By Dr Shireen M. Mazari
Pakistan's stance that Kashmir
is the core issue between itself and India has been
vindicated by the Indian government's finally allowing
the Hurriyat leadership to travel to AJK across
the LoC. The Hurriyat leadership's visit to Pakistan
and meetings with Pakistani leaders and members
of civil society has also bolstered Pakistan's position
that the Kashmir issue has to be decided in accordance
with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
For Pakistani civil society, it is important to
hear from the Hurriyat leaders themselves that the
LoC is not acceptable as a permanent border. After
intensive propaganda targeting Pakistani civil society
and aimed at undermining Pakistan's principled position
on this issue, the Hurriyat leaders' position on
the LoC should be an eye-opener to the elitist,
doubting Thomases within our midst, blinded by Indian
atmospherics and short-term lures from our eastern
It is equally important to listen to the Kashmiri
leaders when they state that they are not weary
of their struggle against the continuing presence
of 700,000 Indian troops in Occupied Kashmir. This
is by itself a testimony to the Kashmiris' commitment
to rid themselves of Indian occupation. A Pakistani
journalist, writing for foreign publications and
a harsh critic of Pakistan on most issues including
Kashmir, paid a visit to Srinagar last month and
was visibly shaken by the troop concentration –
which he had always assumed was just Pakistani propaganda.
It made him realize that the struggle continues,
and has a strong indigenous base.
Of course, some point out that the visit of the
Hurriyat leaders has exposed the splits within the
Kashmiri leadership, especially with Syed Ali Geelani
and Shabbir Shah staying behind in Occupied Kashmir.
Some of the Hurriyat leaders are strongly critical
of Geelani and Shah, but much of this seems to be
based on internal political rivalries. There are
differences amongst those present here also, reflected
in the separate meetings Yasin Malik had with the
The tone and tenor of Mir Waiz and Yasin Malik should
make it clear that while differences do exist between
these leaders, they also realize the need to move
beyond these and present a larger consensus. After
all, the sacrifices made by Geelani and Shah cannot
simply be written off or ignored – nor can
their support within Occupied Kashmir be dismissed.
Their position on the LoC is grounded in certain
rational principles that also need to be respected.
Also, the fact that Mir Waiz and Yasin Malik met
with Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin on
Sunday, 5 June, reflected the legitimacy these Hurriyat
leaders accord to the freedom fighters.
In fact, in reality the major political Kashmiri
leaders are Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, Syed Ali
Geelani and Mir Waiz. Seeing Yasin Malik is like
seeing the suffering and commitment of the Kashmiris
to rid themselves of Indian occupation. Nor can
the central place of the freedom fighters, especially
the Hizbul Mujahideen be denied. Some say the Hurriyat
leaders met with Syed Salahuddin to get his endorsement,
or even his compromise vis-a-vis the Indian state.
But the major result has been to reaffirm a linkage
between the political leadership and the indigenous
military struggle, which on the one hand, continues
to compel the Indian state to keep its occupation
forces in Kashmir and, on the other, gives a lie
to any Indian assertion that the Kashmiris are prepared
to live within the Indian Union.
Another interesting fact was the coincidence of
Mr Advani's presence at the time of the Hurriyat
visit. Advani himself seems to have adapted to realpolitik
ground realities regarding the Pakistan-India relationship
– much to the consternation of his rabid support
base back in India. He declared that "Jammu
and Kashmir is very diverse and any eventual solution
to the issue will have to be acceptable to all the
diverse communities in the state and all sections
of opinion within Kashmir." This seems to be
completely in sync with the suggestions floated
for discussion by President Musharraf in October
2004, focusing on looking towards a solution of
Kashmir by seeing it as seven different ethno-geographical
sub-regions and then separately ascertaining the
views of the people living in these regions.
Finally, what does this all boil down to? Clearly,
all the proposals at the tactical level of seeking
the views of the Kashmiris reflect some form of
a referendum or plebiscite. Again, a vindication
of Pakistan's principled stand on the issue, that
some have sought to undermine as unacceptable or
unreal given the prevailing ground realities. Yet,
this seems to be the only possible approach towards
a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue.
The visiting Hurriyat leaders don't seem to have
brought any specific roadmaps but their very visit
is a beginning, and it is in this context that we
need to see the developments relating to Kashmir.
We should not be in a hurry – which the Indians
clearly are given their moves to seek permanent
membership of the UNSC, which may well come to a
head even as early as the end of June. So one should
expect the Indians to make much of their "flexibility"
on Kashmir, which allowed them to permit the Hurriyat
leaders to travel to AJK and onwards. But if they
are hoping that these leaders will persuade Pakistan
to make hasty compromises which would undermine
Pakistan's own stakes and commitment to the Kashmiri
people's struggle for self-determination, then they
should reconsider. In reality the Indians had to
allow the Kashmiri leaders to travel to AJK and
Pakistan because their earlier obduracy was becoming
untenable internationally and domestically –
especially in the face of the ongoing peace process
and Kashmir-related CBMs.
Atmospherics aside, Pakistan has to 'make haste'
slowly and carefully on Kashmir – and there
is no need to reveal our minimalist positions either.
The Hurriyat leaders' visit is a tactical development
and needs to be seen as such. Hopefully Syed Geelani
and Shabbir Shah will also visit and Pakistan should
try and develop some common understanding between
the main political leaders from Occupied Kashmir.
Their differences do not seem to be irreconcilable,
despite Indian efforts to aggravate them.
As for Pakistan, it now has to have a very clear
Kashmir policy and this includes being clear on
what constitutes the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
So far we have chosen to be ambivalent but it is
time to be more specific. Here it would be worthwhile
to recall the Amritsar Treaty of 1837 whereby the
British sold the State of Jammu and Kashmir, along
with its people, for Rs. 7.5 million to Maharaja
Ghulab Singh; or the rebellion by the Gilgit Scouts
against the ruling Maharaja, after Pakistan's creation
in 1947. In addition, we need to formulate a roadmap
in keeping with ground realities as well as our
long-term national interests. The peace roadmap
is certainly irreversible; but we need to make clear
that unless the Indians are prepared to move substantively
on the core issue, the process can certainly be
stalled. So let the Hurriyat leaders' visit be a
first step -- not an end in itself.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute
of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)