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So-called Kashmiri nationalists

Critics believe some of so-called nationalists have been propped up by Pakistani establishment, says Dr Shabir Choudhry.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 19:26 IST
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Many doubts have been expressed about loyalty and sincerity of some Kashmiri nationalist leaders. Critics believe some of so-called nationalist leaders have been propped up by Pakistani establishment and that is not to suggest that pro Pakistan Kashmiri leaders are not propped up by them.

Some of these leaders have very loyally served the interest of Pakistan to the extent that even Pakistanis have not been that loyal in looking after their national interests.

Pakistani governments, however, have been generous in rewarding these 'leaders'. They are selected as Kashmiri leaders because of their 'qualities', and then presented as representatives of the people. Pakistani establishment has really looked after these 'leaders' on both sides of the divide.

All of them only want to 'liberate' the Indian side of Kashmir, and don't want to even talk about parts of the state under Pakistan. Yet some of these leaders don't shy to claim as 'nationalist leaders'. Pakistani establishment has no problem in presenting them as nationalist leaders as long as they keep on whipping India and ignore wrongs done on this side of the Line of Control (LoC).

Whenever Pakistani government is faced with problems these leaders come to provide necessary support, be it in form of border crossing of 1992 to ease off international pressure, provide support to build dams or to support the militancy on the Indian side of the state.

At the time when there was strong campaign against upraising of Mangla Dam, one senior Kashmiri leader, while addressing a public meeting in Pakistan said, "To cater for Pakistan's water and energy needs we are prepared to build hundreds of dams in Azad Kashmir."

He did not talk of suffering of the people, any compensation and royalty for the existing dam or ask Pakistan to build dams inside Pakistani territory. He was more interested in flattering the Pakistani officials to get rewards. Unfortunately it is such people who are promoted as "leaders" of the Kashmiri people not because they are intelligent or leadership qualities, but because they are prepared to sell Kashmiri interest and Kashmiri national resources.

Recently, in a Pakistani Geo TV programme some Kashmiri leaders were called to discuss the current situation in Kashmir. The topic was future of Kashmir and idea of self-governance, especially after the Bush's visit and after Pugwash Conference in Islamabad; and on the panel was Amanullah Khan, Majid Tramboo and Bhim Singh.

The host, as is always the case with Pakistani broadcasters, wanted to focus on the situation on the Indian side of Kashmir. Bhim Singh who comes from Jammu tried to broaden the debate by speaking of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir; and clearly stated that Kashmir dispute was not religious in nature. He talked of wrongs done on both sides and mentioned injustice done in Gilgit and Baltistan.

The host was clearly not happy to hear this and he tried to focus the Indian side by mentioning that India had "more than seven hundred thousand army there which is involved in human rights violations". At this stage he invited Amanullah Khan for comments on Gilgit and Baltistan and Jammu and Kashmir in general.

Amanullah Khan claims to be a "nationalist leader" and represents one group of JKLF. He had an opportunity to say that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed and that people suffer to varying degree on both sides of the divide. He could have whipped India for human rights violations and I have no problem with that, as long as he also mentions that there is some injustice going on in Gilgit and Baltistan and in Azad Kashmir.

He did not speak a single word about Gilgit and Baltistan or Azad Kashmir, and spent his time justifying his armed struggle on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir. He could have at least said that these areas are also disputed and millions of people watching could have heard that areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, which Pakistan claims as Northern Areas of Pakistan, do not belong to Pakistan.

If Amanullah Khan thinks armed struggle is still the only way to liberate Jammu and Kashmir, then when is he going to start it in Gilgit and Baltistan and Azad Kashmir? Main reason for starting and supporting armed struggle on the India side, according to him, was India's denial to accept Kashmiri peoples right of self determination; and now that Pakistan has also changed its stand on Kashmir, and Pakistan claims Gilgit and Baltistan as its Northern Areas, what is he going to do about it?

We know he would not utter a word against policies of Pakistan in Gilgit and Baltistan. Just like government of Azad Kashmir is told by Islamabad that their area of influence, if any, is limited to Azad Kashmir and that they should not involve with issues related to Gilgit and Baltistan and Kashmir dispute; similarly he is told that his area of manoeuvre is not Gilgit and Baltistan, and that his task is to focus his attention on the Indian side only.

He has done this very sincerely and honestly throughout his life, and he has been appropriately rewarded for this in the form of support and publicity. He is an old man now and does not have the energy, stamina and will to change his stance and speak about injustice on this side of the LoC. But there are some who ask him to be courageous and become a real nationalist just because of his old age, as he has not much to lose at this age.

These critics don't understand full implications of this change. Amanullah Khan knows what is at stake if he goes against his "contract" with the Pakistani establishment; and he at this stage would not risk anything.

The other person on the panel was Majid Tramboo who also claims to represent one JKLF group, it is however known fact the he was expelled from one JKLF group for anti party and anti-movement activities. He also chose to focus his attention on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir, and did not say a word about areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baaltistan. It was not expected of him to speak about rights of people of Azad Kashmir.

In a Central Committee meeting of JKLF, he while talking on upraising of Mangla Dam said, it was a "trivial matter" and that we should not hold a demonstration outside Pakistani High Commission in London.

Pakistan has always selected leaders for Kashmiris. They will only promote those people as "Kashmiri leaders" who are willing to dance on the tune played by Islamabad, and only condemn the Indian role in Jammu and Kashmir. They will not invite other Kashmiri nationalists to any TV debate because they fear that they will also question Pakistan's role in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit and Baltistan.

Amanullah Khan is not the only leader from Gilgit and Baltistan. Why Pakistani media people do not invite leaders of APNA (Dr Abbas, Wajhat Mirza and others) and GABNA (Nawaz Naji and others) that they can represent views of people of that area? Why can't they ask Shaukat Maqbool Butt, Professor Khaleeque or Master Ishtiaq to speak about the Kashmiri struggle and its various dimensions?

Similarly in UK and Europe why can't they invite people like Zubair Ansari, Abbas Butt, Dr Nazir Gilani and Shaukat Kashmiri to discuss and present views on Kashmir? Why do they have to invite those who either don't know what the Kashmir dispute is, or they will only defend Pakistan's national interest rather than interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir?

People of Jammu and Kashmir are suffering partly because of policies of India and Pakistan, and partly because of negative role of Kashmiri leaders. Kashmiri leaders instead of representing and defending the Kashmiri interest started defending national interest of India and Pakistan.

Those Kashmiris who have openly aligned themselves with either India or Pakistan, I have no qualms with them, but I have serious issue with those who are calling themselves nationalists, and yet are damaging the nationalist struggle.

May Allah save us from mischief of some of these leaders.

Writer is a chairman, Diplomatic Committee of JKLF; director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. The above opinion are strictly his and don't reflect those of the

First Published: Mar 29, 2006 19:26 IST