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Open Space

Solidarity with Kashmiris

Dr Shabir Choudhry

Government of Pakistan has done us another great favour by giving people of Pakistan another holiday in name of Solidarity with Kashmiris. Pakistani people take more holidays than other nations, perhaps they can 'afford' that as their government claims to have economy in 'good shape' and that they enjoy 'unrivalled prosperity'. Strictly speaking how many holidays they take is not my problem, but it becomes my problem when they take holiday in my name.

Claim is that the government of Pakistan shows their solidarity with Kashmiris by having holiday on 5th February, and by encouraging people to hold rallies in various parts of Kashmir and Pakistan. They claim it highlights the Kashmir dispute and shows the world that Pakistan supports Kashmiri peoples right of self - determination.

One wonders Pakistan supports which right of self - determination and which Kashmiris? It was Pakistani government who stabbed the Kashmiri peoples right of self - determination when it got UN Security Council Resolution changed in January 1949, that people of Kashmir could only have a right of accession to either India or Pakistan, and not right of self – determination which could also lead to independence.

Right of accession is different to right of self- determination, and we all know that, but Pakistani officials still want us to believe that it is right of self- determination; and also make us believe that Pakistan is our well- wisher and champion of our rights. Kashmiris are forcibly divided and oppressed but they are not so stupid that they cannot differentiate between right and wrong, and a friend and a foe. However certain compulsions might dictate them to remain silent or go with the tide.

As for showing Solidarity with Kashmiris is concerned, if Pakistan is sincere with the cause of Kashmir and people of Kashmir then they should demonstrate that solidarity by giving basic human rights to people of Gilgit and Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Only then they will be on a moral high ground to demand from India to grant rights to people on that side of LoC.

If Pakistani government was sincere in showing solidarity with Kashmiris and really wanted to highlight the Kashmir cause then it would have been appropriate for their President to announce it when he was on nine days European tour and the world press was taking note of everything he said and did. He did not utter a single word in support of the Kashmiri cause and the Kashmiri peoples right of self - determination.

He was in England for four days and England has the largest concentration of Kashmiri Diaspora who love their country and are very active in promoting the cause of Kashmir. Even he did not say anything about Kashmir in gatherings of Pakistani and Kashmiris, but when one journalist asked him a question on Kashmir, he said: in present scenario Kashmir is not 'concurrent'. What he meant was that Pakistani government had other priorities, and Kashmir was not important to them.

But once back in his country, he and his government thought appropriate to display this 'ritual' with full glamour of media and courageous speeches. It is debatable how much this show has done to promote the cause of Kashmir. It is for sure that the international media would pay little attention to peaceful rallies held in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Rawalpindi and other parts of the country.

Whether this show has helped or not to promote the cause of the Kashmiri people, it has surely strengthened the Indian claim that the Kashmir dispute is stirred up by Pakistan. It is supported, financed, promoted and 'educated' to suit Pakistani needs at domestic level and at international level. What other conclusions can you draw when you see senior Pakistani leaders and officials organising rallies and making belligerent speeches against India and ignore the plight of the people on the Pakistani side of LOC.

These speeches are shown on different TV channels and leaders and officials compete against each other to show how well they have done to muster support and managed to get 'Kashmiri leaders'. In one such gathering, held in the High Commission of Pakistan, London (of course it was organised and financed by them), and they managed to assemble some 'Kashmiri leaders' who only want to liberate the Indian side of Kashmir.

And tragedy is that among those seated in the High Commission gathering were some so called Kashmiri nationalists, who claim that they project Maqbool Butt's ideology? One should ask them when did Maqbool Butt say that you could sit in the lap of one occupier and 'wage war' against the other? These people should need to be exposed as they are damaging the cause of united and independent Kashmir.

If those Kashmiri leaders who support India in some way are 'puppets', according to the allegation, then what name would you give to those who are loyal to Pakistan and are very eager to promote and protect Pakistani interest at the cost of a Kashmiri interest?

On the issue of celebrating 5th February to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir, I want to assert with authority that it is not a Kashmiri date; like other nations we also have national dates which are important to us, but 5th February is not among them. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto announced this date first time in 1974. Readers need to know that he signed the Simla Accord in 1972, and virtually sold off Kashmir by changing ceasefire line into Line of Control.

In line with his unwritten agreement with India he tried to make Azad Kashmir a province of Pakistan. After strong opposition from people of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan he abandoned his plans, but in order to show his 'solidarity' with people of Kashmir, and win back support he announced a national strike on 5th February 1974.

Later on Pakistan put Kashmir dispute and this 'solidarity day' in a cold storage. In 1990 when militancy was at its peak and the Indian administration had virtually collapsed; and many at that time thought that India was on its way out of Kashmir. The Movement at that time was very pro independent Kashmir and this disturbed Pakistani agencies and policy makers.

This trend of an independent Kashmir was further supported by people of Kashmir showing strong solidarity to the cause of Maqbool Butt by having a complete shut down in Kashmir on 11th February, the day he was hanged by India in 1984. This was a clear indication that people loved Maqbool Butt and his ideology of an independent Kashmir.

Pakistani policy makers are never known for the farsightedness and they only go for short achievements, or personal glory and gains. They did not start this 'struggle' or supported the cause of Kashmir to make Kashmir an independent country. They were alarmed by this development, and in order to counter this 'threat' they called a strike on 5th February once again after break of sixteen years.

If they were even loyal to the cause of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan then they should have selected the date 5th January, as it was on this date (5th January 1949) right of self – determination was changed to right of accession. Instead they chose 5th February, as their aim was to damage the strike of 11th February, which signify a support for an independent Kashmir. It was clear to them that it would be difficult for the people of Kashmir to have two massive strikes within a week, but if they had chosen 5th January for solidarity day then it would be still possible to arrange a massive strike on 11th February.

So in conclusion I want to assert that the aim of this strike is not to show solidarity but to divide already divided people, and to damage the cause of an independent Kashmir. However I want to thank those people who had a 'holiday' sincerely hoping that it might help us Kashmiris in some way.

But I just want to tell them that wouldn't it be a better way of showing solidarity to the people of Kashmir, to let people of Pakistan work on 5th February that there is no damage to their economy, but request people to donate 10% of their salary to the cause of Kashmir. There are thousands of widows in Jammu and Kashmir and thousands of orphans with no source of income. Similarly on the Pakistani side of LOC lakhs of people are still suffering in the cold as a result of the deadly earthquake, as help destined for them have ended up elsewhere; and authorities are not too concerned to rehabilitate them.

The writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com


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Inclusion of Kashmiri dimension in dialogue process By Zafar Khan


When I crossed the ceasefire line By Faisul Yaseen

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Benazir Bhutto

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