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Kashmiris discarding Pakistan’s approach to capitalise on sentiments

Economic Times, India

Pakistani leaders have most of the times used Kashmir to whip-up anti-India sentiments to consolidate their political standing and avoid inconvenient questions domestically.

By ET CONTRIBUTORS | Sep 18, 2019, 09.08 AM IST

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Kashmiris understand that Pakistan’s “jehad” in Kashmir has done enormous damage to their cause internationally.

By Avinash Mohananey

“Aar-par ek awaz, Kashmir banega khud mukhtar” (on both sides, Kashmir will become autonomous/ independent) was the slogan being animatedly raised by a large group of youth waving “azad Kashmir” flags and marching towards the rostrum as Imran Khan, Pakistan prime minister, wound up his speech at Muzaffarabad on September 13. Besides, they were also raising other pro-independence slogans, which could be faintly heard in the background while the meeting was still on.

But what really hurt Imran Khan and his backers in Pakistan army that day was the slogan “go Niazi go” raised by the same group with equal fervour. Initially, I didn’t understand whom they were referring as Niazi, till I found out that the full name of Pakistan PM is Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi. The same day, Muzaffarabad police registered a case against eleven university students and arrested one of them.

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Kashmiris have been discarding Pakistan’s approach to capitalise the sentiments generated by constitutional changes by India. It was not limited to Muzaffarabad rally in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The treatment meted out to emissaries of Imran Khan was far worse in the rally organised by Kashmiris of Pakistan origin along with Khalistani proponents in London on September 3. Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, President of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in POK, who was supposed to read out Imran’s message, was attacked with eggs, shoes and flag poles by proindependence proponents. He had to be evacuated and his other three colleagues quietly disappeared.

The organisers this time had made it clear that no Pak flags were to be waved and no speeches would be made by leaders from Pakistan unlike on August 15, when the demonstration was hijacked by Pakistan High Commission in London.

Pakistani leaders have most of the times used Kashmir to whip-up anti-India sentiments to consolidate their political standing and avoid inconvenient questions domestically. Since 1990, the trouble in the Valley is being used as an excuse to deny political rights to Kashmiris in POK. Imran Khan is not doing anything different. This generally suits the broad strategic doctrine of Pakistan army.

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Kashmiris don’t subscribe to and accept Pakistan’s narrative of the two- nation theory that divided India in 1947. In the past, Kashmiris were tormented by their co-religionists during Mughal and Afghan rule. At the time of partition, Sheikh Abdullah had told them that the issue was not religious, but that of political and economic rights, which had been denied to them by successive rulers – hence the decision in favour of India. Even the staunch pro-Pak separatists deny that Kashmir is a religious issue.

So, when Imran Khan threatens the world that Muslims across the world would react to what was happening in Kashmir, he is making it as an issue of Ummah (Muslim community) and thereby ignoring the pro-independence sentiment in POK.

Kashmiris understand that Pakistan’s “jehad” in Kashmir has done enormous damage to their cause internationally. Not only Kashmiri cause, Pakistan’s own standing has taken a severe beating globally. Leave aside the issue of Kashmir, Pakistan can’t even plead its own innocence on the issue of terrorism.

Finally, dialogue between India and Pakistan is the only way to bring down tempers and address all genuine concerns of the people of Kashmir on both sides. Nuclear threats and war-mongering by any side will only push the two sides on the path of confrontation, which should be avoided in the interest of peace in the sub-continent.

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(The writer is a former IB officer, who served in Pakistan and Kashmir)

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