris in the dialogue process as no solution of Kashmir issue could be durable without their participation. Pakistan firmly believes that Kashmir dispute is the unfinished agenda of partition and that there could be no genuine peace and stability in the region without its just and permanent settlement.
Hopefully, the Kashmiri leadership stands reassured that though Pakistan is trapped in a myriad of problems, the people of Pakistan have neither forgotten the Kashmir conflict nor would they ever forsake the Kashmir cause. We look forward to see the process of such visits flourishing!
Writer is Consultant, Policy & Strategic Response, IPRI.