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General Airy-fairy

Musharraf?s suggestions to solve the J&K imbroglio are untenable. There will be little improvement in the welfare of Kashmiris if the basic terror mechanism is not first dismantled.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2006 12:13 IST

When it comes to deciding the pattern of self-governance on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, no serious discussion is needed.

Where is the question of self-governance when Pakistan has, by and large, been ruled, by one military dictator or the other?

If no respect is shown to the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan, how can its military rulers possibly grant autonomy to the government of ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ (AJK)?

Readers may recall that after General Zia-ulHaq’s coup in 1977, the AJK Assembly was dissolved, the parliamentary system scrapped and a presidential form of government set in motion. An army brigadier was appointed Chief Executive.

This arrangement continued till 1985, when elections were held after amending the rules such that the opposition parties were marginalised.

Even during civilian rule in Pakistan, conditions were manipulated to bring the ruling party of Islamabad to power in Muzaffarabad.

Throughout its existence, the AJK government has remained a proxy of the Pakistan government.

Under the Constitution Act, 1974, an AJK Council was set up with the Chief Executive of Pakistan as Chairman, AJK President as Vice-Chairman and Pakistan’s Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas as secretary.

This Council had executive and legislative jurisdiction over 52 subjects, leaving little area for exercise of powers by the AJK ‘government’.

The Council was supposed to be a ‘link’ for coordination, but, in practice, it has always had a decisive say. Its Chairman enjoys the sole power of declaring an Emergency and dissolving the Assembly.

In effect, the AJK government has no independence in governance, has limited financial powers and it cannot make any key appointment.

The little sphere for exercise of power has all along been monopolised by a small clique — Sardar Abul Qayyum Khan and his son, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, Raja Mumtaz Rathore, etc.

The Northern Areas have been virtually incorporated into Pakistan and are administered by Islamabad.

A subtle demographic change is also being brought about by settling Sunnis in areas where Shias and Ismailis are currently in the majority.

Pervez Musharraf ’s proposals for demilitarisation are untenable. Bringing about demilitarisation can happen only when the network of terror and acts of subversion conducted by the ISI and its outfits are first removed.

The cart cannot be put before the horse. If such operations are halted and the infrastructure of terror dismantled, the Indian army will return to its barracks and restrict itself to the routine duty of guarding the borders.

But Musharraf's idea of securing demilitarisation without the creation of conditions, that make the presence of the army unnecessary, is impractical.

No less unconvincing is the General’s idea of joint management or joint control. Apart from its imprecision, the idea does not even deal with an el ementary question: What would happen if there is a difference of opinion or approach between joint managers or controllers?

In this connection, mod els of Andorra, Trieste and Northern Ireland have also found mention.

None of these or any other institutional arrangement can work as long as forces of fanati cism and fundamentalism continue to operate at the ground level.

Such forces would subvert the system from within and establish their hegemony. If any of their ‘diktats’ is not followed, they would resort to terror tactics.

Free movement across the Line of Control is also not feasible. Anyone entering the Kashmir Valley or Jammu from Pakistan can easily move to other parts of India as well.

The general’s suggestion to split Jammu and Kashmir into regions — Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh on the Indian side and Northern Areas and ‘Azad Kashmir’ on the Pakistan side — is also vague.

He has not spelt out whether his suggestion includes granting an autonomous status to these regions.

As far as the Indian side of Kashmir is concerned, none of these regions is a homogeneous entity.

The Jammu region has a substantial Muslim-majority area. Like wise, Ladakh’s Kargil district is dominated by Shia Muslims. The Gujjars and Bakarwals also have their own distinct way of life.

There would be too many claimants for separate identities. New grievances will be dished out and existing ones exaggerated.

Given the populist disposition of local political leaders, the attempt would be to build ‘separate mosques of one brick each’ and carve out their own immamats. The friction generated could singe, if not burn, the entire fabric of the State.

While petty ethnic lords would fight over their petty autonomies, the lot of the under-privileged would only worsen.

On either side of the Line of Actual Control, problems can be solved by prioritising commonalities that exist and by eliminating hunger, ignorance and disease.

The experience of Yugoslavia has shown how despotic, murderous ethnic war lords can be. India’s billion-plus people with a staggering range of diversity co-exist.

Let this movement be not disturbed by imprecise ideas rooted in superficial thinking.

Jagmohan is a former Governor of J&K and a former Union Minister

First Published: Dec 09, 2006 12:13 IST