Zardari’s new bête noire

Is it a development of significance for Kashmir? Does it speaks much more than is apparent? Or, it is just a storm in a tea cup, an event of no consequences to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. These question cropped up in my mind on reading that Lord Nazir Ahmed first Muslim lifetime peer of the United Kingdom was declared as persona non grata by AJK cabinet in a meeting at Muzzafarbad.

This   action against the veteran British Parliamentarian of Kashmiri origin has been taken at the behest of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.  Ostensibly, the reason for Zardari’s annoyance with Baron Ahmed has been his liaison with former Sindh home minister Dr. Zulfikar Mirza, who is outraged against MQM leader Altaf Hussain. The Pakistan People Party leader has been camping and lobbying in London against the MQM leader and blaming him of the murder of Dr. Imran Farooq, a leader of the MQM.

It is not Pakistan’s internal politics that bedevils and bothers me. What has set me thinking,  if AJK cabinet’s action against Lord Nazir has any bearing on Kashmir is his statement on Friday:

“It is a mindless action and it was bound to cause irreparable and permanent damage to Kashmir cause’. For the last twenty years, I have been campaigning against India and Israel. I have been campaigning for the right to self-determination for people of Palestine and People of Jammu and Kashmir. But what India and Israel failed to do directly, they have got it done through their agents in Karachi who used President Zardari and his handpicked lot in Muzzafarbad.”

How is the action by AJK cabinet against the ‘first Muslim Peer in the House of Lords going to impact Kashmir? Much before looking for an answer to this question there is need to know what role has been Kashmir diasporas playing with regard to resolution of the Kashmir problem and where does Lord Nazir fit in.

Professor Zafar Khan in his five thousand words long paper titled Kashmir Diaspora and its role in the United Kingdom writes, “By far the largest Kashmiri settlement anywhere in the world is in the United Kingdom. 2001 Census gives a figure of 7, 47285 ( today it is about a million) as the number of Pakistanis, representing second largest minority, in the UK.   Two thirds of the Pakistanis settled in the United Kingdom are “mainly” from Azad Kashmir”   Understandably United Kingdom is and has been the centre of diasporic activity.” He writes that Kashmir   ‘Kashmiris   have been acting as ambassadors for their brethren across the dividing lines”. And  “quite independently and separately from Pakistan, Kashmiris in Britain, have taken it upon themselves to educate and make aware above all, the political establishment and the media about what Kashmiris call the reality about the issue’. ‘They have largely been influencing the British policy about Kashmir.’

Counted as one amongst the 500 most influential Muslims in the world Lord Nazir has been at the centre stage of the British politics. In 1969, he arrived in England with his mother to join his father, who was working in steel mill and in 1975;   elected as President of the Presidency College in Rotherham and same year he joined the Labour Party. Since 1988, he has been distinctly visible on Kashmir front in the United Kingdom. ‘He started campaigning for Kashmir from 1989, with the start of uprising in Kashmir. In 1990, he got a resolution adopted from the Labour Party on Kashmir and the resolution tabled in the European Union Parliament. Indian Ambassador took a serious exception to it and the resolution was not adopted. In 1997, he called upon a UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan along with a team of British Parliamentarians and pleaded for implementation of the UN resolution on Kashmir.’ “For campaigning Kashmir cause he started Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Bus in London and took this bus throughout Britain and to United State. It is believed that this bus inspired the idea for starting 2005, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus”.

Believing in that Pakistan’s very ‘survival’ depends on Kashmir for being upper riparian he has very strong views on this issue and has been looking at right to self-determination as the solution for this problem. He was an ardent critic of General Musharraf’s four-point formula that been supported by some Kashmir leaders on both the sides.  “This was Washington driven formula against the interests of Kashmir. US had coerced Islamabad and New Delhi to agree to this formula.”

In this backdrop looking at the assertions made by Lord Nazir, who also heads the Kashmir Committee of the House of Lords, the question arises that has become Zaradri’s bête noire for his being against status quo and stand on Kashmir.  Is the move of declaring him as persona non grata indicative of Asif Ali Zardari intending to subvert the efforts of Kashmir Diaspora in the UK.

Sufficient pointers do suggest that President Asif Ali has no interest in the resolution of Kashmir problem. He had   indicated this in an interview to Karan Thaper in 2008. Stating Kashmir needs to be put on the backburner and left to be settled by the future generation he very subtly had suggested leaving thorn in the neck of his nation while he would make best of his times. But, in curtailing the movement of Lord Ahmed to his home town Mirpur, he does not seem targeting at Kashmir but pressurizing the baron for achieving some party gains.

The move may not dampen the initiative of the Kashmir diaspora in UK but it is going to cause ripples in the Muzzafarbad politics.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)