Will ‘Captain’ Imran live up to his Kashmir promise?
Zeeshan Rasool Khan
There is no doubt that relation between Kashmir and Pakistan is deep-rooted. Poet of east Dr Sir Mohammad Iqbal always took pride of being Kashmir-origin. He repeatedly expressed his love for ‘the earthly Paradise’ through his poetry and prose. There is a famous saying of Allama that blood running in his veins is like red maple leaves of Kashmir. One of his poem starting with couplet ‘Today that land of Kashmir, under the heels of the enemy, has become weak, helpless and poor, once known among the wise as little Iran’ is best known and considered as people’s poem as it still finds relevance in Kashmir. Allama’s concern about Kashmir can be easily deciphered from his role in ‘Kashmir committee’ that was set-up in 1931 by Mirza Basheer-Ud-din to bring miseries of Kashmir Muslims in front of world.
Similarly, Ali Muhammad Jinnah showed keen interest towards Kashmir towards the end of his political journey. Jinnah’s gestures of love invoked such an intense emotion in the hearts of Kashmiri people that they flooded historical Jamia Masjid and its vicinity to hear Jinnah’s voice on June 17, 1944. No other politician in Kashmir’s history could attract such a massive gathering later. Sensing the people’s pulse and their inclination towards Pakistan, he termed Kashmir as ‘Jugular Vein’. There is no denying that other leaders of Pakistan constantly raised Kashmir in their speeches from time to time. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s quotes about Kashmir like; ‘We shall fight a thousand years to liberate Kashmir which is part of Pakistan, in blood, in flesh, in culture, in history, in geography. In every way and in every form’, are repeated by his party men even today with ferocity. Unfortunately, these slogans, however; seem to be hollow, with little or no feelings, and raising K-issue only seems to be a political stunt to garner votes. Much is said about Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, but after going through facts, we realize it is very flawed. Kashmir policy that has been framed to raise the issue of Kashmir is all about the issuance of statements that too when incidents of violence happen in Kashmir. The incuriousness of Pakistani political leadership towards Kashmir becomes more perceptible when we check the report card of the parliamentary special committee on Kashmir (Kashmir Committee formed in 2008). The news is making the rounds that money allocated for the activities of the committee has so far been embezzled, misused, wasted on foreign trips, and utilized to live a lavish life.
As per data available on the website of Finance Ministry (published by The News On Sunday), in the last 10 years, the federal government, during annual budgets, allocated Rs 473.510 million for the Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir and it utilized Rs 462.341 million under different heads. And out of this amount, the Kashmir Committee has spent Rs 309.404 million under the head of Employees Related Expenses including Pay, Pay of Officers, Pay of Other Staff, Allowances, Regular Allowances, Other Allowances (Excluding T.A). While, on Travel & Transportation and Entertainment & Gifts, the Kashmir Committee has spent Rs 23,452,000 and Rs 3,550,000 respectively during the same period. However, when one analyses the role of this committee and how effectively this committee under the leadership of Maulana Fazl ul Rehman has carried forward its mission, it only disheartens and presents an example of failure. Even committee members called ‘Kashmir Committee’ a joke. Recently, one of the members of the committee sardonically said: “We have only one activity that is to make human’s hands chain on Kotla Bridge to express solidarity with Kashmiris to mark so-called Kashmir-Day on 5 February every year”. Its purpose was to serve as representative of Kashmir, to highlight their pain and plight, and to press world bodies to take substantial measures for its peaceful resolution. But nothing like that happened. One cannot expect you to make mistake on world’s most credible and largest forum like UNO, and if you err, it would be interpreted as your non-seriousness. Pakistani diplomat and ambassador to UN Maleeha Lodhi who undoubtedly is making commendable efforts at UN vis-à-vis Kashmir laid a similar impression in mind of Kashmiri people that there has been a decline in the seriousness of Pakistani establishment towards K-issue when she displayed a photo of Palestine girl instead of Kashmiri pellet victims. Else, the collages of pellet victims of Kashmir present more horrible scene than the picture of that Palestinian girl. Moreover, it is staggeringly surprising that Nawaz Government had no foreign minister, which forms the essence of diplomacy. One can ask administration of Pakistan how they could convince the international community that what is happening in Kashmir is barbaric without having a person for diplomatic duties. However, if they believe that the violence in Kashmir could be fought out by violence as some of them often state that is in favor of none and is not possible.
Now as Imran Khan has succeeded in capturing the throne of Pakistan and transition of government in Pakistan has occurred, not only the Pakistanis have pinned hopes but also people of Kashmir have many expectations with him. No doubt, economically stable and prosperous Pakistan must be the first priority of newly formed government. However, it must not understate its role in south-Asian politics. In addition, this government must bear in mind that Pakistan has a crucial role in international politics for being the only powerful Muslim country with a nuke. Importantly, as far as Kashmir Issue is concerned, Imran Khan has an important role to play by advocating Kashmir’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Despite the non-seriousness of former Pakistan leaders, people of Kashmir continue to believe that ‘without Pakistan, Kashmir would have been another Palestine’. Therefore, Imran Khan must take K-issue seriously and reorganization of the ‘Kashmir Committee’, infusing a new spirit in it, and to make it more efficient would be the first step in this direction. The Government also needs to realize that realistically there is no substitute to use of diplomacy to deal with this issue. Foreign policy needs proper lobbying and homework that would be constructive in convincing world community about this matter. The most successful way would be developing relations with other countries especially with India and persuade Indian establishment to resolve this long pending issue. It is worth to mention that earlier when Imran Khan said in one of his statements that Nawaz government needs to focus on internal matters of Pakistan, not on Kashmir, it came as surprise to everyone in Kashmir and generated negativity about Imran Khan. But, the way Imran Khan expressed his concern about Kashmir in recent victory speech has earned accolades from all political quarters. Captain’s statement that Kashmir is the core issue between India and Pakistan and we need to resolve it through dialogue has not only been welcomed and appreciated by pro-freedom leadership but also by the mainstream politicians. J&K based politicians have even asked New Delhi to reciprocate positively. Likewise, PTI government’s Foreign minister Shah Mehmood also expressed will to resolve Kashmir-Issue and repeated the Imran Khan’s statement. Kashmiris, however hope that this will not prove a hollow statement but positive developments would be seen. Kashmiris are also convinced that Imran Khan, who says: “Qaid-e-Azam is my leader, will take his legacy forward, would comply with the wishes of people of Kashmir, and would work determinedly for resolving Kashmir Issue in a peaceful manner” will live up to his words. Apart from fulfilling the campaign promises, Imran Khan needs to act upon what he mentioned in Victory speech and needs to take K-issue seriously as a part of his task so that with new Pakistan, Kashmiri people would see the dawn of peaceful Kashmir and would breathe in the free atmosphere.
As stated by Shah Mehmood; ‘It takes two to tango’ – Pakistan cannot resolve the issues alone, Indian needs to act cooperatively if an endeavor is to succeed. New Delhi needs to take this peace offer seriously and instead of calling Pakistan a “failed state”, reducing Imran Khan’s credibility to “Army-puppet” and terming indigenous movement of Kashmir sponsored, Delhi must accept the reality like other countries; that Pakistan is a country, if not developed but developing and is party to Kashmir-dispute, which requires timely resolution. And for the prevalence of peace in the subcontinent, Kashmir has to be resolved according to people’s aspiration and for that dialogue with Pakistan is not a condition but a necessity. (Author can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).