Peace in Kashmir
Text of speech made by Dr Shabir Choudhry, Spokesman of IKA, in a peace conference held by International Kashmir Alliance in Canada on 27/28 November
It is desire of every normal human being to live in secure and stable environment where they can enjoy prosperity and freedom. Security, stability and prosperity could only be achieved when there is peace. Absence of peace brings chaos and economic instability which only suits a small number of people.
People of Kashmir are not different from anyone else, and rhetoric aside they also want to live in peace and enjoy economic stability; but what they have gone through over the years it must not be construed as peace at any cost. They want peace with dignity. They want culture of fear and intimidation to end.
India and Pakistan have declared cease fire in Siachin and on LOC. We welcome this and all other confidence building measures which are desperately needed to achieve peace in the region. These measures good as they are, are only saving lives of Pakistani and Indian soldiers in these places and are not providing any relief to the suffering people of Kashmir.
People of Kashmir have lived through hell in the past fifteen years, and they continue to suffer. Every day they lose lives – some are killed by bullets and others die in cells or are made to die in shame because their sister or daughter has been rasped.
In past we have accused each other for wrong doings in Kashmir and this culture of blame game was used to divert attention from the real cause. Now that a peace process has started which has made some progress, it is not appropriate to continue with this blame game which only emitters the environment.
In order to resolve the complicated dispute of Kashmir we need cooperation and goodwill of all three parties to the dispute; and by accusing each other or by putting each other down we can only widen the gulf of differences, hence prolong misery and suffering of the Kashmiri people.
This approach will also hold back progress of South Asia, and people of this region have already suffered too much because of this dispute. We have to think of not only Kashmir but South Asia. Like people of Kashmir people of India and Pakistan are also paying a heavy price because of this dispute. They are also living below the poverty line because their governments are diverting funds to meet military requirements.
We need to focus all our attention in creating appropriate environment in which people can trust each other, and work together to achieve peace and stability which could lead to Kashmiris getting their national identification and right to determine their future.
All those who want to resolve the Kashmir dispute and want to have peace and stability in South Asia must understand that Kashmir dispute is not a religious one in nature. It is a political dispute and we must find a political solution for it. Any attempt to impose a decision based on religion could create more problems, and destabilise the entire region as its implications could affect other areas of the Sub Continent.
It should also be remembered that Kashmir is one political entity, and no matter what is the final solution, the state must remain one. Division of Kashmir in any form or shape will not provide a just and lasting solution.
After fall of Soviet Union, nuclearisation of South Asia and 9/11 world politics has changed dramatically; and we Kashmiris must adapt to new situation and make new strategies which can win us friends and sympathisers.
All those who project use of gun to settle the Kashmir dispute are not well wishers of Kashmiris. Similarly all those non Kashmiri militants who are in Kashmir are requested to leave as they are not helping the cause. Their presence is adding to the miseries of the people.
As noted above the Kashmir dispute is a complicated one, and in order to resolve this complicated issues, one needs goodwill, determination and patience. Despite all the goodwill and determination it may not be possible to resolve this complicated dispute in one go because of deep rooted and strong views on this. We may have to resolve it in stages by putting confidence building measures in place.
Both India and Pakistan have taken certain measures which could be taken as a first stage, and this has helped to cool down the temperature. This momentum must be carried forward by taking certain more actions, and government of India should take initiative by declaring a cease fire in Kashmir. This time people of Kashmir will welcome this initiative and support the peace process.
Apart from opening Muzaffarabad and Srinagar Road, other traditional routes should also be opened, and this will surely help the peace process. People who have been forcibly separated for past 57 years must be given a chance to interact with each other and strengthen social, cultural and economic ties.
The peace process could also be supported by releasing of political prisoners and by allowing political leaders to travel across the LOC. Not only APHC leaders should travel across the LOC but also other political leaders from both sides, especially leaders representing Kashmiri minorities should be allowed to go across and forge bridges of understanding.
It must be understood that people of Kashmir are the main party to this dispute, and they could not be bye passed by India and Pakistan to find a solution of Kashmir. A mechanism must be worked out that they can become part of the peace process.
It must not be a concern of India and Pakistan who will represent the people of Kashmir. If they let people of Kashmir interact with each other they can select their representatives who can effectively protect Kashmiri interest.
Until such time that the Kashmir dispute is resolved the people of Kashmir must not be deprived of their basic human rights on both sides of the divide. Not only that people of Gilgit and Baltistan don’t have basic human rights they are also deprived of their identity and legal status. A false name of Northern Areas is given to their homeland, as if this was a Pakistani territory.
Apart from that in complete violation to the State Subject Ordinance, which was put in place by the Maharaja to protect Kashmiri interests, government of Pakistan has settled tens of thousands of Pakistanis in Gilgit and Baltistan to change demography of this region. This practise must stop and those who have illegally settled in Gilgit and Baltistan must be sent back to Pakistan as their presence is causing enormous problems to the local people.
All those people who have been uprooted because of the trouble in Kashmir including members of the Pundit community must be settled back in their homes and appropriate compensation should be paid to them. These people are part of Kashmiri history and culture and they must be made comfortable to come back to their homes.
President Musharaf has made some interesting suggestions and people have criticised him for that. One must accept that it is a daring move, which none of his predecessors could dare to take. I don’t accept everything he has said but it is wrong to out rightly reject everything he has said. There are some positive aspects of his speech, for example he recognised that:
areas of Gilgit and Baltistan are part of State of Jammu and Kashmir;
the UN resolutions have failed to provide a solution and that they have to find a solution outside of these resolutions;
there is no military solution to this dispute;
Jihadi forces and other forces of extremism are hurdles in peaceful resolution of the dispute;
solution will come through a process of dialogue;
an independent Kashmir is also an option.
One can see it is a big change from Pakistan’s previous stated position and we should commend him for this, and hope that he will continue with this peace process. END