Ali Ashraf Khan
After a long slumber the Kashmir question has been revived in the media and that has pushed our government and opposition to give some lip service to the matter. The occasion for the revival of the longstanding problem was the killing of the extremely popular young leader of Kashmir resistance to Indian occupation Burhan Wani.
The Kashmir issue is a flash point since 1947, when the British government under influence of Lord Mountbatten first tempered with the approved partition plan and then delayed the announcement of Sir Cyrill Radcliff’s Boundary Commission Award until August 17, after partition had been completed in which the two districts of Gurdaspur and Pathankot were deliberately detached from Pakistan and attached with India. The Boundary Commission was setup under the June 3, Mountbatten plan to deal with the partition of Bengal, the separation of Sylhet from Assam and the partition of Punjab by two separate commissions with two members each from Indian Congress and the Muslim League, while the retired justice Radcliff was made chairman of both.
In Punjab the British in connivance with Congress leaders wanted the protection of the cultural and religious life of Sikhs. In Bari doab area there were Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Lahore and Montgomery; all these districts, except Amritsar were dominated by Muslims, but contrary to the partition plan, Muslim areas of Gurdaspur and Pathankot were given to India by another jugglery of counting a certain Muslim sect in and out. Hence the Kashmir uprising started and developed into a war between two countries. Pundit Nehru, Prime Minister of India, rushed to New York to seek UN intervention, where he also pledged to hold free and fair plebiscite in Kashmir to decide whether they want to join India or Pakistan.
Now the newly found love between US and India has increased atrocities in Kashmir and this has given confidence to India. It was the Indian army itself that announced last week proudly that they had killed a top Kashmiri rebel leader. They called it a major victory in the fight against militants in the disputed Himalayan region and clearly didn’t expect the backlash that followed. Interesting is the Pakistani reaction to the happenings. After a long slumber Nawaz Sharif woke up and convened a cabinet meeting to discuss the matter. Would that help the Kashmiris? Would that lead to the installation of a full-time Foreign Minister in the cabinet who could devote time and initiative to projecting the Kashmir conflict internationally? There are strong doubts about such a possibility.
But as a minimum action to be taken the Prime Minister could remove Maulana Fazalur Rehman as chairman of the Kashmir Committee for inactivity and negligence in his position. But the Prime Minister is known to be in a bhai-bhai relationship with India and any real action in the matter would hurt his multiple well-paying business interests in India. A real brave act of putting national interest over personal business interest would be for Nawaz Sharif to sever his business with India in protest. Is our Prime Minister ready and capable of such sacrifice? It can be doubted keeping in mind that the national interest of Pakistan did not matter when he is investing his money in London properties and off-shore accounts rather than in Pakistani industry and job creation.
US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in his daily press briefing that they are ‘concerned’ about Indian atrocities in Kashmir but that the US regards it as an internal affair of India. Well, how can he say this? The US is a member of the UNSC – the same institution which had ruled at one point that Kashmir was a disputed territory and its final status should be decided through a referendum. Now this change of heart gives an opportunity to more pragmatic approach in our relationship with US, their proxy war has led to socio-economic disaster in Pakistan without any responsibility sharing or resolving human issues. US appears to have taken us for granted because of our leaders weaknesses. Now a wind of change has started blowing from East & West, Pakistan has to re-assert its just demands of implementation of the UN resolutions and to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. God bless Pakistan and humanity.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.