Islamabad, August 6 (NIA): Pakistanis are completely off the track if they imagine that the Kashmiris’ demand for Azadi or freedom means yearning for the merger of their state with Pakistan, says Abbas Nasir in an article in Dawn.
“Kashmiris want to stress that when they say ‘Azadi’ they mean both from India and Pakistan. They wish to govern themselves,” Nasir, a former editor of Dawn, says on the basis of his conversations with Kashmiris from the Indian side now living in the UK.
“I’d rather not name my friends for the fear of their family members’ safety who are in the valley itself, but many of them seemed to have reached a pass where they don’t care and maintain a high-profile presence by writing about the atrocities in the media and raising awareness via social media on a daily basis.”
“Side by side with their common demand for Azadi, many Kashmiris I talked to, were also equally clear about saying ‘no thanks’ to Pakistan-based militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). This is simply because they believed that such groups undermine their indigenous struggle,” Nasir says.
As one London-based Kashmiri elaborated, “Look at what happened to what was purely our own struggle in the 1980s and 1990s. It was hijacked by the Pakistan-based groups. Their jihad based on an ideology pretty alien to the valley targeted innocent civilians and even foreigners in Kashmir, which discredited our movement and isolated it internationally.”
“The best act of friendship by Pakistan would be to let us be. We have reached a stage where we’d be horrified to contemplate a day when, say, Islamabad replaces New Delhi.”
Ironically, it was the man responsible for the Kargil fiasco, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who also saw and addressed this factor, perhaps less to respect the wishes of the Kashmiris but more to provide India with an acceptable solution, when he proposed a ‘borderless’ region during the 2005 summit with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Nasir recalls.
Considerable progress had been made four years earlier also when Musharraf met prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the Agra summit and matters appeared close to an agreement when ostensibly loose remarks by the Pakistan president were pounced upon by hard-line BJP leaders opposed to any accord.
The hardliners were led then by Lal Krishna Advani and they found their spokesperson in Mrs Sushma Swaraj (the current foreign minister) whose characterisation of the dialogue before the assembled media was such that nobody who was part of the discussions on the Pakistan side could recognise it. This jettisoned the process that was generating considerable optimism in 2001.
But the progress made in 2005 again crawled to a halt when Musharraf became embroiled in a fight for survival at home, following his March 2007 attempted sacking of the then Supreme Court chief justice. The 2008 attack by LeT terrorists targeting unarmed civilians in Mumbai almost pushed the two nuclear powers to the very edge.
Today, regardless of the peace initiatives Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may be keen on, the GHQ seems to have drawn red lines for him not to cross, including vigorously trying the Mumbai carnage accused.
And having won the election due to his appeal among both big business and hard-line Hindu nationalists, his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi appears also lost in no-man’s land where relations with Pakistan are concerned.
While those who call the shots in the two countries are currently locked in on one-upmanship, the defense budgets on each side are ballooning, the Kashmir valley continues to bleed with no respite in sight, and the subcontinent remains teeming with millions steeped in poverty and misery. And there appears no light at the end of the tunnel, Nasir concludes.