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Why Pak thinkers should be assertive

Dr Shabir Choudhry says barring a few, most of them keep parroting the establishment's stand on J&K.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2007 18:47 IST

Writers, thinkers and intellectuals have a great role in every society, and Pakistani society should not be exception to this rule. Writers and thinkers don't have to be in government to influence people. These God-gifted individuals have power to influence others through their ideas and power of analyses and vision to predict how future events might shape the society.

Conscientious and sincere writers and thinkers can help governments to formulate appropriate policies, and could check governments desire to act against public interest and bulldoze civil liberties. Of course undemocratic and ruthless rulers will try to muzzle the press and writers and thinkers; and will hire their services to push their agenda, which is not always in the public interest or even in the national interest.

In this respect the role of Pakistani writers and thinkers has not been exemplary, for that matter, role of Pakistani civil society, barring a few institutions, has not been positive. Perhaps one reason for this is absence of democracy in the country, and civil society finds itself under constant attack in Pakistan; and only way to escape wrath of the authorities is to support them.

Like many other national policies, Pakistan's Kashmir policy has been in shambles right from the start. Instead of trying to build institutions and stabilise the country, officials were more interested in personal aggrandisement and adopting adventurous policies. Unlike other countries Pakistani foreign policy had two dimensions: opposition to India and subservience to the USA, and both of them had serious consequences for Pakistan.

Pakistan did not get Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 not because Indian strategy was better, but because Pakistani policy was bad. Pakistan through Standstill Agreement had a foothold in the entire Jammu and Kashmir. This gave Pakistan edge over India, as India did not sign the agreement with the Maharaja, and had no direct presence inside the state.

Apart from the composition of his population, the Maharaja had his own reasons to keep distance with India. With official presence inside the state, coupled with patience and carefully thought through policy could have ensured that the Indian influence is minimised, especially when the Maharaja personally did not like Pundit Nehru, prime minister of India. But adventurers in Pakistan wanted to conquer Jammu and Kashmir, and those who authorised the tribal invasion failed to see consequences of their action. When pushed against the wall the Maharaja had no option but to seek help from India.

I don't want to appear as if I am giving a history lesson, but it would be appropriate to mention that the "Two Nations Theory" was not applicable to the princely states and that Kashmir was never part of Muslim League's demand for Pakistan. No Muslim League leader including Mohammed Ali Jinnah demanded Kashmir before August 15, 1947, as they knew that the "Two Nations Theory" was only applicable to the British India. If anything Jinnah Sahib supported Jammu and Kashmir's right to become independent.

People of Jammu and Kashmir and people of Pakistan have paid a big price for adventurism and wrong policies of shortsighted officials of Pakistan. Kashmir was never presented as a case of Kashmiri peoples right of self-determination. Pakistani officials presented it with Pakistani national interests in mind, which turned it in to a territorial dispute. Pakistan assumed the role of an advocate of the Kashmiri people and no Kashmiri leader, even their stooges were not allowed to present Kashmiri case.

In all this the role of Pakistani writers and intellectuals has not been very encouraging. By and large they have supported, anti democratic forces, pro religious parties and wrong policies of the establishment, which created problems for Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. One can see why they did this or continue to do it. Writers, thinkers, journalists and other progressive people had to face wrath of the authorities and many had to face hardship, imprisonment and some even lost their lives for showing their 'rebellious' attitude.

Very recently a Pakistani journalist and thinker, Arif Malik wrote a book on Kashmir, (Kashmir Ki Pukkar - Cry of Kashmir) which was immediately banned by North West Frontier Government because it supported the Kashmiri peoples' right to independence. It also questioned the logic of Pakistan's Kashmir policy and role of militancy in the Kashmiri struggle. Angered with this, some religious groups and pro Pakistan parties have been harassing and giving threats to the writer who resides in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir.

As a Pakistani political worker and a member of progressive groups, Arif Malik has good working relations with progressive and democratic groups in Pakistan. When he became under pressure from these right wing activists, he tried to get support of his fellow Pakistani writers and progressive thinkers. Many people expressed their solidarity with him behind closed doors but refused to support him in public in this hour of need.

However some people were brave enough to support him and condemn this action, as it is also human rights abuse. Asian Human Rights Commission was also attracted to this case and they issued an alert notifying people how and why the book was banned. This, surely, is not going to enhance reputation of Pakistan, which is already getting a lot of negative publicity.
 
Those in Pakistan who believe that a policy of confrontation with India is needed to justify and strengthen the "Two Nations Theory" are wrong. Whatever real value this controversial theory has, especially after the fall of East Pakistan, is part of history. We cannot rewrite history; and we cannot undo the blunders committed by various undemocratic governments and selfish officials. But we can formulate such policies, which advance pluralism and oppose sectarianism, which advance tolerance and oppose violence; and which promote and strengthen social, cultural, and economic ties among all communities of South Asia.

In this regard writers and thinkers have an important role to play. They can tell people that a policy of confrontation is not in the best interest of Pakistan; a policy of using gun to solve political issues is not in the interest of Pakistan; a policy of proxy war or proxy politics is not in the interest of Pakistan; a policy of treating Kashmir dispute as a territorial dispute is not in the best interest of Pakistan and division of Jammu and Kashmir is also not in the best interest of Pakistan.

They also need to tell people that prominence or dominance of religious fanatics is not in the interest of Pakistan and its future. Pakistani nation, especially province of Punjab and religious parties need to be told that Jammu and Kashmir is not part of Pakistan or any other country for that matter. One can, however, understand that they want to make Jammu and Kashmir part of Pakistan. Furthermore united and independent Kashmir controlling its natural resources is better for Pakistan than a divided Jammu and Kashmir with India controlling natural resources of Kashmir.

Wrong policies on Kashmir have resulted in humiliation and loss of thousands of lives. It has also resulted in Pakistan making u-turns on Kashmir, and India gradually making its position stronger on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani officials have habit of making and advancing policies without too much discussion and consideration. Wrong policy or wrong strategy could not be sustained for too long, and it is because of this Pakistan is losing ground. International community does not take half-cooked ideas seriously. This idea of "joint control" is also not going to pay dividends, and Pakistan will have to make a u-turn on this as well.

In the past months many ideas on Kashmir have been floated by Pakistan. They were not properly debated in any forum or discussed with genuine leaders of the concerned party -- Kashmiris. The terms self rule and joint control are ambiguous and need further elaboration. If by "joint control", Pakistan means having some kind of control over the affairs of territory currently on the Indian side of the LoC then they can forget about it. However in practise both have a joint control over the State of Jammu and Kashmir - they jointly decide what needs to be done about Kashmir and which bus goes from where.

For peace, stability and prosperity of India, Pakistan, Kashmir and South Asia, we need to have a permanent solution to the Kashmir dispute, and not temporary solution based on half-cooked ideas; and by keeping people of Kashmir out of this process. United and independent Jammu and Kashmir could provide us lasting peace if the concerned parties abandon their obstinacy and ego. I hope writers and intellectuals will play their role in promoting the cause of peace in South Asia.

The writer is the chairman, Diplomatic Committee of JKLF; director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached atdrshabirchoudhry@hotmail.com.

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