Is it this Pakistan we should join?/(Article)

November 14th, 2007 - 10:31 am ICT by admin  

Both India and Pakistan aggressively expressed their desire to control the State and its people even before they became independent themselves. Their struggle to control and manage affairs of the State has been a corner stone of their internal and external affairs; and which has created problems not only for the Kashmiri people but also for India and Pakistan.

Wherever some Kashmiris and Pakistanis get together they are likely to discuss politics or religion, and that almost always end up in heated discussion and argument. In one such unofficial meeting, which took place in IKA London office after General Musharaf’s new martial law to ’strengthen the democratic process’ in Pakistan there was heated discussion with strong arguments on both sides of the debate.

Some were supporting General Musharaf and others were fiercely opposing him and his undemocratic, authoritarian and oppressive rule. In view of Sabir Hussain politicians and Mohlvees were more corrupt and dishonest, and General Musharaf was still better choice for Pakistan. In his view under the current geo political situation Pakistan needed a mixture of civilian and military rule to meet all the challenges of extremism, violence and hatred.

Others thought men in uniform and their mentors in Washington and London have different concept of democracy when it comes to dealing with matters related to third world countries, especially Muslim countries. They like to use F16 fighters and helicopter gun ships to ‘promote and advance cause of democracy’; and different generals in Pakistan have been feeding delicate plant of democracy with this fertilizer with the results we witness in Pakistan today.

The people of Pakistan have waited for a genuine democracy and rule of law for the past sixty years. Pakistan was supposed to be a land of their dreams, however their dreams turned out to be worst possible nightmare, with many openly expressing their disappointment and frustration with Pakistan.

Each new ruler promised new things and played with sentiments of the people. General Musharaf and his team has ’successfully advanced and promoted anti Pakistan, anti Islam and anti democracy agenda’. People of Pakistan took everything on the chin in anticipation that things will get better. It was wishful thinking that a general in uniform will promote democracy and rule of law in Pakistan; and when he once again showed his real face and designs people lost faith in him and showed their resentment.

Lawyers community and judges, especially honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry and his colleagues, spearheaded this campaign for rule of law and democracy. After imposition of Emergency or new Martial Law, Pakistan slammed all kinds of restrictions on media and bluntly tried to crush the movement for democracy and civil liberties. While we were discussing what was happening in Pakistan, Geo TV of Pakistan from its Dubai offices showed how honourable lawyers were mercilessly beaten with sticks and dragged by law imposing agencies.

Abbas Butt, President of JKLF while looking at this said, ‘look what is happening to these respectable members of the Pakistani society who are demanding basic human rights and democracy. Pakistani governments deny us Kashmiris right to independence. They have pursued this policy since 1947 that we should either join India or Pakistan. Of course they want us to become part of Pakistan or remain divided and deprived. Is it this Pakistan they insist we should join? Do they think we are fools with no sense of right and wrong? No sane person or community would like to become part of a society which is extremely corrupt, undemocratic and which doesn’t have bright future.’

Ismat Naz, a Pakistani student in London was strongly supporting the anti Musharaf movement, as in her view only democratic and stable Pakistan can survive. But she was not happy with Abbas Butt’s criticism. She said, ‘Musharaf is not Pakistan. No matter what he does and says people of Pakistan are with the Kashmiri people. Therefore you must not oppose Pakistan or Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan just because Pakistani ruling elite has let you down. You must keep this in mind that we, people of Pakistan have also been let down. We have also suffered. We are also denied of democracy and fundamental rights. We have lost East Pakistan due to wrong policies of Pakistani rulers.’

I said to Ismat Naz that we know what Pakistani rulers have done to Pakistan and Pakistani nation, perhaps little more than what you know as we are in politics and more educated than you are on the subject. In Pakistan people and their sentiments do not matter. Whether people agree with his policies or not he has been calling shots and dominating politics of Pakistan since October 1999. Decisions taken by him regarding Kashmir and Pakistan are valid, just as if they were taken by any other elected leader of Pakistan.

In any case all Pakistani rulers wrongly assume that they have God given right to take decisions on behalf of people of Jammu and Kashmir. They also wrongly assume that people of Jammu and Kashmir are dying to join Pakistan, and that they are sacrificing everything to join a country, future of which doesn’t appear to be bright even to its own citizens. Survey after survey has confirmed that majority of the people of the State want to opt for an independent Kashmir, and in any case not to accede to Pakistan.

As for wrong treatment of Pakistani rulers to its citizens and denial of democracy and fundamental rights is concerned, to us it is a matter between the rulers and the ruled. We feel that people of Pakistan deserve to benefit from fruits of democracy and enjoy all human rights as enshrined in the UN Charter, however we feel sorry that they are humiliated and oppressed by the ruling elite which is not even loyal to the national interests of the country.

Majority of Pakistani strongly criticise General Musharaf, and some go as far as accusing him of being a traitor pursuing agenda of other countries, but when it comes to Kashmir their attitude change. This phenomenon is more relevant with Pakistanis from certain areas, for example Punjab, as other areas might have different priorities. These Pakistanis think they have a right to get Kashmir and rule it; and rationale for this is that they are Muslims, and that they have given a lot of sacrifices to get Kashmir.

But they have no reply when you counter them with an argument that in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan even Pakistani Muslims are not safe and their rights and privileges are not protected, not to mention the plight of non Pakistani Muslims who settled there after Pakistan engaged itself in America’s proxy war, known as Afghan Jihad. This shows Pakistan has great experience in arranging and fighting proxy wars. Because of the situation created by the Pakistani rulers, some say it is not even safe to go to mosques for praying, as one doesn’t know what might happen there or on the way back.

In some cases those who disagree with the official policies of Pakistan disappear from face of the earth. The Supreme Court of Pakistan took an initiative to provide them justice, and got many of them released from illegal imprisonment of agencies, which raised hopes that people might get justice at last. But the ruling junta of Pakistan had different agenda. They decided to punish the Supreme Court judges who dared to provide justice to these people, and now they are seeking freedom and justice for themselves and their families.

Kashmiris are, no doubt, divided lot, but they are not fools. They know if they join Pakistan, and despite their fantasies and romanticism with Pakistan they will not get even those rights which are enjoyed by the people of Pakistan. And they don’t need to study rocket science to reach this conclusion, as they are fully aware of what kind of life people of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan enjoy.

If Pakistan had plural society with rule of law and equal opportunities for all people irrespective of religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds then Kashmiris would have loved to become part of Pakistan. But as Pakistan is today - corrupt, undemocratic, uncertain future and on verge of a civil war with deep divisions on religious and ethnic lines who would like to become part of this society?

Many Pakistani writers and scholars agree with the points made above with regard to Pakistani policy, and they are very critical of Pakistani government’s role, but when we Kashmiris point out these issues we are immediately labelled as ‘anti Pakistan’. This thinking has to change if Pakistan is to win minds and hearts of the people. Those who criticise wrong policies of Pakistan they are well- wishers of Pakistan - they want Pakistani rulers to review their wrong policies and make appropriate changes that Pakistan becomes a democratic and stable country at peace with its neighbours.

This kind of Pakistan could become a bulwark against forces of extremism, communalism and hatred. A stable and democratic Pakistan can promote peace and fraternity; and win compliments of the international community. Economically strong and forward - looking Pakistan with strong democratic institutions and plural society can promote equality, rule of law, liberty and tolerance; and can become attractive not only to disgruntled Pakistanis but also to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. By Shabir Chaudhry (ANI)

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