Role of APHC in Kashmiri politics
Dr Shabir Choudhry 24 January 2008
All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) is back in news again, and this time apparently for good reasons – unity- which it desperately needs in order to arrest its fast deteriorating image and standing. For the past many years it has been war of attrition and allegations against each other which dominated politics of APHC groups.
Now APHC groups are expected to forge unity. Many analysts wonder who is behind this agenda of unity, and why at this time? To ask warring factions of APHC who have over the years consistently promoted communalism, hatred and divisions, and who have shattered politics of tolerance and harmony, to get united is similar to ask a leopard to change its spots. People of Kashmir should not expect unity and leadership from those who are led by nose by some one else.
All Parties Hurriyet Conference was projected and promoted to people of Jammu and Kashmir and world at large as the only representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In order to promote and impose APHC and its top leaders, known as ‘panch piyarey’ – five beloved, huge amounts of funds were made available to them; and those who created this alliance showed no hesitation in silencing many innocent lives to smoothen their way.
Militancy started in July 1988 by the JKLF members and spread like a jungle fire. The JKLF had full support for this ‘crusade’ against India from the other side of the border, covert agenda of which was to keep ‘India engaged and bleeding’, and by 1990 the administration in the Valley virtually collapsed. To many it looked that Indian rule was on its way out of Kashmir. The JKLF believed in independence of the State and the ‘movement’ started by them, and which at that time appeared to be controlled by them was heading towards independence.
Independence of the State was not in the interest of either India or Pakistan. The Kashmiri politicians did not control militancy; rather it was remote controlled by people across the border. Militancy if it is not controlled could result in mayhem and could create problems for even those who started it. So in order to control it and to disperse its support both governments created a number of militant groups, which only added to the problems of the people and eclipsed the movement as a communal one.
Despite this mushroom growth of militant groups situation in Kashmir was getting from bad to worse. It is widely believed that APHC was formed to control the turmoil in Kashmir, to maintain status quo and to divert attention away from road to independence. Many thought it was Pakistani agencies who created this holy alliance of APHC, but the latest revelations show that secret agencies of both governments had a role in this. Aim of this collusion, apart from the above was to assert control over militancy, to ensure that matters do not get out of control and the movement does not make any headway towards independence.
Many Kashmir watchers know about the politics of famous ‘Farm House’ in which some Kashmiri leaders including some nationalists were kept and lectured on politics of the region, international relations, thoughts of Gandhi and Nehru; and tutored on art of speech making. They were specifically trained to control sentiments of the public and appear before them as sincere and pious, because Kashmiris trusted no one after death of Sheikh Abdullah. In eyes of people politicians generally do not have good image even though there are very good and honest politicians. People think politicians appear and shake hands before elections and shake their confidence afterwards.
Qalab Hussain, a Kashmiri writer notes: ‘It also came to the public knowledge that Syed Geelani, Shabir Shah, Abbas Ansari, Gani Bhat, Gani Lone (Paanch Pyare) and Yasin Malik, met in a farm house, owned by IB at Mehruali, New Delhi to discuss the formation of the Hurriyat Conference. This has been written and said time and again by many people. So far this has never been refuted by any of the politicians mentioned above.’
He further claims that militants abducted politicians like Gani Bhat, Gani Lone and Abbas Ansari ‘on the charges of collaborating with Indian intelligence agencies’. Allegation against them was that they were ‘assigned the task of creating a political forum for the pro-freedom politics by Indian government’. Lives of these leaders, it is claimed, were saved only after interference of Sheikh Aziz, Syed Ali Geelani and some others.
Indian and Pakistani agencies not only competed with each other over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, they also fiercely competed to control this alliance and Kashmiri leaders. It appeared that Pakistani agencies with their huge resources and strategy outmanoeuvred the Indian agencies, but that might not be whole truth. Indian agencies knew what the game plan was and what these leaders were doing and with whom they were in touch, but allowed things to proceed that way as long as they had some control in areas where it mattered.
People might recall Shabir Shah was expelled from the APHC for the ‘crime’ of meeting an American Ambassador Wisner. One wonder if APHC leaders were not supposed to meet diplomats and present the Kashmir case then what were they supposed to do? People need to be reminded that at that time American government was very much interested in the idea of an independent Kashmir and many statements by senior American officials supported the concept of an independent Kashmir.
Apart from that huge amount of funds poured in Kashmir from the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other countries to support the APHC or certain leaders. This help was supposed to help and strengthen the Kashmiri struggle but most of the funds were not used for the struggle or to alleviate the misery of the people, and resulted in allegations and disunity and lack of support for these leaders.
Those who opposed the idea of an independent Kashmir didn’t want APHC or any of its constituent leaders to act independently. APCH loyally followed instructions and didn’t meet Ambassador Wisner, but Shabir Shah ‘disobeyed’ this and was expelled. Yasin Malik was asked by the JKLF leaders to leave this anti independence forum. Each time he refused and gave reasons for staying in the alliance, but when it suited him, he left it without consulting anyone. Later on this holy alliance was split in to two groups, and now one group is headed by Syed Ali Gilani and the other by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.
APHC not only let down people of Jammu and Kashmir it also disappointed those who financed them, especially Americans and the Western diplomats, as in their opinion they lacked political maturity, sincerity and vision. American supporters of the APHC thought the alliance was ‘politically naive and misguided’, and the leaders lacked ‘political finesse’, and desperately needed to ‘improve their political image’ and ‘create a pro-active political agenda’.
In view of the above one may wonder what APHC plans to do? We all know it is a divided house, and lacks popular support. It is not perceived as a pro people alliance, and does not represent all regions and ethnic groups of the Kashmiri polity. Its image and standing has dramatically declined and people might trust Omar Abdullah for at least being honest and candid with his views than these leaders.
The claim is APHC leaders want to forge ‘unity’, but what are foundations of this unity? What are the principles involved in this matter? Is this their desire or some one else is pushing this agenda? In the past APHC and its leaders have opposed democratic process, dialogue and advanced the Pakistani agenda after receiving brief cases full of money, and I hope it is not the same agenda again because elections in Jammu and Kashmir are not that far.
I also hope that APHC is not advancing someone else’s agenda by helping them to divert attention away from ‘domestic crises’ by once again concentrating on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Crises in Pakistan are their own creation and we must not be used as a tool to divert attention away from Ata, FATA and other issues. We should resolve our problems not because it is wish of someone else but because it is our need and wish to enjoy basic human rights including right of self - determination. APHC unity and support of people cannot be achieved by cosmetic changes; it needs fundamental changes and needs support of all regions and all ethnic minorities of Jammu and Kashmir.
Finally those who want to apply Irish model in Kashmir need to understand that those involved in the dialogue process there had established their credentials by winning elections. Is APHC unity a step towards that end? Is it ready to unite and contest elections to prove that they have support of the masses? Apart from that they have to win confidence of all regions and ethnic minorities of the State. It is a tall order and APHC does not have skills, ability and know how to meet the requirement.
Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org