Kashmir slipping away

The issue of Kashmir seems to become more complicated as Pakistan’s direct involvement in its affairs and unsightly handling of the matters is doing more damage to it rather than benefiting it. Recently, general elections for Azad Jammu Kashmir’s (AJK’s) Legislative Assembly were held in which mainstream political parties of Pakistan participated in full force. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) dominated the polls. It also won six seats out of eight in the reserved seats elections on Sunday, which is a logical consequence of its victory in AJK’s elections. Unfortunately, AJK witnessed widespread use of administrative machinery, pressure and violence for all kinds of pre- and post-poll rigging by the PPP, the PML-N and the MQM. The political parties’ enthusiastic participation in the AJK elections has questioned the status quo of the disputed territory as an independent state and negated its people’s right to self-determination. The situation has only added to their despondency as their cause has been left far behind in this game of power.

There is no denying the fact that our military establishment has been running the affairs of the AJK since 1949. We have only created a fiction that AJK is an independent state; it is not even autonomous. The inclusion of Gilgit-Baltistan, originally a part of the Kashmir state, in Pakistan as its fifth province in 2009 was another blow to the Kashmir cause. Pakistan has now changed the territorial boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir. With this division, facts have been charged on the ground. We have further weakened Kashmir’s case in the UN. Now one can conjecture that the status quo of the Kashmir issue will not change in the near future. If this is the way our policy is going, we should also seek normalcy in our relations with India and have trade ties with it to lessen the poverty across the borders by limiting the defence expenditures being consumed by our heavily armed forces.

Dr Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai’s arrest has further damaged the Kashmir case. A criminal complaint has been lodged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against him for “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign principal without registering with the Attorney General of the US government”. Dr Fai’s alleged links with Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the ISI, is an old story. Why has the US suddenly woken up and arrested him is a result of the US’s tense relations with Pakistan. Lobbying is not a crime in the US and different countries have been lobbying with the US legislators for supporting their causes in the echelons of power. The delayed action against Fai is suspect. The arrest was made at a time when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in India and it was a signal to India that finally the US had captured and stopped the man whose activities had been in question since long by the Indian side.

Unfortunately, Kashmiris are the ones who are bearing the brunt of all these political and diplomatic manoeuvrings, tactics and acts. There was hope that Kashmir’s issue would be resolved one day according to the wishes of the Kashmiris, their right to self-determination will be respected, but that hope is fading away, giving rise to the fear that either the Kashmir issue will wither away or tensions will further escalate. There is a likelihood that continuity in the status quo will make them more desperate and a violent reaction will evolve with a new bout of tension in the region. *

[editorial-Daily Times-July 26, 2011]