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Kashmir solution lies in economic wisdom

13 November, 2006

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu


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Colonel (retired) Naqvi's warm and joyous visit to my place on Eid day has been a routine for many years. He is a childhood friend. The army did not help him in building a career that he deserved, but it did transform him into a man with lot of momentum. Even in rainstorms, ice-chilled winters and hell-hot summers, he never missed his Eid itinerary. His recent visit, however, was void of action. He looked as grave and grey as most of us have become. After a formal hello, he sat, and sat quiet. Then, all of a sudden, he broke the silence. "Do you think things will change here? You are wasting time."

The events that led to the overthrow of a democratic-turned-family-government by another family (army) on October 12, 1999, compelled me to devote myself to writing. It was a spontaneous act triggered by political emotionalism. I began writing after April 19, 1999, the day COAS Pervez Musharraf, while addressing a gathering of 'English Speaking Pakistanis' in Karachi, said, "Low intensity conflicts with India will continue, even if the Kashmir problem is resolved, and Pakistan will continue to maintain a 1:2 deterrent in defence vis-à-vis India." The statement was enough to conclude that we will continue to live in a constant state of emergency and poverty. It was a policy statement and that too about the future course of the state of Pakistan. Given the peace initiatives of then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee through the bus diplomacy, the statement was a signal that diplomacy would be abandoned by us, and if not, martial law was bound to come.

The next day, in a state of panic, I wrote a composition in Urdu and sent it to all the newspapers turn-by-turn, keeping a gap of a week in between. One newspaper published it after two months and with ruthless but justified editing. It was an 'open letter to the COAS'. I had appealed therein that martial law was no solution and our problems could be resolved provided we turned to a wise fiscal management and revised our internal and external policies. The editor omitted the caption and the appeal. It was justified, because expression of emotions, no matter how relevant, too have a constitutional bar about which I was not aware. Whether the Constitution allows any authority other than the executive head of state to issue policy statements is also a question.

The cool response of the Urdu press left me with no other option but to turn to English newspapers. Meanwhile, we surrendered again before the Indians. To the people, the magnitude of shock due to the defeat in the Kargil war was bigger than the one resulting from the surrender in Dhaka. The military defeat was also a political disaster. It destroyed the trust that had begun to take root between the two countries through bus diplomacy. The shock and the environment of distrust opened the floodgates to suggestion of different solutions to the Kashmir problem. Most writers suggested an independent Kashmir as the way out. It was an attempt to vent anger rather than to seek an achievable solution. On September 12, 1999, an English daily published my first article. It was on Kashmir. The solution suggested was time-related autonomy/self-rule — within the existing political geography — for the Kashmiris of the Valley.

President General Musharraf after remaining adamant for many years on the principled stance on Kashmir through implementation of the UN resolutions has, like all of his predecessors, shown flexibility, but with many conditions attached. Though making the Line of Control a permanent border and self-rule for the Kashmiris may be the only solution, the establishment in Pakistan is not ready to accept it, nor are the religious militants and a large number of Kashmiris willing to shed their undefined ideals.

The Kashmiris of the Valley are uncertain about the solution, but not about their fate. Most of them think that they have been perhaps destined to live in darkness, the darkness that started with the Mughal occupation of Kashmir and deepened during the Afghan, Pathan and Dogra rules, and solidified after the start of the militant struggle. India did try to lessen the centuries-old miseries of the Kashmiris through genuine land reforms and development work, but did not succeed in winning over the hearts of the majority of Kashmiris.

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Islamic revolution in Iran, the support from Pakistan, corruption of the rulers and job opportunities not matching the level of education turned the peaceful struggle of Kashmiris into a militant one, but without results. It rather refreshed the fading darkness and solidified it during the last 17 years. The time has come to take the Kashmir tangle as it should have been taken long ago, a disturbed situation rather than a conflict. The disturbed situation can be settled. The conflict needs a solution and the one that is in the mind of the Pakistani establishment and a large section of Kashmiris is not achievable, neither through war nor through diplomacy.

The recent suggestion of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the best option. He says that boundaries need to be made immaterial. If wisdom means anything, then to resolve their conflicts or settle the disturbed situations, the easiest route for nations is through conversion of the geographical trust (boundaries) into economic trust. However, our psychological and real concerns are a barrier to this conversion. Psychological, because we fear India will dominate us economically. Real, because we want to keep our oversize defence machine intact for the reasons that are not only India-centric but also internal. So the Kashmir situation turning to normal in the near future is a difficult proposition. Perhaps some of the peoples of the world due to the circumstances around them will not come out of the darkness that easily. The Afghans, the Kashmiris, the Kurds, the Palestinians, and most of the Africans make up this unfortunate lot. The people of many Third World countries, including Pakistan, are also heading towards a similar condition.

Yet, given the changed scenario due to globalisation, 9/11, the India-China reconciliation, their growing interdependence and sustainable economic development of India, the Kashmiris are likely to see some light, if not in the near future, after three or four decades certainly. The Afghans too have a future. Once the Chinese and the Russians become economic powers, the region west of Pakistan will witness a magnificent change in relationships. Likewise, the moment fossil fuel loses its worth due to depletion or availability of alternative energy, the Palestinians too will turn to wiser options. The African problem, however, will continue, because no one is interested in the miserable people living in a geographical location of no interest. Things are not that clear about the endangered Third World people. Whether they will improve or regress further, will depend on how their elites behave.

How our elites are likely to act, how they should act, the economic dominance of India, our internal and real concerns and why did the army come even after the damage done to the bus diplomacy, these are the subjects that demand extensive discussion. Before concluding, I may mention the gentleman colonel again. Till the early 60s, army officers were wonderful individuals. They would spend their salaries halfway through the month, yet they would remain cheerful. Greed had not crept into the barracks by then, nor had the orthodoxy, nor self-righteousness. Frequent visits of the army to the power corridors changed everything, even the joyous and evergreen Colonel Naqvi.

 

Ends

Reader Comments:

insightful

I applaud Mr. Yatu’s analysis in most generous terms. I believe his wisdom, realism and concern for the people of Kashmir and Pakistan shine right through my dull computer screen. Bravo Senor, may God chose reasonable men such as yourself to lead the puzzled, troubled and abused humanity everywhere.

Victor, Hungary - 14 November, 2006

Kashmir Solution

Hundreads and thousands of SALAM to you Muhammad Ahsam Yatu saab, people like you is the need of the hour. Let me tell you i visited Srinagar in last may'06' and spoke to every person right from ghorawala( horse-rider) in gulmarg or else whrere in remote village,shopkeeper, house boat ownner and other middle class upper middle class people. There are very few who belong to different political parties talk according to their pary line. If we don't solve this problem and prosper economically, we will be out of the race with other countries and the future generation will blame us. I thank you and Paktribune for writing and posting such valuable article.

S M Ghosh, Hungary - 14 November, 2006

Yatu writes from his heart

Everytime I read Mr. Yatu's article I feel he writes from his heart. If fact of lateI visit Paktribune to just look for his new article on any issue. This one is again a masterpiece. His globlal view and perpective is amasing. He hits at the very heart of the problem. In this world of yellow and sensational journalism he is an exception. God bless him!

Sunil Gupta, Hungary - 14 November, 2006

Thoought provoking & realistic

Gen.Mushrraf's recent proposals on Kashmir & Indian response(or lack of it/future response), the scene is more complex back home.

With so many interest groups/stakeholders in its polity & the long held beliefs about Pakistan polity's future...decisions made to go ahead/not may be made irrelevant by her future regimes. That I can say would be the concern of the polity/public in India.

On the street & in discussion fora I still see & hear the distrust of General for his past mis-adventures(read..Kargil).

Additionally, the party now in Opposition (NDA/BJP) speak in demogague tones when out of power(remember...they tried making peace with General in the first place).

Last but not the least... Indian PM is all said and done not as independant as any one else in her history...operates through remote conntrol of the party & its president.

The detractors who would like to show him his place/and up their standing with the party president will do all such things to pull him back if he tries to match General's proposals via media. To this are the ex-power brokers like Natar Singh who though good & adept in forein policy will try sniping at the PM/establishment if they see some loop holes(real or percieved)

And the Chief Executive in India is not as independent, even without any of the above to conduct diplomacy through media, unlike in Pakistan.

SO, in this complex scenario, though the General has to be given credit to put some out of the box solutions, one has to understand that the decision making process will inevitably be slow due to the nature above complexities & also the 'Fear of unknown'.

But still, if Indian government misses the momentum started now, it would be wasting a good oppurtunity...and we will be back to where we had been all these years.

Hope the Lord Almighty(by what ever name we Indians & Pakistanis may call) will put a handful of people like Mr.Yatu, in the desision making heirarchies of both our governments.

& needless to say,I agree with all the prevous comments.

Sekhar, Hungary - 16 December, 2006

Good I hope we get more

I think Mr Yatu has a sensible head on his shoulders. If there are few more like him in Pakistan and India, then problem of Kashmir is not problem.

The people of Pakistan know they cannot win via war nor vis economic way. There is no denying the fact that some factions in Pakistan help militants with weapons and training. If they think India is going to accept defeat with few bomb blasts then either they are real optimists .
Agreed, a certain percentage of kashmiris want to be part of Pakistan. After all human rights say one has right to choose. Some want total freedom which is good idea but impractical ,simply because they will collapse as a a ntion due to lack of infrastrucre and stuff.

A lot has been said about Kashmiri Muslims bieng killed. But what about Kasmniri pandits. They butchered them.
Will they get their land too if an agreement is reached.

All I am trying to say is people on both side know that a peaceful kashmir is good for both countries. And people like this writer are needed.

In India, I know people dont want to go to war with Pakistan. We have never beeen aggressors. But unfortunately , restraint is misconceived as weakness.

As far as some media show that Muslims are bieng killed in India as some crusade,thats so untrue. True there have been riots but will the pakistanis note that the hindus rioting were using swords and sticks and crude weapons. If it was a systematic cleansing ,would not they have been armed with sophisticated weapons. Look small riots have taken throughout centuries in these countries and will continue. But to paint it as anti- Islamic crusde is propoganda.
If the muslims were really bieng treated badly, the president of India would never have been an muslim. For gods sake most of the filmstars, cricketers and many other personalities in India are Muslim. Do you really think that if in India ,hating Muslims was taught these people would have been in position they are. Ask yourselves.

No one likes war and India does not desire war with pakistan. We just want you to leave us alone and we will not interfere in your business.

Kashmir . Oh well lets fuind a solution wwherein we will soften our demands and you also soften your demands. Compromise is need of hour.

I hope I have clarified a few points to the pakistani people and managed to reduce the hate in hearts of some of you . A positive response from a pakistani will do same and reduce hate in some of Indians and this how things will multiply.

To someone who may think I am just a man of words and would not forgive if I had been directly hurt let me tell you that In 1947 partition half of family was lost. In 1971 I lost my uncle in war and in 1999 kargil war I lost my best friend. But if we have have to find a compromise we have to bury the past and work for a better future for our coming generations. Clinging to past will just destroy our future.

Take care everybody.

MILIND RAJPUT, Pakistan - 21 December, 2006

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