What do you do when incessant rains preclude your leaving the house? Simple- you stay indoors. And what does one do when there is no electricity and your laptop battery is dead? Not so simple- cursing your luck, you start off by staring at the walls and then begin thinking. Soon thinking gives way to contemplation and many issues which had escaped your attention on bright and sunny days (when there is so much to do), suddenly emerge as flash backs. And your mind starts recalling fragmented thoughts till you end up in state where the line that distinguishes reality and the absurd gradually blurs. This is exactly what happened to me the other day!
While deep in thought, I suddenly recalled having come across a news item which I had casually glanced through a few days earlier. This report stated that the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) Assembly had adopted a resolution recommending that Azad Kashmir should become an integral part of Pakistan and be accorded the status of its fifth province. The resolution was based on the logic that the people of the region had fought and secured freedom from the Dogra Rulers in 1947 and as a free people, the residents of GB had decided to join Pakistan. I remember that while reading the news report, my mind spontaneously questioned the appropriateness of this resolution. However, since I am a legal ignoramus, I did not develop or debate upon the jurisprudence of this resolution, especially since it had been adopted by the GB Assembly which is a constitutional body.
I had another reason not to dwell too much on this report since I knew a thing or two about law from personal experience- that you cannot legally sell a property which is under dispute till the title of the same is decided by a court of law. So, extending the applicability of the law governing sale of disputed property to a transaction concerning change of ownership of a disputed territory, I immediately agreed with the opinion of Nawaz Khan Naji of the Balawaristan National Front (who is a legal luminary), that the GB Assembly has no right to pass such a resolution as the future of GB is connected with resolution of Kashmir conflict, which is yet to be decided through UN plebiscite.
Understandably, this resolution though passed with majority found several detractors who questioned its legitimacy and propriety on various grounds and some of the arguments put forth were:
The portions of Kashmir being administered by Pakistan very much remain an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir. So any attempt of its permanent subdivision by seceding to Pakistan is a move that will sabotage the Kashmir cause.
J&K is a disputed territory and its future can only be decided in accordance with the United Nations resolutions. As such the GB Assembly has no authority to take any decision on the future of the region on its own.
According a provincial status to GB will provide precedence for India to annex parts of Kashmir under its control.
The first thought which came to my mind on that rainy day was- what necessitated this unusual resolution to be conceived in the first place? Here we have some very respected leaders telling us that unlike New Delhi which has deprived us freedom, Pakistan has provided complete freedom to the people of Azad Kashmir and thus, a brighter future for us lies only by going along with Pakistan. So, isnt it paradoxical that while we are engaged in a bloody struggle to attain azadi and join Pakistan, the Legislators of GB who are the elected representatives are desirous of surrendering the independence of their own people? Is it that the people of GB do not value azadi? Or is it that there is some serious flaw in the type of azadi being extended to the people of GB? In any case, if azadi in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) has not met the aspirations of the people living there, how do our leaders expect that it would measure up to our expectations?
The next thought was more disturbing. The reasoning given by the legislators for mooting this resolution was to ensure that the people of GB could enjoy the fruits of development like other parts of Pakistan. The admission coming from the Legislators that the region of Kashmir under Pakistans administration is being subjected to developmental apartheid is contrary to what we are being told about the tremendous progress being made there. So, the GB Assembly resolution has all the trappings of a Shakespearian tragedy and projects a sorry picture of the state of affairs in PaK. It further suggests a Faustian bargain in which independence is being bartered for development and if this is true, then it is really deplorable!
Another thought on this issue that came to my mind is a philosophical one and concerns the exercise of democratic rights by a people. Agreed that J&K is a disputed territory on which the UN has passed resolutions that are yet to be implemented. Yet, do the resolutions passed by the UN deprive a free people the right to self determination just because the UN is internationally recogonised as the highest adjudicating world body? Can the resolution passed by the GB Assembly be challenged in the UN or the International Court of Justice on the grounds that it is illegal since it disregards the UN resolutions? In a democracy, is the collective will of a people subservient to the resolutions passed by an external organisation? Views of legal experts and learned personalities on this issue would surely make interesting reading!
The last thought which sent shivers down my spine is merely a speculation based on the timing of this resolution coming right on the heels of the Indo- Pak Foreign Ministers (FM) meet and what transpired. Prior to this meeting, the Pakistan FM Hina Rabbani Khar had stated that Pakistan was doing all that was possible to normalise relations with India, so that that a better and deeper relationship will eventually lead us to ways and means to resolve all bilateral disputes, including the most important of all, the status of Jammu and Kashmir, Despite giving this strong signal, Pakistan failed to forcefully bring up the Kashmir issue during the FM meet. And while issuing the joint statement, the Pakistan FM declared that both India and Pakistan had decided to move forward and not be held hostage by history, indicating that both countries were not averse to changing their stated position on Kashmir. So, could the token reference to the Kashmir issue during the FM meet be the beginning of changing perceptions on Kashmir? Is finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences on Kashmir a ploy for concealing a secret deal to normalise Indo- Pak relations by putting the Kashmir issue into the back burner? Or is passing of the resolution in the GB Assembly part of a devious plan orchestrated by New Delhi and Islamabad to surreptitiously usher in the Musharaff Plan on the permanent division of Kashmir? Though I attribute these wild thoughts to the proverbial empty mind being the devils workshop, a sinister feeling that could this could well be a premonition still lingers.
Rainy days can be depressing and for an idle mind, they can indeed be very disturbing too!
Author can be reached at: [email protected]
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