Let Kashmiris talk…


India’s handling of the recent uprising in occupied-Jammu and Kashmir bears testament to the hollowness of Indian claims to being a liberal democracy. A region that India considers its integral part but with the rhetoric limited only to the area and not the people, Kashmir through its resistance has passed verdict on its treatment by India: settle for nothing short of azadi (freedom). This freedom is an expression of Kashmiri calls for dignity and rights, which they have been deprived by India. New Delhi is viewed by the Kashmiris as a tyrannical centre, and all those that partner with New Delhi as accomplices who perpetuate that status quo. After all, in the presence of draconian laws such as the Public Safety Act, which sanctions arbitrary arrest, and the Armed Forces Special Special Forces Act, which gives law enforcement agencies wide ranging powers, the democratic exercise in Kashmir has been rendered into a farce.
In its pursuit of suppressing the Kashmiri uprising, the Indian government has put the majority of separatist leaders behind bars. In the absence of any case against them, it is a travesty of justice and repudiation of fundamental human rights that leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik have been locked up, and that too reportedly, in solitary confinement for long periods of time.
Forsaking the route of dialogue altogether, India has instead tried to justify its security-centred approach by denying the indigenous character of the Kashmiri movement altogether, and instead, blamed Pakistan for fomenting and supporting the rebellion in Kashmir. How Pakistan can create such a widespread movement, and keep it financed despite its own economic limitations, or even if that is somehow the case, how come the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government in Kashmir have not been able to discover and destroy this channel are questions that India has not given answers to. Rather all that India has achieved through this propaganda is divert world attention from Kashmir and instead focus it on Pakistan to answer for its alleged wrongdoings.
It is not just in Pakistan that India is being called out for its human rights violations in the valley. Even in certain segments of Indian society itself, Indian excesses and the need for dialogue in order to end the conflict is increasingly being talked about. Most recently, an Indian journalist, Santosh Bhartiya, in his open letter to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has talked about the alienation of Kashmiris from the rest of India, the aggression in Kashmiris against India, and the high level influence of the Hurriyat Conference in occupied-Jammu and Kashmir. Most importantly, the journalist pressed upon Modi to talk to all stakeholders in Kashmir, including the Hurriyat. This was even in the election manifesto of the PDP, but, the way PDP turned on its earlier promises, and, instead, adopted a heavy-handed approach of dealing with the people whom it is ostensibly elected to serve is reflective of the authoritarian character of rule that Kashmiris are subjected to.
However, the PDP-BJP coalition government has an opportunity to live up to its words, and it should initiate dialogue with the separatists in Kashmir. In the light of how certain ideologies give way for others, and how an armed struggle is renounced for a framework of peaceful solutions, the PDP has the example of its own minister, Sajjad Lone, who was, once upon a time, a separatist leader. Perhaps, he can be made use of to open a channel of communication between the separatists and the Indian government in order to work out a settlement.
Pakistan and India have so far been incapable of even coming to the negotiating table to resolve the Kashmir dispute. In the meantime, Kashmiris should not have to live in their present state of anger, fear and pain. Let Kashmiris — pro-freedom, pro-India, pro-Pakistan — talk to one another to find a way to resolve their issues to bring peace to their beautiful valley.
The bogeyman of a ‘third force’: enough already
Known for his impulsive nature, once again, Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), made headlines with a statement that in indicative of a lack of restraint. Khan stated while talking to the media that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be responsible if a “third-force” stepped in as a result of his party’s lockdown of Islamabad on November 2. In other words, the PTI chief is trying to use every possible means to scare the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. Due to his not-so-ambiguous statement, a question is being raised on the trust that Khan seems to repose in the sanctity of democracy. Under no circumstances, a call for a military intervention is justified, and the leaders of all political parties that swear allegiance to supremacy of democracy are aware of that. Notwithstanding the flaws of governance in Pakistan, in the backdrop of almost three decades of military rule that did not have any positive effect on the long-term stability of Pakistan, Khan’s usage of the bogeyman of a military intervention is regrettable.
The best way to stand proud as a party in opposition is through the credibility of your work. And that is also the best way to win the confidence of the people to secure their vote in the next elections. Constant threats/warnings of street agitation — albeit the cause is noble — are counterproductive in the long run, as people wish to see their elected leaders work in parliament and their constituencies, and not lead dharnas (protests) and jalsas (rallies) as a tool to presssurise the government to listen to its demands.
To some extent, the PML-N is also responsible for the present deadlock as the party leadership has so far not presented a clear explanation regarding the Panama scam allegations against the members of the Sharif family. Since all leaders are elected by the people in a democratic set-up to run their country, people have a right to ask the elected leaders to clear their names if an allegation is levied against them. Leaders in return owe explanations to the public for any questions. Why did Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not categorically clarify his position regarding the ownership of offshore assets by his children? Sharif is the incumbent prime minister of the country, and is answerable to the nation for his own and his family members’ acts. The Panama inquiry is a big one and it cannot be sidelined for the fear of ‘inconveniencing’ Nawaz Sharif. In this situation the role of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is also confusing. Reportedly, the PPP is busy in its own efforts to extract benefits and strike some form of bargain with the government.
Despite its vehement criticism of the government, the top leadership of the PPP is not in favour of politics of agitation. In keeping with the traditions of a thriving democracy, it would be advisable for the PTI chief to focus on winning at the ballot box and not ask for the intervention of the army. Martial law has no place in today’s society. The PTI chief should repose confidence in parliament, which is the right platform for the resolution of all issues democratically, instead of looking for help from some other institution. The threat of the “third force” should not be used as a fear factor or for even opening a discourse on the possibility of such an option. Pakistan is a democracy, and despite its shaky foundations, Pakistan will have nothing but democracy, today and tomorrow.