Umair Pervez Khan
5th of February is observed as Kashmir solidarity day particularly in Pakistan and all over the world in general. It was first celebrated on the call of veteran Jamaat-i-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad (late) in 1990. Later, it was officially declared as Kashmir solidarity day by government of Pakistan. Its purpose is to show solidarity with the oppressed people of Kashmir living under the occupation of India for the last 72 years and remembering the sacrifices of the martyrs of the freedom struggle.
This time the solidarity day has arrived in such circumstances where the long lasting statuesquo in the Kashmir issue has been unilaterally altered by the occupational Indian state which illegally integrated the occupied region into its state by abrogating article 370 that guaranteed a special status to the occupied region in the constitution of India. How effective is this move and what repercussion will it bring to the Kashmir cause internationally is a separate topic to debate? At present Pakistani government has announced to observe the solidarity day with zeal and zest. Conferences, seminars, public protests, human chains, media shows, and other activities are planned. No doubt, these activities are significant, and does have positive effect on the on-going struggle of Kashmir for right to self-determination, but the present time demands something more concrete to be done.
This day is of utmost significance and we all must be very honest to ourselves. What have we done in 72 years? What are the reasons of our weak policies on the subject matter? Let us make a brief retrospection towards the policy on the Kashmir issue.
The first decade of Kashmir issue starting right from 1947 was amalgam of successful diplomatic and political strategy because the Kashmir case was internationally validated by UN resolutions. The successive diplomatic approach was no doubt the result of combine efforts of bureaucrats like Sir Zafar Ullah Khan and politicians like Liaquat Ali Khan. The leadership of Pakistan trusted the leadership of Kashmir and took them in confidence regarding the policy matters.
In the next decade Pakistan changed its strategy and went for military solution which was not fruitful due to several reasons. One being the neglection of the Kashmiri leadership in making the policies regarding Kashmir mission.
Then comes the era of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who signed the Simla agreement in 1972 after being defeated in East Pakistan and tried to safeguard the international personality of the Kashmir conflict which he did to some extent, but India won the propaganda war. India projected it as the agreement which reversed the international personality of the Kashmir conflict and highlighted it as a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India.
Additionally, the Zia era and the civilian governments succeeding his tenure damaged the cause as the “Afghan mujahideen” could take part in the on-going indigenous struggle of Kashmiris specially in 1990’s. The indigenous uprising was somehow projected as sponsored movement by India which strengthened its view point internationally. Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee’s Lahore accord also gave the impression if Kashmir was a bilateral issue between both the countries.
Moreover, 9/11 extended an opportunity to India to propagate decade old freedom movement of Kashmir as state sponsored terrorism. It tried to link Kashmir freedom struggle and Global War on Terrorism on different forums, to get maximum support from changed international opinion regarding militancy. It also challenged Pakistan’s involvement in global fight against terrorism and urged US to include Kashmir in GWOT. This propaganda effected Kashmir conflict to large and its dynamics changed to greater extent. The war against terrorism exerted huge pressure on Pakistan and its approach towards the dispute. In post 9/11 scenario, with changed international opinion, it became difficult for Pakistan to support Kashmir freedom struggle. The blurred distinction between just freedom fight and ‘Islamic extremism/Fundamentalism’ made international world more intolerant towards militancy. Resultantly, president Musharraf in his tenure went for a different approach and banned all the non-state actors from using Pakistani soil for violence purpose. This helped the Kashmir cause internationally as it distinguished between the freedom fighters and the so called “terrorists”. Pakistan was able to exclude the Kashmir freedom struggle from GWOT unlike other movements like Chechens. Musharraf also had the frequent meetings with the leadership of Kashmir and proposed four-point formula for the solution of Kashmir. It was his time when the ceasefire violations were minimum and trade along “Line of Control” was started.
In the meantime, the Kashmir freedom struggle continued, and it saw different uprising including the 2008, 2010 and post Burhan wani Shaheed 2016 episode. Zardari government was silent on the matter and a clear shift in the priorities of his government was observed. In post Burhan episode, Nawaz Sharif tried to help Kashmiris diplomatically by sending special envoys to different capitals but unfortunately many of them were incompetent which couldn’t deliver he expected result.
In recent time after the abrogation of article 370 the current government of Pakistan has taken different steps in right direction due to which United Nation security council discussed the situation in occupied Kashmir two times in mere six month’s period after fifty years of silence. It’s a huge diplomatic success. Turkey, Malaysia and China backed Pakistan’s stance internationally and Kashmir conflict was echoed in international diplomatic forums. The momentum must be continued and consistency in the policy is necessary. Act like missing the Malaysian summit will not do good to the interests of Pakistan and Kashmir. Similarly, the turns of kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates viz a viz India and Pakistan are also disturbing. Proactive Foreign Policy approach is needed to cater the Indian influence internationally.
In present circumstances, Pakistan’s true solidarity with Kashmiris would be the retrospection of its policies on Kashmir at parliamentary level and defining the role of leadership of Kashmir in policy matters regarding Kashmir conflict. Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated himself as an ambassador of Kashmir but in my humble opinion let Kashmiris be their own ambassadors. Change your strategy and let Kashmiris speak for themselves. The relation between Pakistan and Kashmir is of trust. Strengthen this bond and back them diplomatically, politically and ethically. Kashmiris are vocal and can articulate their case in international arena. This will make the Indians task harder as world will get to know a detached version of the events from the victims themselves. The people who have the stakes, let them explain their miseries to the world. The words of others will not do much good as the tone and pain in victims voice would do. Send historians, scholars, students and more significantly the victims to international forums to shake the conscious of the world community. Let the world listen the voices of voiceless and know the original version of the story instead of seeing this matter as question of India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the role of the available Kashmiri leadership is important as the unrest amongst the citizens of Kashmir is also increasing. The youth particularly is eager to know concrete plan. The Kashmiri leadership is not able to satisfy them, ultimately the state of Pakistan is being blamed for doing nothing. Once the available lot of the leaders in Kashmir would be given greater role, the relation between Pakistan and Kashmir would be strengthened and questions of the youth could be answered to larger extent. Unfortunately, the part that the base camp government i.e Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s government has played in this crucial hour of the history is also not satisfactory. The people sitting in the helm of affairs must be made accountable for their responsibilities being given to them by the people of Kashmir. On this day, the so-called leadership of Azad Jammu and Kashmir must also present itself for the accountability. I mention it with deep regret that the priorities of the so-called base camp government of AJK has changed. On this day, the blood of the martyrs and the honors of the daughter’s question about the role base camp have played for their liberation? Are we able to answer them with our heads up?
This day demands sincere efforts for self-accountability. It also demands us to be united and unveil the oppressive face of India. Let us rise from the trivial matters and make a concrete policy plan to be implemented. 180 days of the curfew have passed. The people of occupied Kashmir are looking towards this side of ceasefire line. We salute the resistance leadership and the citizens, who have been resisting in these inhumane circumstances. The martyrs, widows and the brave daughters of Kashmir are no doubt the honor and symbol of resistance for every just cause in the world. On this day we must give them a message from our side and the message of hope is must!
*The writer is an International Relations, PhD scholar at Selcuk University, Turkey.