Track II on Kashmir and Shujaat’s Murder

Shujaat Bukhari’s murder is a great loss. Planned murder of professionals in all disciplines, medicine, education, journalism, law, engineering and the rest in Kashmir valley is not a new thing. Shujaat was a decent human being and did not deserve to be killed. He had a lot to contribute, so had others. My association with him was during the early and very difficult days of Rising Kashmir.  This relationship had nothing to do with his Kashmir Initiative Group and his recent interest in Track II diplomacy on Kashmir.

Dialogue is the proven instrument of settling disputes over the centuries. Therefore, it needs engagement. Who are involved in the engagement is very important. Kashmir Track II has its demerits at core. India, Pakistan and the world have concluded a mechanism on the resolution of Kashmir dispute through a secure, free and fair referendum. There is no dispute on referendum and the disagreement has remained on the procedure and process. 

Track II actors, acting pro bono public, shall have to address only the question of disagreement on the procedure of holding a referendum and help to narrow down the differences. They shall have to ensure that life, property and honour of the people are not savaged. Indian army has to be reminded of a military code, and told about the seven restraints that they have been placed on them under the bilateral agreement and the UN Security Council resolutions.

Opinions vary on the cause that precipitated the murder of Shujaat. Freelancers who were beneficiaries or have a guilty conscience, have suggested that his interest in Track II in particular Dubai Meet remains the cause of his killing. This argument has no merit. Shujaat and others who worked under his shadow are not the pioneers of Track II on Kashmir. Friends of Shujaat, authorities in India and Pakistan need to explore all the avenues leading up to his death. 

India and Pakistan encouraged first Track II engagement on Kashmir in November 2000 in Gurgaon near Delhi. Two leading think tanks of India and Pakistan, namely, International Centre for Peace Initiatives, Delhi and Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad jointly prepared the guidance paper. It was a transparent effort and all inclusive. Hurriyat was represented by Yasin Malik and many others. Track II has continued ever since and no one amongst those who attended the 25-26 November 2000 Track II debate was killed. 

Before accrediting the November 2000 Track II on Kashmir, participants exerted pressure on Prime Minister of India and sought a reassurance that he would extend the unilateral Ramadan cease fire and take other measures to allow people a quality of life. We should not dismiss Track II efforts. They have their own impact and usefulness. It would be an error and serious betrayal, if the people involved in Track II talks depart from the UN mechanism and try to walk through fresh meadows. A friend of peace and a friend of the people of Kashmir, would assist India and Pakistan, to overcome the disagreement on the procedure for holding a referendum. 

As pointed out Shujaat and his chosen team are not the pioneers of Track II on Kashmir. In addition to November 2000 first Track II engagement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the second Round Table conference on Kashmir held in Srinagar on May 24, 2006 announced the formation of five working groups to look into broad issues and problems vis-a-vis Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced the heads of the group after holding a series of meetings with almost all political parties and groups in the state. The working groups were to deliberate upon the “matters relating to good governance in Jammu and Kashmir”,  “measures to improve conditions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir affected by militancy and schemes to rehabilitate all orphans and widows affected by insurgency”, “simplify procedures to facilitate travel across the Line of Control, increase goods traffic and expand people-to-people contact, including promotion of pilgrimage and group tourism”, “balanced economic development, employment generation, balanced regional and sub regional development, employment generation, within the state” and on matters relating to the “special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union and methods of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the state.”

One could see that people’s immediate welfare and interest occupied the centre stage. The working groups did not address the disagreements in the procedure to arrange a UN supervised vote in Kashmir, but at the same time they did not hurt its merits behind the closed doors. The consequence of an internal empowerment would have graduated into an engagement on narrowing down the disagreements on the procedure of holding a referendum. Shujaat would have done a heroes’ job, if he had forced Government of India to take the matters further from November 2000 Track II in Gurgaon and asked Delhi to account for work done by  the five working groups constituted on Kashmir in May 2006. 

We shall miss Shujaat. In his memory, it is our duty to revisit the character and dignity of Track II on Kashmir.





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