It is not surprising that the European Parliament has given its approval, almost unanimously, to a report that directly links terrorism in Kashmir to the lack of democracy in Pakistan. Written by European Parliament Rapporteur for Kashmir, Baroness Emma Nicholson, the report, ‘Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects’, highlights the lack of political freedom in parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir like Gilgit and Baltistan, and the Northern Areas. Last week, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted the report by 60 votes to one, incorporating a key recommendation that conditions for a plebiscite had not been met and there could be no plebiscite in Kashmir. Predictably, Islamabad and Pakistani lobbies have slammed the report, as it would be unpalatable to the numerous Kashmiri groups they have nurtured over the years.
It is obviously because of the pressure these groups put on EU parliamentarians that several amendments have also been made in the final draft before it goes to the European Parliament plenary in May. Not that this detracts at all from the welcome change the report signals from the very hostile positions taken by the EU Parliament against India earlier. India should also hail the Nicholson Committee’s declaration of its “full support” to the current India-Pakistan composite dialogue process that has resulted in a range of confidence-building measures between the two countries. But that said, it’s time President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that he has to do better than reel out vague statistics on how the majority of Pakistanis still want him to continue at the helm. For Pakistan’s nascent parliamentary democracy has evidently reached a turning point after nearly eight years of military rule under General Musharraf.
As the ongoing crisis in Pakistan’s judiciary — never mind if the General himself generated it — suggests that the simmering popular discontent with army rule may have reached defining proportions. Most Pakistanis evidently want Mr Musharraf to go, and the Pakistan army to return to the barracks. The General has quite a high wire act to follow as he faces increasing pressure from radical elements in Pakistan’s polity on one hand, and increasing pressure from the US to crack down harder on terrorists operating from the region on the other.