SAARC without Kashmir?

Ali Ashraf Khan

ON Friday night well-known Indian journalist and author Kuldip Nayar was online guest in a TV programme called “The other side” discussing the recent incident involving the Indian Home Minister during the SAARC summit meeting in Islamabad that had caused quite some waves in the media ocean of Pakistan and India. In reply to a critique of Rajnath Singh’s conduct during the SAARC meeting when he had left suddenly without attending the lunch arranged by the host country, Kuldip Nayar retorted that Chaudhry Nisar himself being the host of the SAARC Interior Ministers’ Conference had hurriedly left the venue without attending the Lunch to participate in the meeting going on at the same time between the Prime Minister and the Army Chief where he was required for important consultation on domestic law and order issues and may be for Chaudhry Nisar personally that meeting seemed more important. But in the eye of a seasoned journalist not attending the lunch was a negligence of Pakistan’s hosting role that created the impression for the participants that the SAARC meeting was not important.
The Indian minister and others attending the SAARC meeting must have felt neglected and offended by this behaviour and that was what Kuldip was mentioning in defense of Indian Interior minister Rajnath’s indecent diplomatic behaviour to have left without any exchange of pleasantry with the officials of his host country. While Kuldip certainly has a point here it has to be remembered that one wrong doesn’t make up for another! Rajnath’s leaving in a hurry and without lunch was an offence as well and his later excuse that ‘he didn’t come to have lunch’ is a rather lame excuse. He knows that lunches, dinners or even tea breaks during such meetings are occasions for the participants to meet and talk informally and many a time more understanding is created during a lunch or tea break than by listening to long and politically motivated speeches.
Kuldip Nayar during the interview charged Pakistan for harping on the Kashmir atrocities that are going on while Kashmir –according to him- was an integral part of India. But even if we would concede only for a moment that that was true – which it is not- the human rights violations, the use of banned weapons on civilians and the death toll that Indian army’s action takes on civilian Kashmiris is very much something that can’t be put on the back burner even for a moment. Thus Kuldip was quite wrong here and one wonders why he has been risking his name as a peace activist by tackling the Kashmir question like this and not using the occasion to defend the human rights of his Kashmiri ‘compatriots’ noticing his aggressive mode one of the panelist Ashraf Jahangir Qazi tried to bring calm in between.
Kuldip is a black sheep well known in Pakistan since Ziaul Haq days when he came to Pakistan and roped in with Mushahid Hussain then editor of the Daily The Muslim Islamabad who took him at night to Dr Qadeer’s house, where a free discussion on world affairs including nuclear capabilities in this region started and – as a result of this discussion- a concocted story about Pakistani achievements was later published by Kuldip Nayar in the Indian media causing great tension and Dr Qadeer had to publically clarify that Mushahid Hussain had not informed him before or introduced his accompanying friend as an Indian journalist. If he had known who he was then he would have refrained from meeting or talking to him so freely.
This happened in 1986 or so; since then Israel and US are trying to dislodge and destroy our nuclear capabilities. Why Mushahid did so and how he is surviving in parliament is a mystery; only the lobby behind that fields and promotes our politicians for such unpatriotic jobs is yet to be brought to light. I have been voicing protest against Pakistani electronic and print media becoming the hostage of commercial marketing and monetary considerations apart from “Aman-ki-Asha” which is a full-fledged cultural onslaught that was launched to accomplish their nefarious political agenda so much so that Kuldip Nayar’s articles are regularly published in Pakistani English and Urdu newspapers whereas Pakistani columnist hardly ever get access or space in the Indian press! Where are PEMRA and the Ministry of Information? Does that lead us to understand that just money makes the mere go in Pakistan?
Kuldip Nayar also told on TV that the Kashmir issue has been buried long ago and he quoted the Nawaz-Gujral understanding of previous times in the 1990s that Nawaz had then accepted with I K Gujral’s stance that Kashmir is part of India and for public consumption they may keep on talking about Kashmir as a bogey issue only. Yes, later once I K Gujral had tried to convey this story to me also when he invited me for a one to one meeting at his 5 Janpat Road residence, when we along with Jamil Mehboob Magoon and Mehmood Ahmad were guests of the India International Centre for a SAARC Chamber seminar, which was inaugurated by Gujral as President of IIC. When I went for this one-on-one meeting at request of Gujral, we talked about Indo-Pak relations for nearly three hours, when he told me that by toppling Nawaz Pakistan has damaged our common understanding on Kashmir that we had mutually agreed upon; to forget contentious issues and move forward. I confronted Mr Gujral and asked what he thinks about Mr Nehru who himself took the dispute of Kashmir to the UNSC and begged for ceasefire resolutions and assured to abide by them, hold plebiscite to decide the future according to the will of the Kashmiri people in accordance with the human right charter, declarations of UN and the British partition plan passed by Parliament as “Indian Independence Act of 1947 that received the Royal Assent on 18-7-1947, which outlined that the fate and future of those princely states where the ruler and majority of population belongs to different religions i.e. Hindu or Muslim, the future of such princely states will be decided by the people through free choice of vote or referendum under UN Plebiscite administrator Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Pakistan and especially Nawaz Sharif has been going forward and backward with our stand on the Kashmir issue. So now Nawaz should either categorically refute Kuldip Nayar or step down for causing a big set back to the Kashmir cause and take the responsibility for all brutalities in Kashmir on his shoulder. Kuldip Nayar and those working on the Indian agenda on the other hand, should be not only blacklisted but banned for publication or invitation in our media, if we are sincere with the Kashmir freedom movement and would like our Kashmiri brethren in Srinagar, Jammu and Kargil/Ladakh getting freedom from Indian occupation choosing their future through free and fair plebiscite under UN or international sponsorship. This demand to keep the plight of the Kashmiris always and everywhere present is Pakistan’s responsibility even in SAARC conference or anywhere else which should not be traded away for cheap political or personal business mileage in any case. God Bless Pakistan and Humanity.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.

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