Pakistan and India must realise that democracy is not on their side when they lay their respective claims on Kashmir
Does it occur to anybody that the most beautiful place on earth could also be the most economically viable? That this hasn’t dawned on most people around the globe is simply due to malafide intent. We can all draw our own conclusions as to who is responsible for how much of our current economic suppression and imposition of a false economy.
Jehangir’s (aka Saleem of Anarkali fame) words stand out in the annals of history. My thanks to Tariq Ali for his take on events throughout the history of this region. I take the following from his mesmerising narrative: “‘The buildings of Kashmir are all of wood,’ the Mughal Emperor Jehangir wrote in his memoirs in March 1622.’ Surveying the lakes and waterfalls, roses, irises and jasmine, he described the valley as ‘a page that the painter of destiny had drawn with the pencil of creation’."
"When the Muslim poet and philosopher Iqbal(RA), himself of Kashmiri origin, visited Srinagar in 1921, he left behind a subversive couplet which spread around the country:"
‘In the bitter chill of winter shivers his naked body
Whose skill wraps the rich in royal shawls’
Returning to 2011, Pakistan and India must realise that democracy is not on their side when they lay their respective claims on Kashmir. For those of us who live on the east wing of the LoC, a debate has already matured about the manner and means in which public representation is sifted. Their co-citizens west (of the LoC) are only just beginning to reach the age of political puberty.
The forthcoming PaK Assembly elections would do no more than replay a brutally over-played record, agonisingly called self-determination. The stance of most nationalist politicians (in PaK) has been as much reactionary as it is bizarre. Their decision to enter the election fray is much too little, way way too late.
What many lawyers in the State of PaK describe as ‘An Act of Slavery’ – viz. The AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974 – and which herds the population of PaK into a pro-Pakistani camp, irrespective of their ability to think otherwise: Nationalist parties have suddenly surmised that there is no alternative but to barter their conscience and sign a pledge to promote "Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan". Their ‘all is lost’ assumption that an election campaign will enable them to promote the ‘National Question’ is demonstrative of their lack of work on civil society development.
Parvez Hoodbhoy, Professor at the Department of Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, describes Pakistan’s collective psychosis as being ‘painful to behold’. That psychosis is evident in Pakistan’s charmed political representative in PaK, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan. Watching him rap a well-rehearsed lesson from GHQ (or even GOC Murree) across prime-time Pakistani TV stations, was not only reminiscent of his father; it also reminded one of madrass learning by rote, as Attique rocked back and forth in his TV studio chair.
Yasin Malik has repeatedly expressed that the past six decades have delivered nothing for Kashmir. Many MLAs of this (PaK) Assembly that proudly promotes the kalima (much like Pakistan’s National Assembly) as it’s defining logo, have expressed privately that the ‘Kashmir Issue’ is a business. For Pakistan, has the gilt-edged benefits of engaging India and the international community while it economically consolidates it’s presence in ‘Azad Kashmir’. With each Assembly election, Pakistan’s grip is tightened. With each diplomatic foray, it’s relevance in Kashmir is refreshed. The question is: Can Pakistan continue to conduct what one prominent journalist in Muzaffarabad describes as "a fake process"?
That Pakistan’s responsibilities under UNCIP resolutions to enable ‘good governance’ have consistently been unheard, in virtually every other act that it has conducted which requires public consultation, procedure has not followed. The people of PaK have been inundated with a false sense of superiority-vis-a-vis Pakistan’s image in the outside world – and the Pakistani State has acted ruthlessly in quelling intellectual dissent. Economic suffocation is followed by targeted assasination. The examples of Mirwaiz Moulvi Muhammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone and JKLF ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani are glaring examples east of the LoC.
Far from tolerating the delusions of some ISI colonel, the people of PaK sense their suffocation (economic, cultural as well as intellectual) and they are rapidly recognising the futility of an AJK Assembly that addresses the ‘National Question’ in an archaic and jingoistic manner. The PaK Prime Minister is still prone to referring to Hindus in a derogatory manner and threatening nuclear annhilation in the region, if talks fail to bear fruit for Pakistan. Deceiving the people of Gilgit Baltistan about opening the route from Astor (in Gilgit Baltistan) to Shonter Pass (in ‘Azad Kashmir’) is further vindication that our political representatives do not represent our interests, they represent the colonial interests of our neighbours.
One can delve deeper into the kleptocacy that is PaK politics by analysing how people in positions of responsibility conceal their paperwork from the public. In line with other political structures in the region, no one starts any work till they have figured out who will pocket how much and how they’ll siphon it off. When Human Rights Watch published their 23,000 word report on the September 21, 2006 about ‘Azad Kashmir’ – tantalisingly entitled, "With friends like these…" – one had hope that transparency would ensue.
The following paragraph from the report, still leaves us pretty much where we were then:
"Information, particularly about the human rights situation, governance, the rule of law and the institutions that hold real power in Azad Kashmir is more important than ever as the territory rebuilds and, by necessity, opens up to the international community in the aftermath of the earthquake. In the coming years, international engagement with the territory is likely to be intense. For that engagement to be effective and beneficial to the people of ‘Azad Kashmir’, it is essential that international actors approach the territory with an awareness of its particular history and its fraught, often tense and unhappy relationship with the Pakistani state in general and the Pakistani military in particular."
Taking into account the frustrations involved whilst conducting research work in a disputed territory, obfuscating tactics on the part of the administration, were at times too painful to bear.
It leads one to explore the possibilities of ‘outsourcing’ governance. It seems anything that will modernise the system of administration looking after the needs of a population less than 3.5 million in a transparent, accountable and meritocratic manner is what the public is thirsting for. It’s another matter that many of them are yet to formalise their opinions. An education system has left us ill-equipped for the modern-age. The magnificence of the virtues of informed public opinion integrated with modern communication technology is a power not yet obvious to the masses in PaK. How soon can civil society address this deficiency borne out of malafide intent?
Author is a writer, broadcaster and activist working for civil society development in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org