Kashmir reality vs. PM Abbasi

The politics of the Valley is more complex than made out

Kashmir reality vs. PM Abbasi
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has stirred the hornet’s nest by stating that the idea of an “Independent Jammu and Kashmir” was not based on reality. His words did not lead to commotion in the resistance camp in J&K that has been fighting for a resolution and repeatedly saying that the wishes and aspirations of the people should be respected. In nearly 30 years, those who have been spearheading the struggle for this resolution have maintained a silence on the final destiny, with the idea of an “Independent Jammu and Kashmir” dominating the chorus.

“The idea is often floated around but has no reality,” said PM Abbasi when asked on the sidelines of a conference in London. “There is no support for the demand for an independent Kashmir.” (Geo TV). This is not the first time a Pakistani prime minister has made his government’s views known on a subject that is contentious. The late Benazir Bhutto too ruled out this idea. But then there was a lot of criticism and she probably had to turn silent.

The usual rhetoric of the Pakistan state about the final resolution to Jammu and Kashmir is that “people should be given the right to self-determination” and that certainly draws on the spirit of United Nations Resolutions that give the people only two options: India or Pakistan. However, off and on Pakistan has maintained that it was the will of the people when the attention would be drawn towards an “Independent Jammu and Kashmir”. Even the hardliner (on the issue) Syed Ali Geelani has made it clear that he was for the state’s merger with Pakistan but if people want something other than that he would welcome it.
Prime Minister Abbasi is not wrong. Article 257 of Constitution of Pakistan states: "When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship ... shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State"

If one went by the Constitution of Pakistan on the final resolution of Jammu and Kashmir, it is unambiguous—and in that sense, Prime Minister Abbasi is not wrong. Article 257 of Constitution of Pakistan which is related to Jammu and Kashmir states: “When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.” It clearly mentions that first the state has to become a part of Pakistan and then the relationship will be determined. Similarly, the Constitution of “Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” the part administered by Pakistan, makes it clear that the future is to be determined under UN resolutions. “Whereas the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be determined in accordance with the freely expressed will of the people of the State through the democratic method of free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as envisaged in the UNCIP Resolutions adopted from time to time.” (AJK Constitution 1974).

In spite of these clear positions, Pakistan governments have in past 30 years been “non-committal” and have supported both political and militant struggles within Jammu and Kashmir. Either Islamabad has camouflaged its policy till the time it wrests Jammu and Kashmir or it had no choice but to accept the new reality that came up in the past three decades. It is worthwhile mentioning here that in late 1989 Kashmir erupted in armed rebellion pioneered by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that had the unambiguous charter of an “Independent Jammu and Kashmir” to follow. But it was Pakistan that aided and abetted the JKLF to launch the armed struggle. It is a different matter that soon after they could raise pro-Pakistan organisations, the JKLF fell out of favour. That, in a way, continues though it has its presence in Islamabad and is made part of the consultation by the government from time to time. JKLF supremo Amanullah Khan had a love-hate relationship with the Pakistan state and that continued till his death. The Pakistan government did not budge from following the law of the land when its forces killed 11 JKLF activists in 1990 when they tried to cross the Line of Control (LoC) as part of a party programme.

What the people clearly want has been written on the wall. There is no denying the fact that the UN resolutions only give two options as they existed in 1948. But after 1990 the discourse of “Independent Jammu and Kashmir” has dominated and remained unchallenged. Notwithstanding the change that has been witnessed in the last few years, that has brought Pakistani flags or even ISIS flags back on the scene, the undercurrent has remained the same. The emotional affinity of the people with Pakistan is demonstrated when Kashmiris decide about the Eid festival (after Pakistan announces it) or when it comes to cricket matches between India and Pakistan. But their politics diverges when it comes the people.

Political realities on the ground cannot be changed even if those who have been espousing this cause and have lured people to violence remain silent about the prime minister’s statement. It was perhaps this reality that forced the-then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to talk about out-of-the-box solutions and putting UN resolutions on the back burner. UN resolutions testify that a resolution is still awaited. But as far as options are concerned, realities have changed. “Out-of-the-box” can mean anything under the sun.

The Joint Resistance Leadership of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had not reacted till we went to press. The constitution of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference that claims proprietorship of the “resistance movement” has the third option. Under the “Objectives of the Conference” in Article 2 of Chapter II, the APHC Constitution states: “To make peaceful struggle to secure for the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir the exercise of the right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Charter and the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, however, the exercise of the right of self-determination shall also include the right to Independence.” The joint leadership will have to make its stand clear.

Pakistan has been supporting the Kashmir “cause” but its sincerity will be tested. PM Abbasi’s insinuation that this idea was bereft of any support is not based on facts given how it has been dominant in the political ideology. For himself, though, PM Abbasi has simplified the position of the Pakistan state and just interpreted the Constitution. But for the leadership in Kashmir it will be a challenge to call a spade a spade to assure the people of all the region that “self-determination” is not based on religion.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Srinagar (Kashmir) and can be reached at shujaat7867@gmail.com