Wednesday’s “urgent press release” issued by the office of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) outlining what should be done in the event of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat ex-chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s demise is something that no one had expected. Geelani sahib’s frail health and poor medical condition is no secret and with his advancing age, worries about his wellbeing are natural. But to tell the people what to do when he is no more is something that was not required.
However, the offending part of this press release is not its notional reference of Geelani sahib’s demise, but that the PaK chapter of APHC considers its counterpart in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) as being incapable of ensuring that the venerated leader is given a worthy tribute! It’s true that the top APHC leadership in IAK is under detention, but this is nothing new and it doesn’t mean that the separatist conglomerate has become dysfunctional because of this and thus requires guidance from across the Line of Control (LoC).
By dictating as to what the public in IaK would be expected to do when the Hurriyat (G) chairman breathes his last, the PaK chapter of APHC has also questioned the wisdom of Kashmiri people by making them appear to be puppets that are being directly controlled from Muzaffarabad. It has also ended up giving strength to New Delhi’s allegations that the APHC is Pakistan’s ‘B’ team and has been created only for the purposes of advancing Islamabad’s self-interests in Kashmir and this is not a good sign at all.
Even though the APHC (PaK chapter) has prefixed this press release as ‘urgent’, on reading it one finds that there is nothing really pressing in its contents that justify this unusual caption. However, it has helped in making the press release sound so sensational that the authorities in Srinagar had to briefly snap internet as a precautionary measure in order to prevent rumour mongering, which could have an adverse effect on law and order in the valley. And thus, by its press release, the Hurriyat has once again given New Delhi’s a reason to cite for imposing internet curfew in Kashmir.
It’s difficult to say whether this “urgent” press release was intentionally issued at a time when a group of 25 foreign envoys were on a scheduled to visit J&K or that it was just a coincidence. However, J&K DGP Dilbag Singh’s explanation that “it was a ploy by Pakistan-based elements to mobilise crowds and project Kashmir as ‘troubled’ before the foreign delegation” coupled with New Delhi’s disinformation campaign may find wide acceptance within the international community. Thus, the PaK APHC press release which is based on a presumption will give a boost to New Delhi’s claim that restrictions on internet and social media in J&K have been necessitated by rumour mongering instigated by the separatists.
However, the most unfortunate part is that despite the PaK chapter of APHC trying to play ‘big brother’ and belittling its Srinagar leadership by issuing orders through this press release, neither Hurriyat nor civil society in IaK has spoken out against this unsought guidance. The people of Kashmir need no advice or instructions on what to do in the unfortunate event of Geelani sahib’s demise and so all that the ‘urgent’ press release has done is to indirectly question IaK Hurriyat’s claim of being the “true representatives” of Kashmiris.
The PaK chapter of APHC needs to be advised that instead of only indulging in rhetoric, it can do much more to help the ‘self-determination’ movement achieve its goal. While its IaK chapter is building pressure on New Delhi for this, the PaK chapter of APHC also needs to start demanding that Islamabad should fulfil its commitment of vacating PaK as required by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 47, so that the process of plebiscite can commence. It’s silence on this issue is what has pushed the Kashmir issue into the backburner and weekened the cause.
There are many who are convinced that with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan vigourously raising the Kashmir issue at all forums supporting our own dual strategy of protests and shutdowns as well as ‘armed struggle’ in IaK, we will be able to get our ‘right to self-determination’. However, the harsh reality is that as long as Islamabad doesn’t fulfil its commitment laid down in UNSC resolutions, self-determination will continue to elude us!
- The views expressed are authors own.