Kashmiris should get something?

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The release of Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Thursday 28 March 2013 after remaining under house arrest for over 45 days is a welcome decision. Other leaders who wish to express their opinions in a non-violent manner need to be considered  for a release in equity and in good faith. Promotion of a narrative of peaceful and tolerant debate is the only way forward.

The first five hour long discussion with other senior Hurriyat (M) leaders at the party headquarters, decisions taken and views expressed to press would be looked at by India, Pakistan and much more by the people of Kashmir with interest. An interesting new element is that Hurriyat has welcomed the “change” in the Kashmir discourse in mainstream camp and Pakistani establishment.

Get Something

People of Kashmir would need a further clarification from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for his statement, “It is very important for Kashmir to have a stronger, stable and democratic Pakistan so that it can start serious negotiations with India on Kashmir.” “There is a change in Pakistani perception as they realize that Kashmiris should get something. It was not there in 60s, 80s and early 90s. It is a change we really appreciate.”

 As a start the new Hurriyat narrative asking India and Pakistan to start ‘serious negotiations’ hinges on the fact that Hurriyat accepts Kashmir as a bilateral issue between the two countries.  It goes further to contradict itself, by expressing an over dependence on Pakistan.  Over the years, in particular from early 1990 Hurriyat should have known that a stable and democratic Pakistan was necessary to start serious negotiations with India on Kashmir. If that was the case Hurriyat shall have to explain the reasons for forming an alliance and giving a political agenda in the Constitution to the people of Kashmir. It shall have to explain the reasons why it subscribed to a political and a militant resistance.

It has taken Hurriyat nearly four months since its last visit to Pakistan to make it known to the people that “There is a change in Pakistani perception as they realize that Kashmiris should get something”.  Hurriyat has remained in charge of Kashmir politics for the last 23 years. It has witnessed three cease fires with India and has been through two rounds of dialogue as well. During this period one Indian Prime Minister offered it sky as the limit and another dropped the condition of talks under Indian Constitution and agreed to talk within the limits of ‘Insaniyat’.

Hurriyat chairman has to explain the reasons of his rejoicing on the fact that Pakistani establishment has a change of heart and wants that “Kashmiris should get something”.  If we had to wait for 23 years to be told about ‘getting something’ there was no need to endure unprecedented loss of life, honour and property never witnessed in the history since March 1846. Hurriyat’s political and militant components of the last 23 years have resulted in the death of a generation and as a consequence in the death of self-determination. In practice self-determination is not realisable for a long time to come.

Hurriyat shall have to explain the reasons for rejecting the two offers made by the two Indian Prime Ministers, taking all cease fire opportunities casually and waiting till 28 March 2013 to tell us that Pakistani establishment wants that “Kashmiris should get something”.   What if Pakistan takes more time to stabilise and democratise itself? In that case who will push India for a dialogue? Or is it that Pakistani establishment has decided to use Hurriyat (M) as an exit ramp and wash its hands clean of its proxy and blood bath in Kashmir? Hurriyat in Rjabagh and its units in Pakistan have so far been accused of making ‘something’ out of Kashmir misery. If the lid of the Pandora Box comes off, there would be question of criminal liability visiting their homes and offices, and myriad more questions would come into open.

A wise leadership should have, in a discreet manner, involved Pakistan’s guidance, at the time when Prime Minster Vajpayee had made an unconditional offer of talks and said “I appeal to all militant groups and organizations, which believe in peace to join the Centre’s efforts for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue—Leave the Constitution. Talks should be held within the limits of ‘insaniyat’ so that violence is stopped and no more blood is shed”. It is unfortunate that after 23 years we are told that Hurriyat finds a change of heart in Pakistani establishment and the latter wants that “Kashmiris should get something”. 

“Change” in Kashmir discourse

Hurriyat chairman has welcomed the “change” in Kashmir discourse in mainstream camp and said that pro-India parties have realized that Kashmir issue is not about development but people’s aspirations. However, the welcome note is contradicted by stating that “They are playing with the sentiments of people. This is all electoral politics to gain sympathy of people. But people know where these parties stand.” 

In fact Hurriyat could have done far better by putting the mainstream camp in the dock. Unfortunately Hurriyat has acted in  violation of UN Secretary General’s report A/46/609 and Corr.1 and Article 21 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  in opposing ‘election’ in Kashmir and facilitating the easy outcome of poll results. However, in the last elections the people of Kashmir decided to ignore their boycott call and exercised their right to vote so that “the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of government.” It should have been a concern of the Hurriyat to energise the internal empowerment of the people and encourage them to move from Voting citizens to the next important level of Vigilant citizens, through to external self-determination. 

Hurriyat has been wasting its time in opposing these elections. UN Security Council has settled the issue of elections and the mandate of J & K assembly in its caution to Srinagar Government in its resolution 91(1951) of 30 March 1951. J & K assembly has been cautioned by the UN that “it is elected only from a part of the whole territory of Jammu and Kashmir” and would not have the mandate to determine the “future shape and affiliation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” 

Garner international support

Hurriyat has decided to write letters to European Union, OIC, and UN on the prevailing situation in the Valley and seek their support for Kashmir resolution. There is nothing that could substitute the importance of sensitising the Kashmir case and maximising the constituency of support. Unfortunately, Hurriyat has a track record of 23 years and the international community remains fully informed about its reference point. WikiLeaks revelations remain discomforting in their mention of Hurriyat leaders.

Otherwise, UN is the only international forum that has granted legitimacy, to Kashmiris right to self-determination. As recent as on Saturday 30 March 2013, the US-Chapter of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) exercised its right to submit a memorandum to the United Nations against Election Commission of Pakistan’s delimitation of constituencies in Karachi. MQM has remained part of the Government in Musharraf and Zardari Governments in Pakistan.

The memorandum filed, has cast grave concerns over this redrawing of constituencies terming it nothing but gerrymandering, which was undoubtedly against the spirit and principle of one man-one vote. The memorandum also says the move is unlawful as well as unconstitutional and a conspiracy to divide MQM vote-bank.

In fact it is the faith that matters and MQM leadership has challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan in the best interests of their constituents (Muhajirs). It did not wait for Pakistan to be stable and democratic or for a change of heart in Pakistani establishment.

Kashmiri leadership has never petitioned the UN highlighting that Pakistan has failed to raise Kashmir at the UN for over 31 years from 5 November 1965 t0 15 September 1996. Hurriyat has to appreciate the truth that Pakistan has to account for a period of 31 years from 1965-1996 and for another 23 years from January 1990 to March 2013.

It is unfortunate that Hurriyat has been assured of a change of heart in Pakistani establishment that “Kashmiris should get something,” at a time when a lot has been lost.  They shall have to reconcile this assurance with the offers of ‘sky being the limit’ and ‘Insaniyat’ being the parameters of dialogue.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He is on UN register as an expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He could be reached on email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com

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