Kashmiri Spade

Omar Abdullah’s straight talk is likely to go unreported in Pakistan

Eminent personalities had gathered in Islamabad in the interests of bringing peace to Kashmir. The Hurriyat was there, of course (for how could its leaders miss an opportunity meet their masters), as were leaders of Indian political parties like Mohd Yusuf Tarigami and Bhim Singh. But it was Omar Abdullah who stole the show. Cornered by some hostile Pakistani journalists during a dinner hosted by the Pakistani foreign minister, Omar gave it to them. The Daily Excelsior has verbatim reports, while Pakistani newspapers (so far) unsurprisingly downplayed his remarks. The Hindu covers the incident but does not give details, perhaps because they should be familiar to its readers.

“Jammu and Kashmir in India is exactly what it was in 1947. Not an inch of territory has been changed. Ask yourself the same question regarding the areas of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. Does the map of J and K of Pakistan in 1947 resembles what it is now? If it doesn’t, then that is the answer to your question why UN resolutions cannot be implemented.”

“I ask you a simple question did you ever here see reported incident of rape by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir prior to 1988-89. I doubt it. If you are condemning the violence by security forces, in the same breath you should be willing to condemn acts of human rights violations by militants,’’he said. [Omar Abdullah/Daily Excelsior]

He went on to distinguish between the ends of home-grown and foreign terrorists. He didn’t criticise the questionable means employed by the home-grown separatists. Perhaps that is understandable given his political necessities. But he was right to criticise India’s refusal to allow Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani to visit Pakistan — the act of refusal inflated the Geelani factor more than anything Geelani could have said and done across the border.

7 thoughts on “Kashmiri Spade”

  1. Nitin: this guy is quite the smartie his idiot father isn’t. His resignation in 2002 demonstrated decisive action. A few (recent expat) Kashmiris (Hindus and Muslims) I’ve talked to generally respect Mehbooba Mufti and Omar. He just might be what the doctor ordered – someone credible who is acceptable to large sections of the Kashmiri population.

  2. Libertarian:

    There is no doubt that Mr. Abdullah is a sharp operator; too sharp in some instances for my taste (see, e.g., his party’s demagogic hawking of a bill to strip Kashmiris who marry non-Kashmiris of their rights as ‘state subjects’ of J&K). Having said that, he is probably as good as we can get. I particularly enjoyed his verbal drubbing of some especially communal Pakistani reporters.

    Ms. Mufti, on the other hand, has stepped beyond the line in her attempts to triangulate between the pro-union, secessionist, as well as the terrorist factions in J&K. Mr. Abdullah’s party attempts much the same thing but has been more somewhat more succesfull in not stepping over the line when doing so.

    Parenthetically, this is not to argue that the excesses of either party deserve the attention of the GOI. Politicians are best ‘disciplined’ by their electorate–that’s as true of J&K as of (say) Maharashtra.

    I view the overall political scene in J&K with some satisfaction. Now, more than ever, J&K is beginning to enjoy the fruits of robust democratic politics–not as robust as I would like, given the significant terrorist presence (as well as the naysayers who populate the ‘Hurriyet’) but still nothing to sneeze at.


  3. Kumar: your insider response is truly heartening. Outsiders (i.e. yours truly) benefit enormously from these perspectives. I’d really appreciate you expanding on “J&K is beginning to enjoy the fruits of robust democratic politics“. We will know we have won when cross-LOC traffic goes west for meeting relative and friends, and traffic comes east for economic opportunity.

  4. Omar is a very suave politician. His straight talking is good, very good. Seen him present very realistic opinions on TV. Too bad we dont have many straight-talkers in national politics.

  5. Libertarian:

    Thanks for the kind remarks.

    About ‘robust democratic politics’: I simply mean that from the mohalla level and higher, people in the Valley are beginning once again to participate in political activity of one sort or another. Especially interesting in this regard is the successful conduct of recent municipal-level elections in J&K.

    All this is an obvious (tremendous) benefit for Kashmiris. Monopolies in politics (as was the case with the NC pre-1989) are as bad as those in business.

    Moreover, this level of activity yields strategic benefits for India:

    The always ridiculous charge that India is ‘occupying’ J&K has become even less tenable. Indeed, the success of India in this regard has forced even Islamabad to take notice. Think of the reception accorded to the NC and PDP at the recent Pugwash conference in Islamabad. No doubt Islamabad has hopes of co-opting both parties; however, such recognition is an implicit acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the political mainstream in J&K.

    Best of all, perhaps, Islamabad’s minions in J&K (i.e., the ‘Hurriyet’) feel especially aggrieved that the NC and PDP have managed to carve out political space shy of secessionism. They fear, rightly of course, that the political space available for their antics is becoming ever-smaller.

    Btw, I wonder how they feel about the reception especially for the NC. Perhaps they’ll hold their collective breath until turning blue in the face 😉 We can only hope, I guess (schadenfreude is wonderful sometimes).


  6. Kumar: thx for the info. Yes, having the NC and PDP folks in Islamabad was a gauge of how far things have moved.

  7. Resentment over displaced leadership resulted in the present disappointing status

    Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri was born in 1958 in Trarkhel, a small village near Rawalakot in Pakistani Administered Kashmir. As an activist for Kashmir Nationalists Students Federation, based in Karachi, he promoted the strength of the Kashmiri students in Pakistan. In 1985 after obtaining his Bachelors in Law and Litigation( L.L.B) and MA in Islamic Studies from Karachi University, he was elected as the Deputy General Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples National Party. He is the founding chairman of United Kashmir Peoples National Party Formed in 1994; it is an ally of the IKA (International Kashmir Alliance).

    During this period of political activism, his pro- human rights work for the populace of Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan drew the wrath of the Pakistani government and was detained twice in 1994 and 1998 respectively. Due to the consequences of such stirring activity he was compelled to seek exile in Switzerland in 1999. The International Human Rights watchdog, Amnesty International had accorded him the title “Prisoner of Conscience”. On his first visit to Indian administered Kashmir, he had the opportunity to interact with many leaders like Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Moulana Abbas Ansari, Mehbooba Mufti, Shabir Shah, Abdul Rahim Rather, Sajjad Lone, Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, and Bilal Lone amongst many other prominent religious and political luminaries of the region. The following interview is exclusively for the readers.

    Q Kashmiri is not your mother tongue, yet Kashmiri is the title of your name?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: When I was studying in Trarkhel, I only knew about my tribe since the environment didn’t invite much knowledge outside it. I did not have much knowledge or understanding about Kashmir or Pakistan. We were just taught that Hindustan is not a good country, and that Kashmir and Pakistan is our state. This was enforced in our minds due to the excessive media propaganda .Since there was no hospital or Doctor available for three hundred thousand population of our area, it was the paramount desire of my parents to train me to be a doctor and in this pursuit of better scientific education, and I went to Karachi. At school, when the teacher wanted to familiarise with us, I introduced myself and my native place as Azad Kashmir. The other fellow Kashmiris hailing from Azad Kashmir, who were in the class did not introduce themselves as Kashmiris or even mention their place of origin as Kashmir. After class I asked them the reason for why they did not introduce themselves the way I did? They replied that the reason would become apparent to me in the coming days and, as predicted I faced the consequences. I was called ‘Kashmiri’ in the school, and this tag was attached as a mark of insult and not one of honour or respect. As time went, it became obvious to me that Kashmiris were treated in Pakistan as third degree citizens who deserve no respect. I began to feel at fault for being a Kashmiri .These series of incidents gave me the title of Kashmiri to be a symbol of pride and helped me identify with the cause of the Kashmiri people.

    Q. It is often said that Kashmir and Switzerland resemble closely on landscape terms. Having been a resident of the latter, could you please tell us the differences that you have observed during this visit?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: It’s true there are great similarities between both Kashmir and Switzerland in terms of geographical landscape in that there are lakes, meadows and valleys in both the places. Switzerland also receives snowfall in every area. But Kashmir has four distinct seasons of spring, autumn, winter and summer adding a colourful touch .Like Kashmir, there is a repertoire of cultures, languages and people are living in peace and harmony, but unfortunately our Kashmir is stripped of the latter element of peace. There is development and prosperity, no racial discrimination and it is hard to see policing quite often on the streets, yet there the crime rate is very low. The most imperative fact that distinguishes Switzerland is that sovereignty of the country lies in the hands of people.

    Q. Which Kashmiri leader has impressed you more?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: I didn’t come here to be impressed by anyone. Nevertheless having been included in a list of victims for long, it is not my desire to be impressed any more. I have deep respect for every one whom I have met and every individual has his own standing and import which cannot be neglected in today’s circumstances. We cannot deny the hard truth that Kashmir as a nation has been misfortunate in the line of leadership. In the current situation, the Kashmiri mass requires the steering leadership of someone like Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, Mao Tse Tung, and Mahatma Gandhi. Even if the complete political Diasporas can be amalgamated, it will not be competent for one Sher-e-Kashmir.

    Q. What matters have you touched upon in your discussion during your meetings with them?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: I have expressed to everyone that it is high time that we took note of the changing global political climate and to understand them, it is vital to comprehend the emerging vistas in the present day economies. Every Kashmiri is tasked with the duty to safeguard the interests of Kashmir in a united voice for its growth, despite any minor or major political differences. And I am glad to say that there was a consensus on this statement.

    Q. IKA has repeatedly criticized Pakistan in many statements. Could you please let us know the reason behind?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: Our goal is not to oppose Pakistan for the sake of opposition and never think to weaken Pakistan. But we do advocate that by proxy war, Pakistan shall achieve nothing nor it would be favourable for the Kashmiri nation. The entire Pakistani society has been impacted by this kind of politics, where democracy and democratic institutes are at stake from the threat of dictatorship. The ruling elite have callously victimized their own masses in the name of Kashmir issue. In the country, poor people are becoming poorer day by day, while rich are increasing their wealth everyday. It is our supreme desire that the socio-economic, democratic and constitutional rights of the people of Pakistan must be restored. We also aspire that there would be an end to the unholy alliance between the feudal lords and Mullahs and military bureaucracy. This is for the sovereignty of the people of Pakistan where they can feel that their nation was founded for the provision of social justice and not to fulfil the capitalist interests of the privileged class. We have always been supporting democratic movements in Pakistan. I was an active partaker in MRD’s movement against General Zia and we have also condemned the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death sentence as “judicial murder”.

    Q. There is an allegation from certain quarters that IKA is promoting Indian agenda in Kashmir. What is your take on this?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: Since its inception, the International Kashmir Alliance (IKA) has accepted the Geneva declaration in which three points were included. Its agenda is pro people and to achieve transparency, accountability and to address the vulnerability of the Kashmiri people were the most important in the IKA objective. I would like to let you know that both India and Pakistan have set self-centric standards for Kashmiris .For instance, according to Pakistani standard a person of Azad Kashmir who is pro independent can share political platform with pro Pakistan people, but he would never dare to share the same with any pro India political party or person .Proponents of independence here do not hesitate to collaborate with Sardar Qayyum and Sikandar Hayat , but they would never think of discussing with the secular progressive forces in India. Hence both the States do not want different Kashmiri schools of thought to be united to raise their voice for the common cause. Both India and Pakistan have segregated Kashmiri people. The IKA stance is that every one who lives in Kashmir, despite political differences has a Kashmiri identity with all rights as a citizen of the state of Kashmir. We want to collect them at a common platform so that the objectives of national reconciliation could be achieved between them. We want to hinder blame game, but in the consequences of our struggle and exercise of our righteous demands, the interests of some quarters may be damaged and so they accuse us, and desire that we abandon our struggle.

    Q. It doesn’t seem that despite access to different international forums IKA would have advocated human rights violations and aspirations of common Kashmiri people?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: This credit can be given to the IKA leadership that they addressed grievances of common Kashmiris. We don’t believe in politics in the name of victimization of people and have highlighted this issue before international forums. During the last conference, we had bluntly stated that India has failed to accomplish its pledge to protect the life, honour and property of the Kashmiri people which was made with the Maharaja at the time of accession. The Indian security forces have failed to protect life of Kashmiri people. We have raised such issues without any prejudice, although it is not possible to present human rights violations individually.

    Q. According to certain quarters, Western powers are using the Kashmir issue for their own interest .What do you have to say on this?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: There is no country in this world which doesn’t safeguard her national interest. Each country in this world sets priority to its national interest in global issues. Whether it is support or opposition regarding Kashmir, they also keep their interests. For instance, the Peoples Republic of China wanted to maintain status quo while the United States wanted to resolve this issue according to the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiri people. In this matter we need to understand the role of global capital. In those countries the role of consumer capital is not that much strong. They have realized that if poverty will increase, the global issues concerning security and cooperation would be threatened and this intensive situation could hinder further expansion of capital. In this scenario, this is the global agenda that all problems must be resolved according to the wishes of the people of regions, where democracy, rule of justice, independent judiciary and justice must prevail. The present gestures taken by both India and Pakistan are in fact a glimpse of this wave in the international state of affairs It is a worldwide tendency to resolve regional conflicts, if any one would try to hinder it would be equivalent to digging one’s own grave.

    Q. Would it not be possible for you to approach the International court of Justice?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: A State can approach the International Court of Justice and not any individual Organization. But despite this situation we have been continuously heralding the international community about the prevailing situation in Kashmir. If international institutions deliver some statements or proceed towards concrete measures, it is based on the briefings we feed them. But again I would like to say we don’t like politics in the name of victimized people.

    Q. Kashmiris are also divided out of the State why don’t you struggle to get them united?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: Pro Kashmiri people abroad are in contact with us. We sit together to discuss on our national issues and hence the objective of IKA is to strengthen pro Kashmiri forces. IKA is struggling for unity and reconciliation among different Kashmiri school of thoughts.

    Q In your opinion, where does the Kashmir issue stand in the present day?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: We are observing extra ordinary change in Indo Pak relations. Both the Countries have modified their traditional attitude towards Kashmir. Though India has taken bold steps to open routes across LOC and encouraged people to people contacts, these changes are taking place regarding the changing geo political compulsion. In my personal opinion, the global environment is in the tide of Kashmiri people to settle the issue. At this moment the Kashmiri leadership should grab the impetus to get international recognition.

    Q In your opinion, what could be a long standing and acceptable solution to the issue?

    Shaukat Kashmiri: I have always believed in the nation of Jammu and Kashmir rather than as a state. Today our stance is simply that both India and Pakistan should give Kashmir its long overdue recognition as an independent country, although I am in favour of regional independence of different entities. According to our ideology we have presented the formula of United States of Kashmir 12 years ago. We had set the formula of six states and had presented this in a seminar in 1993 under the patronage of the European parliament. It is significant that the Mirwaiz also has proposed the solution of United States of Kashmir, which was unfortunately not endorsed by Islamabad.

    This interview was taken by weekly Chattan at Srinagar and translated by Jamil Maqsood General Secretary United Kashmir Peoples National Party Belgium

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