Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) in Britain has sent an official invitation to the English Defence League (EDL) to openly debate their issues and contentions against Islam and Muslims in a live public debate at a neutral venue. The proposition is "Muslims and the EDL – which poses a threat to the UK?" MDI have said, “We are an open speech platform that believes that respectful expression, discussion and debate is the key to promoting understanding, the pursuit of truth, even if it be controversial.”
The model of open debate proposed by MDI to EDL needs to be transported to Kashmir. It is even more important because on July 9, 2011 South Sudan will formally be announced as world’s newest independent country and UN Secretary General will participate in the independence ceremony. Kashmiris were advised at one point in 1975 that referendums were no more valid in the present day world and Musharraf succeeded to coerce Kashmiri leaders in 2004 that referendums are almost obsolete and Kashmiris should settle down with his ‘ joint control’ formula.
People of Kashmir have been engaged in a rights movement formally from October 1877 and in a little span of time from 1990-2011 have suffered the death of a generation and have killed the right of self-determination. At a time when the leadership in Kashmir started selling the Musharraf ideas which remained at war with the history of rights movement, a different people after two decades of sacrifices forced a referendum in South Sudan from 9 to 15 January 2011. United Nation will have 195th independent country on July 9, 2011.
The main cause of slow progress or no progress in Kashmir has been lack of “respectful expression, discussion and debate”. If the people of Kashmir want to change from a voter citizen to a vigilant citizen, they need to open up to accept various other opinions and expressions. One such expression was made by Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh during his interaction with newspaper editors on June 29, 2011. In reply to a question “Q-30: What about the current situation in the state?” he replied “Pakistan now has its own internal problems. We have to keep our fingers crossed. If the Pakistan army mobilises, that could also create a tension-point on our borders. We have to be on our guard. We hope Pakistan will leave Kashmir alone, because they have their own share of internal problems. Tourists are returning. We have to keep our fingers crossed.”
The expression may have gone unnoticed in Srinagar and the present Government and establishment in Pakistan too wanted to sleep over it but all of a sudden a storm has started brewing in various sections of the general public in Pakistan. There was a debate on ARY Television and the anchor had Raashid Alvi Indian Member of Parliament and various Pakistanis on the line to debate the expression that “Pakistan will leave Kashmir alone”. Zafar Hilaly former diplomat made a robust and sensible contribution but the anchor and journalist Alvi from the Pakistan side was poor and less informed on the subject. Their arguments were far remote from facts and were emotional and loud while as the defence from Indian Member of Parliament was informed and cool.
As responsible Kashmiris we need to make efforts to find answers for our failures. In this regard I would urge that our leaders and intellectuals in all disciplines of life in particular and common men and women in general should read Syed Saleem Shahzad’s (November 3, 1970 –May 31, 2011) book “Inside Al-Qaeda and The Taliban – Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11” at least from page 199 to page 226. Chapters titled The Theatre of war, Ghazwa-e-Hind, The harvest is ready but, Al-Qaeda splits the spoils of war and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami: from ISI to Al-Qaeda.
Saleem Shahzad gave his life for his investigative journalism. The book angered his killers and it is unfortunate that he took the rest of truth to his grave. His killers succeeded to cover up a lot but all that he has left in his book is sufficient to understand the situation in Kashmir.
At page 207 he writes “ISI’s strategists felt that for the Ghazwa-e-Hind (the promised Battle for India, there was a need for a structure which stood on more solid foundations…Pakistani ISI almost simultaneously opened theaters of war in Central Asian regions and in the Indian-held Kashmir in the late 1980s, when various newly organized Kashmiri militant organizations including Harkat-ul Jihad-i-Islami and Hizbul Mujahadeen confronted Indian security forces in Indian Kashmir”. Saleem Shahzad takes us into a world of intricate secrets and discovers the first evidence of a change in the manner of interest from a real perception into a proxy. He writes, “After the death in a plane crash of General Zia ul Haq and the formation of a new government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, the era of Islamist generals such as General Hamid Gul in Pakistani military headquarters came towards an end, and the strategies such as Ghazwa-e-Hind transformed into “bleed India” projects became more of a purely functional proxy operation rather than a deep rooted Jihadi perception”.
At page 209 Saleem Shahzad writes, “By the year 2001, strategically speaking, Pakistan had become the most influential country from Central Asia to Bangladesh. It was about to translate that for a better bargain with India as well as Iran and the United States when 9/11 occurred. The entire world changed and so did Pakistan’s strategic objectives”.
It is unfortunate that what a journalist in Pakistan knew about the happenings in Kashmir remains all Greek to our leadership even today. Saleem Shahzad writes (page 210), “The thousands of Jihadis assembled in Afghanistan were equally aware that they faced persecution, jail and oppression and so they made their way to the Pakistani tribal areas to join up with Al-Qaeda. With that the entire Jihadi assets of the ISI (raised over two decades) fell into the lap of Al-Qaeda. And with this, Al-Qaeda was able to expand the boundaries of the theater of war from Central Asia to Afghanistan and across to Bangladesh”.
Saleem Shahzad leads us to find the beginnings when Jihadis made a conscious decision to abandon their struggle in Kashmir. He writes (page 210) “In 2005, the formidable operational commander of Harkat-ul Jihad-i-Islami, Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri became convinced after his second release from ISI detention that US pressure had permanently disabled the Pakistan army’s capacity to revert to its pre 9/11 role as the supreme strategic force in the region. He therefore decided to abandon his struggle in Kashmir and moved to fight in Afghanistan.”
We know from the book that “Kashmiri was familiar with Afghanistan as he had first trained and fought there back in 1980s, before he went to Kashmir. He took his family along with him this time and migrated to North Waziristan. His aim was to fight alongside the Afghan Taliban against the NATO forces”
Late on June 3, a drone strike killed Ilyas Kashmiri, now a senior non-Arab al-Qaeda leader, and several of his men, as they took tea in an orchard in South Waziristan. Saleem Shahzad was tortured to death on 31 May 2011. Journalists, politician and the civil society organizations came out in mourning and forced the Government to appoint a five-member commission headed by Justice Saqib Nisar, a serving judge of the Supreme Court to investigate his kidnapping and murder.
We need to find an honest soul left in our politicians and civil society organizations who would care to ask for a public hearing to know about the bona fides of the authors of the script of our political and associate militant struggle from 1990. If Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistan, knew all about Kashmir, why did our leaders fail to know beyond tomorrow and save a generation to save the right of self-determination?
We should have been engaged in a struggle in the manner of the people of East Timor and South Sudan to force the world community to translate UN mechanism on Kashmir into a reality and should have hesitated to offer ourselves for “Bleed India Project” which in the words of Saleem Shahzad was “purely functional proxy operation rather than a deep rooted Jihadi perception”.
Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and can be mailed at email@example.com