As a starting point for negotiations on Jammu and Kashmir, the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is prepared to accept a solution that restores to the state its ‘pre-1953’ status.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, APHC chairman, in an exclusive telephonic interview to the Hindustan Times on Thursday, said for the first time that restoration of ‘pre-1953 status’ could be the starting point for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
What the Mirwaiz wanted precisely was ‘pre-1953 plus’. The “plus” comprised “a relationship” — whose details he did not specify — with Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), and through PoK, with Islamabad. “There will be a relationship between the two Kashmirs, which did not exist in the pre-1953 arrangement,” he said.
“We want complete devolution of power to the state, and our own president and prime minister, as we had until 1953,” he added.
Between January 1950, when a presidential order relating to Jammu and Kashmir was issued and August 1953, when the Sheikh Abdullah government was dismissed and Abdullah himself detained, Kashmir enjoyed far more autonomy. It had its own head of state and PM, its own constitution and flag. Its assembly had powers to legislate on all subjects barring defence, communications and foreign affairs.
Laws passed by the Indian Parliament did not automatically extend to J&K. However, it remained an integral part of the Indian union.
For more than a decade after it was formed in 1993, the Hurriyat had been resolute in demanding either complete self-determination for the people of Kashmir, or a trilateral dialogue with India and Pakistan to determine Kashmir’s status.
But in recent years, specially after the Syed Ali Shah Geelani faction broke away in September 2003, it has been slightly more conciliatory, first seeking ‘triangular dialogue’ instead of ‘trilateral’ and later agreeing to talks with the Union government in January 2004.
The APHC’s latest position has been to support President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, set forth in December 2006, which called for self-governance, demilitarisation, open borders between the two Kashmirs and a joint Indo-Pak mechanism to handle a few key subjects like defence and foreign affairs. It is now clearly prepared to go a step further.
“This pre-1953 status should be seen as a starting point not as the final settlement,” the Mirwaiz however, clarified.