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A new voice from PoK

The son of PoK's former president, the "first mujhad", is urging Kashmiris to take part in the elections. Peerzada Ashiq reports.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2008 19:15 IST
Peerzada Ashiq

His father was described as the "first mujahid", who gave a call for Kashmir's jihad. This month, the son of the former president of PoK was in Kashmir, urging people to take part in the elections.

Farooq Sikander Khan arrived in Poonch on October 20 by the bus that runs across the Line of Control. He held meetings with top mainstream and separatist political leaders, and argued that the polls are for better governance and have nothing to do with the Kashmir issue.

"Elections are a process to resolve local issues," said Khan, before he boarded the bus back across the LoC, on his way to his hometown of Muzaffarabad.

Khan's grandfather Sardar Fateh Muhammad Khan was born in Mendhar village on the Indian side of Kashmir. During his visit, he also met his uncle and cousins and stayed with them in the village that was one of the key points on the infiltration route of militants from PoK for two decades.

In 1989, when Kashmiri youth crossed over to PoK, his father Sikander Hayat Khan, then the president of PoK, reportedly welcomed them by firing gunshots in the air.

But unlike his father did in the 1990s, Farooq Khan sees no role of violence in resolving Kashmir issue.

"This issue cannot be resolved by gun but through the dialogue process," said Khan. "The recent uprising in Kashmir was a peaceful and indigenous one."

He also seems to be open to new ideas, other than independent Kashmir. "I think former president of Pakistan (Pervez Musharraf) took some bold steps (on) … the Kashmir issue. His were realistic steps." Khan, however, feels India has not reciprocated to Musharraf's initiatives the way it should have.

One of the biggest of the India-Pakistan initiatives is the bus that runs from Poonch to Rawalakot towns, reuniting thousands of people separated for decades by the hostility and wars between the two countries.

"Maina intikhabat ke lehaz se yahan bahut josho kharoosh dekha (I witnessed a lot of enthusiasm among people in Poonch vis-a-vis the elections," said Khan.

Khan said he saw a reflection of Musharraf's four-point formula in the assertions of the mainstream People's Democratic Party (PDP) of former chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

"I have seen Mufti's self-rule formula. The framework is same as what Mussharaf laid out, like regional autonomy," said Khan, a lawmaker who represents the Muslim Conference party in PoK.

"There is a complete consensus among Kashmir's leadership, particularly Hurriyat leaders who are for opening of roads between the divided Jammu and Kashmir," said Khan, demanding the opening of another route, the Meandher-Tatah Pani road, as well.

Though all praise for Syed and his successor Ghulam Nabi Azad, Khan has one grudge: "Poonch has not been developed the way it should had been. It is not Poonch I had imagined in Azad Kashmir."